you see that 'Sap Sucker'? --- I'll get him before
he kills somebody!"
Those were the angry words of my father as he drove our family toward
the family farm near DeKalb in northern Bowie County Texas. Travelling
in our only family vehicle, an old 1939 Chevrolet pickup were Dad,
my Mother and me in the front seat, cab-section. My two older sisters
were riding in the back pickup-bed, the open-air section. They were
sitting on a wooden bench just behind the cab Dad had installed
especially for we children to sit on while going places. This story
was soon after the end of WW-II
and I was only a six or seven year old kid at the time.
Well, you see, I had heard the name, "Sap Sucker"
before, on many occasions. I knew it referred to a wild "do-do"
type NE Texas bird, a woodpecker, which taps into the bark of certain
"desirable" trees and feeds off sap running beneath the bark. You
may have, on occasion, seen the bark of a tree having been attacked
by one of those birds. It will have many, and I mean many, little
pockmark holes encircling the tree trunk where the bird has pecked
I also, in my adolescent understanding, had come to know those two
words contained other more insulting or negative connotations when
used as East Texas slang.
On this particular occasion, I could tell Dad emphatically meant
it much more than a "simple" bird's name. He meant it as a careless,
"stupid-idiot-driver" who had just hogged the whole road, narrowly
missing us and nearly running us off in the ditch. Two-lane roads
in the Ark-La-Tex during that period of time were very narrow and
the vehicle we had just met was a large commercial truck taking
much more than his half.
Regardless whether it happens on account of driver inattention,
driver fatigue or incapacity, it seriously endangers the lives of
others on the highway. Later, as teenagers, we highschool kids often
jokingly referred to is as "taking his half out of the middle",
a no-brainer which happens to be a very dangerous act.
Angrily, Dad swung our pickup around, up off the road shoulder
and made a U-turn heading the opposite direction to pursue the offending
truck driver. As I recall, our little six-cylinder pickup was no
match for the big powerful diesel truck. The faster that
big rig went, the faster my Dad tried to go. Luckily for us all,
we never caught up nor got very close to the speeding truck being
driven in a seriously erratic manner.
I know drivers of those huge 18-wheelers will often times let their
right wheels wonder over just a bit off the pavement. He drives
along the road shoulder, kicking up gravel and dust onto vehicles
behind, i.e; vehicles that may be following too closely. It is not
a good and popular practice, but it does keep tailgaters back quite
well. Although, as I am recalling this event, we never got close
enough for that to happen to us.
Anyway, finally Mother in great fear and exasperation demanded Dad
to "just stop it!"… "Stop it right now! You are just
about as crazy as he is! Crazy as a Loon trying to catch
that driver. It could only mean more trouble for us all; maybe serious
trouble! If you continue this stunt, please; please just stop and
let me and the kids out of here! There is no sense in putting us
all in such unnecessary danger!" - Amen Mom!!
Thankfully for us all, Dad's anger soon subsided and better heads
prevailed. He then turned around and we continued our journey north
to the farm. Believe me, we were all highly relieved and resumed
a happy, cheerful family environment.
In about an hour we arrived safely at the farmhouse where our Uncle
Mayo Clark awaited us. Our whole family enjoyed a nice weekend together,
thankful that the large truck hadn't hit us. Thankful that Dad had,
in spite of anger, made a good decision.
ROAD RAGE is what I have just described in this story.
Road rage; anger if acted upon, has the potential for serious and
unwanted consequences. Anger is a normal human emotion, which, if
handled appropriately, causes no serious, unwanted or lasting effects.
Controlled anger results in the most favorable outcome.
The undesirable spirit of retaliation; I'll get even; nobody is
going to do me this way and get away with it; is the spark that
can ignite actions and aggressive behavior we may wish had never
happened. Remember that our attitude determines our
altitude. And tell me what driver among us is ready for their
altitude to be minus six feet? Six feet under the sod!
Habitually aggressive drivers are often the kind whose daily lifestyles
are loose and free. Many times, living with a highly incorrigible
and lawless attitude, they can, and do maintain the ability to suppress
anyone finding their actions offensive, or who dares to confront
or challenge them. Thus, be warned, a deadly situation can occur.
Please everyone, drive coolly and sanely. Counting to ten often
helps and can create distance between you and the offender. At the
same time ask yourself, did I ever pull such a stupid stunt? Did
I ever offend someone with my careless driving? Perhaps the other
driver has had something happen monetarily creating a bad attitude
in him/her. Perhaps he/she never intended to do the thing that just
offended you. Nip it in the bud, Back Off!!…. Stay cool headed,
non-aggressive and arrive safe and unflustered.
Be proud of your driving maturity and discipline. You will be glad
you stayed in control and hopefully you will live to enjoy retirement
and all those darling grand children.
© N. Ray Maxie
January 1, 2008 Column
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