Death Three Times
Judy answered the phone about 7:30 a.m. on Sunday morning; it was Mom. David, his girlfriend, Debbie and Terry were all killed last night.
The party at the lake was just getting started. Rex and David were racing, as they were giving kids rides out to the lake. They started to race. Sometimes, Rex was in the lead, sometimes David passed him. As they rounded the Point, they were neck and neck. Surely, as they entered Dead Man's Curve, one of them would let up. Neither let off on the gas. David began to ease past Rex, using the outside lane. Then, about 200 yards ahead of them, they saw the headlights of an oncoming Peterbilt semi tractor-trailer carrying a load of cement. Surely, Rex thought that David would pull up. Surely, David had time to race in front of Rex, way before the semi got too much closer. David was driving the superior car, a 1967 Ford Mustang. Debbie was sitting on the console next to David, with Terry in the bucket seat on the passenger side.
Several months earlier, as I was walking home from school, I walked by the pool hall where a fight was going on. David was on top of a guy holding him to the ground. David wasn’t going to let him up until he apologized for calling David’s girlfriend Debbie, a bad name. The guy on the ground wasn’t going to apologize and David wasn’t going to let him up. In a second, Terry came out of the pool hall and pulled them both off the ground. Then he hit David in the mouth and called Debbie several bad names. David was overmatched, so he took a good pounding. Terry was a bully; he loved to fight!
As the semi came lumbering down the hill, it was unbelievable that neither car pulled up. Each must have thought the other would give way. Neither did. Traveling at a speed of over 115 mph, David’s Mustang hit the oncoming semi head on. All three high school classmates died on impact. As David’s Mustang went into the curve, apparently the centrifugal force of the right hand curve, and the high rate of speed, slung the Mustang into the outer left lane where the impact occurred.
Author’s note: I wonder, sometimes, if David felt any peer pressure because Terry was his passenger? Terry was the big feared man on campus. Given the recent history between David and Terry, I’ve often wondered if Terry being in David’s car that fateful night, may have been a contributing factor. Did Terry encourage the race? Did David feel some pressure to please his esteemed passenger? Had Debbie and David been the only two in the car that night, would Debbie have encouraged David to race at such excessive speeds? I guess we will never know.
The car looked like shredded tin foil. We drove to the accident scene the next day. It seemed that half the town did the same thing. The cleanup crew spread a white fire retardant all over the accident scene. Even after 40 years, there still remain remnants of that fire retardant and dried cement. I have never driven past Dead Man’s Curve outside Hawthorne, Nevada, without remembering that terrible night. I’ve often thought of Debbie’s parents and her little brother, Larry, my second grade friend and the feeling they must have had over and over, every time they drove past Dead Man’s Curve.
Some called it a small miracle, but the next day in the back seat of David’s Mustang was an unopened, undisturbed six pack of beer. At least some beer survived. The speedometer was stuck at 115 mph. Last month, I visited the Hawthorne cemetery and noticed three head stones that were placed there in 1969: one for David, one for Debbie and one for Terry. Each was resting in the exact same position they were seated on that horrible night so many years ago.