Spring break is the perfect opportunity for short road trips and quick getaways. I try to always find time to take my son to do something fun on spring break even if just for a couple of days. It’s a small vacation before returning to the daily grind of second grade.
This year a friend and I decided to take a trip to Branson with our kids. We had a relaxing drive through the mountains, experiencing some of the best scenic views Arkansas and Missouri have to offer.
Although it was rainy and the temperature didn’t come up above 45 degrees our entire trip, we were snug inside our hotel room and the kids had a blast swimming in the indoor pool. My friend Liberty and I set up camp near the hot tub and watched the kids play while we relaxed in the bubbly water.
We were all a little sad when it was time to head home and return to our normal lives. So we waited until the very last minute to check out, letting the kids swim one more time before the long car ride home. Then we packed the kids, wet heads and all, into my SUV and got on the road back to Russellville.
On the way back to the highway, we passed a few antique stores and we stopped to peek inside and browse around the ones that caught our fancy.
Our last stop was an antique store that was a few miles off the highway and what a gem it was! I found all kinds of mid-century glassware, and Liberty stumbled upon some fantastic vintage jewelry. It was nearing dusk when my friend said “We better head home, or we will be driving these winding roads in the dark.”
“Very good point, let’s head home. For real this time.” I told her. I put our destination back into the GPS and drove as instructed by the automated voice.
About an hour into our journey, I started noticing that nothing looked familiar. I had made the drive to and from Branson so many times that I knew the landmarks by memory. I hadn’t passed anything that jogged my sense of direction at all.
“Lib, I don’t think we’re going the right way.” I said quietly as not to frighten our kids. One glance in the rear view mirror revealed they were all slumped over sound asleep. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Yeah I noticed that a while back.” Liberty said. “But I think this is just taking us the back way, because we got off the main highway when we went to that last antique store. This highway was probably closer so the GPS routed us this way.”
“Ok…” I said, still feeling slightly uneasy. “But do you have any idea where we are?” I hadn’t seen a sign in miles that gave any indication about what towns might be near.
“Yeah, I think we are up around Mt. Judea and Lurton, which is where I’m from and a bunch of my family still lives. All of this looks pretty familiar to me, but it’s a little unnerving out here at night. So as long as we don’t stop anywhere or go down any strange roads we will be just fine.”
I glanced over in her direction. “WHY would I go down any stra—”
“Lookout!” Liberty shouted.
I jerked back to the road just in time to see the flash of a deer. I yanked the wheel to the right to miss the deer and veered off onto the shoulder slightly. My tire ran over something making a loud thunk and we heard a pop. The flat tire sensor in my car instantly started flashing and I pulled off the road.
“We must have hit something that popped my tire.” I said.
“This is not good…” Liberty said.
I turned around and checked the back seat. All three kids were still sound asleep.
“I have no idea how they managed to sleep through that.” I said.
Sarah,” Liberty said seriously. “This is not a good place to have a flat tire, in the dark, with no cell phone reception.”
I glanced down at my phone. Sure enough, no reception.
“Well we can’t stay here all night. We are just going to have to put the spare on and hope for the best.” I said.
“I have a flashlight in the back of the car. Hang on.”
I got out and walked to the back of the car and dug around until I found my flashlight. I turned it on and located my car jack and spare tire then hauled them to the right side of my car.
Liberty helped me jack up my car and remove the lug nuts and slide the tire off. Just as we were hoisting the spare onto the axle, we heard the sound of a shotgun cocking behind us.
We froze. “Oh Lord in Heaven, please help us and—” I began to pray.
“What are y’all doing out here?” Came a low, gravelly male voice with a heavy southern accent.
“We’re on our way home from Branson and we had a flat tire, but we called for help and there are lots of strong men coming to help us and there are tons of people who know right where we are!” I lied. I swore I could hear banjos playing in the distance.
My hand was shaking but I had to see the face of the person holding the gun. I raised the flashlight and shone it on the man’s face.
“Leroy?” Liberty asked. I was so stunned by the thought of her knowing this man I whirled around shined the light on her without thinking.
“Jailbird?” Leroy asked.
“Yeah it’s me!” Liberty said excitedly.
The two exchanged a quick hug while I stared in confusion.
“Sarah, this is my cousin Leroy. Leroy, this is my friend Sarah.”
We said hello to each other and before I knew it Leroy finished changing the tire, loaded everything back in the vehicle for us, and had us back on the road after saying goodbyes. None of the sleeping children even opened an eye during the whole ordeal.
I finally let out a huge sigh of relief and relaxed my tense shoulders.
“I’m glad we ran into Leroy.” Liberty said. “I had no idea we were close to his house. Everything looks so different at night. But everybody in these parts is either related to you or they hate your whole family because of something that happened a hundred years ago.”
I looked at her with wide eyes.
“Remind me to never come this direction again. It’s like a whole other world out here in the boonies!” I said.
“Now, about this Jailbird thing…”