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MARTHA SEZ: The Keene logging truck incident

March 5, 2012
MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

The approach of March is always comforting to me. All through February, the threat of logging trucks is never far from my mind. I can still sense one coming a mile away, I swear. I break out in a cold sweat, without realizing why - and RRRRRRRRROOOOOM! There it goes, hurtling past.

It all started 20 years ago, in Keene, with the logging truck incident.

I was upstairs at home. My 14-year-old daughter, Molly, had just boarded the school bus. when I heard what can only be described as a REALLY LOUD NOISE.

I ran downstairs and noticed that the front kitchen wall had somehow fallen away, revealing state Route 73. At this point I was still too naive to suspect that a logging truck was to blame.

As I stood staring at the new view and the rubble - I found it disconcerting that the front window, complete with yellow and white striped curtain, was now lodged under the sink - two things happened.

First, the volunteer fire department materialized. You can count on this immediately following any kind of crisis in Keene and Keene Valley. When I ask "How did they get there so fast?" Someone always replies

"Oh, they were listening to the police scanner,"as if that simple fact explains everything.

The second thing that happened was that the kitchen grew very cold, about 10 degrees below zero. A burning smell hung in the frigid air. No matter how long I stared out at the new, opened-up view, I couldn't seem to get used to it. Eventually I went next door to tell my landlady the kitchen was gone.

Outside ("outside" had suddenly become a relative term), witnesses told me what had happened.

A logging truck had come barreling down the hill from Placid into Keene, brakes on fire, its driver unable to downshift, about 75 miles per hour. (How these witnesses were able to figure the speed, I do not know to this day.)

As it rounded the bend by the house, the truck partially jack-knifed, then straightened. The logs (which. as one witness pointed out, had been loaded "Canadian-style," meaning crosswise, rather than end to end) were catapulted toward the house. Chick Lawrence, owner of the garage where the truck finally rolled to a stop, told me later that the road along this stretch was banked wrong.

For weeks huge tree trunks-pulp wood, according to a local contractor- littered the roadway, one lodged five feet up in the crotch of a tree. The more I looked at the scene, the more I came to believe that the trucker couldn't have done that again in a million years, no matter how hard he tried.

Soon, my friend Darsie, who had talked with someone who had heard from someone who was listening to the police scanner, came by to see whether I was all right.

We hurried over to Keene Central School, so that we could break the news gently to Molly. We naturally felt that it must be traumatic for any child to return from school only to find her home ravaged by logging trucks.

As any real Adirondacker would have foreseen, the school counselor had heard about the incident over the police scanner and pulled Molly out of homeroom to calmly explain matters to her nanoseconds after the logs hit. This was preferable to her first hearing some souped-up version from someone else - although improving on this story would be gilding the lily.

"It's a good thing you don't wash the dishes much, Mom," Molly observed thoughtfully. "Otherwise you might've been at the kitchen sink and a log would've hit you."

Next day my landlady and I discussed the newspaper account of the incident.

"Wasn't that a mess of misinformation?" she marveled.

I said it seemed providential that I had taken my telephone upstairs that day.

"If you'd been sitting at your kitchen table talking," she said, "you could've watched the log come through the wall by the fuse box, just past your elbow, and go out over the stove by the exhaust fan. You might've been scared, but you'd have seen something."

I stopped for milk at Stewart's on my way to Darsie's house, where Molly and I were now staying.

"Everybody was talking about you yesterday," said Nan, the cashier, ringing me up. "Yesterday you were the talk of the town."

"What about today?" I asked. "Wasn't anybody talking about me today?"

"Naah," she said.

Have a good week.



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