I passed the Molly Woody house about 12 miles out Big Creek Road last week on Thursday headed back home from the grocery store in town. Peyton had come in from his apartment in Blue Ridge and driven into town with me before he had to be at work later that same afternoon. We came up the mountain approaching the house where Mrs. Woody lived most of her adult life. She was in her nineties when she died a few years ago after being moved to an assisted living facility away from Big Creek Road and into Ellijay. I thought of her often after her demise even though I had never really known her. Some of her relatives moved into her old dilapidated house with their two dogs for the front yard. Clearly the dogs were in the prime of their lives, golden labs, beautiful and robust. I had seen them in the preceding months when I passed by going to and from Ellijay. Invariably they were chained in the front yard adjacent to their respective dog houses. The few times I had seen the dogs unchained they ran, chased each other and cavorted with much joy and abandon in the front yard. Surprisingly that day the dogs were lying perfect still in the middle of the road in a brilliant patch of sunlight. Strange, I thought.
As we approached the dogs I readied myself to blow the horn of my car to frighten them out of the road. I blew the horn as I simultaneously realized that the dogs were not sleeping. Clearly they had been run over and were both dead. It was as though someone had shot a gun or slammed a door behind me unexpectedly! It rattled me right down to my bones. Some thoughtless insensitive driver couldn’t slow down long enough to give those two magnificent creatures the right of way. Honestly it broke my heart to see both of them killed together within feet of each other there in the middle of the road. The younger dog laid there, eyes fixed and shining. He was still and silent but looked as though he was simply resting. His yellow fur even waved in the moving afternoon air. The older dog apparently had caught the full brunt force of both the car tires rolling across its chest as a dense spray of blood extended from the dog’s open mouth four or five feet away, splattered on the black asphalt road. We could not even stop and pull the lifeless bodies of the dogs off to the edge of the road and lay them in the dried brown grass. After all, what good would it have done at that point? I think maybe it would have made the awful experience too real for me if we had stopped. There are things a person has to try to erase from his mind things that are too difficult to live with. Images like that, full color photos bang around inside my head causing much noise and chaos.
There is one memory that I have never been able to fully eradicate from my childhood. A young woman was killed on a Saturday morning in front of the house I grew up in. Her car had been t-boned by a Pepsi cola truck almost decapitating her. She was left in the road as though tossed aside by a careless child, half her head missing and blood was everywhere. From a deep sleep I was awakened to hear my mother screaming and running from window to window twisting her hands in her flowered apron looking out through the venetian blinds from the front window of the house at the blood and carnage in the road. The memory of the woman who died so many years ago has floated back to the surface in the dimpled pool of my mind. There was an infant child on the front seat of her car that was thrown through the open window into the yard of a neighbor. Unbelievably the infant survived.
I have agonized about the dogs for days. Having seen everything from deer, opossums, raccoons, snakes, bears and squirrels dead in the middle of the road few have tortured me like those two beautiful dead golden labs. Peyton and I were so upset after witnessing the awful scene we could hardly even say anything to each other. We drove away.
A few days later when I drove back into town I feared that the dogs would still be there even though I had been assured that someone had come and moved them. They were not there, only that fully formed picture of them in my head. Later that afternoon I returned home and passed Mrs. Woody’s house. The light from the sun slowly sinking behind the tree covered mountain behind me came pouring through the back windshield of my car. It turned the interior of my small car completely golden and blinded me with the brilliant reflection ricocheting from the rear view mirror and into my squinty eyes. The car was awash with golden light. My fists looked like two knotty tangerines wrapped around and gripping the steering wheel. Feeling as though I might drown in all the golden light pouring into my car I drove on home.