The coming of March is always a great relief to me. All through February, the threat of logging trucks is never far from my mind. I can hear one a mile away, I swear. At first I am unaware of the source of my anxiety. Then RRROOOM! There goes a log truck, 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 I can only describe as a REALLY LOUD NOISE.
Descending the stairs, I saw that the kitchen wall had somehow been removed, as one might remove the front of a doll house, revealing state Route 73. 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 curtains, was now lodged under the sink-two things happened.
First, the volunteer fire department materialized. You can count on this immediately following any disaster in the town of Keene. When I ask, "How did they get there so fast?" someone always answers, "Oh, they were listening to the police scanner," as if that explains everything.
The second thing that happened was that the kitchen grew very cold, about 10 degrees below zero. No matter how long I looked out at the new, opened-up view, I just couldn't seem to get used to it, so 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 Lake Placid, brakes on fire, its rookie driver unable to downshift, at 75 mph. How these witnesses were able to figure the speed, I do not know to this day.
As the truck rounded the bend in front of the house, the truck partially jack-knifed, then straightened, catapulting the logs (which, as one witness pointed out, had been loaded "Canadian style," meaning crosswise in the truck bed rather than lengthwise) toward the house. The owner of Lawrence's Garage, where the truck finally rolled to a halt, told me later that the road along this stretch was banked wrong.
For weeks, huge tree trunks-pulpwood, according to a local contractor-littered the roadway, one lodged 5 feet up in the crotch of a tree. The more I looked at the scene, the more I came to believe that the driver, whether rookie or experienced 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, hoping to break the news gently to Molly. We felt that it must be traumatic for a child to return from school only to find her home ravaged by rogue logging trucks.
As any true Adirondacker would have foreseen, the school counselor had heard about the incident over the police scanner and pulled Molly out of homeroom to explain matters nanoseconds after the logs hit. This was preferable to her hearing some dramatized version, although improving on the true 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 a news account of the incident.
"Wasn't that a mess of misinformation?" she marveled.
I said it seemed providential that I had brought my telephone upstairs that day.
"If you'd been sitting at your kitchen table talking," she said, "you'd have 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 at Stewart's on the way over to Darsie's house, where Molly and I were now staying.
"Everybody was talking about you yesterday," said Mim, the assistant manager. "Yesterday you were the talk of the town."
"Wasn't anybody talking about me today?" I asked.
"Naah," she said.
Have a good week.