By Hal Walter
Fall has always been a time of reflection. The leaves as they turn and fall to the ground are a beautiful reminder that the circle of life does have a beginning and an end. And that if you have things you need to get done, there’s no better time than right now.
I was rushing to town one September afternoon to pick up my son from school. On a big curve about six miles east of Westcliffe I saw a logging truck approaching in the oncoming lane. As it drew nearer, I suddenly realized it was trailing a big loop of heavy steel cable that was whipping from side to side. This loop was large enough to lasso a full-size pickup truck, and it reached nearly across the other lane. I did not have much time to react as I saw it swinging into the road in front of me. The options raced through my head – brake, swerve or do nothing?
I focused on the moment and was just about ready to duck behind the dashboard when the cable rolled out flat on the pavement and was still for just a moment. I stayed the course. There was a lot of noise underneath, but the car rolled right over it. When I looked in the rearview mirror, I saw the cable whip violently back up off the ground and clear over to the shoulder of the other lane.
My initial thought was to turn around and try to chase this truck down before it caused a wreck. But I was running right on time to the school and doing so would make me late, something that is frowned upon when your son has autism. I had no cell phone coverage so I just drove on, thinking I could report it to the deputy that is usually monitoring the school zone traffic.
As I drove on I thought how if I had been a split-second earlier it might have smashed right through my windshield – since we were probably both going 50 mph that would have been a 100 mph impact, and would have given me more than a headache. Or a moment later and it could have looped around an axle, some part of the undercarriage, or the entire body and yanked my little car right off its wheels. Everything I had done that day had led to that very small moment when that cable just happened to be flat and still. Hard to believe it was just coincidence.
The news arrived, as it does so often in our times, by cell phone, email, text. She’d had a heart attack and been transported from Salida to a hospital in Colorado Springs. Then she was back home. Then she was gone. By the time the RIP posts began to appear on social media this news was not a shock, but it still hit like a cascade of boulders falling down from on high.
I had the gift of her friendship for three decades, this beautiful picture of fitness, radiance and balance. In this time I’d also known her as a photographer, bartender, veterinary technician, world champion pack-burro racer, river guide, mountain bike guide, gifted skier, appraiser, waitress and horse trainer. To her husband Bob and children, she was a wonderful wife and mom. She seemed capable of anything, and the mindfulness with which she approached any task, be it work or play – and for her they were often the same – allowed her to be really good at almost everything she ever did.
She blended with the seasons of the year and the seasons of life. She shied from attention and blushed with humility at the mere mention of her accomplishments.
Above all, she was a teacher, though she probably never knew it. She taught me to ski, and that leaning into the danger is the best approach for negotiating both a steep hill and life in general. She taught me much about animals, and that the best trainers are not people but the critters themselves.
She taught many of us about how to live, and she taught some of us how to die.
For those who knew her, I need not speak her name: Diana Koss. For those who did not have the good fortune to know her, they do now as the person we should all strive to be more like.
When I arrived at the school, I found the actual sheriff rather than a deputy parked across the street and reported the incident. He said someone else had reported it and they had sent a deputy to intercept the truck. As I was walking back over to the school the town siren sounded, and shortly a fire truck headed east. I wondered if the logging truck had caused a wreck.
I was concerned my car had been damaged so took it to the service station and had a mechanic check underneath the car. Nothing. We headed on our way.
We encountered a deputy parked with lights flashing along with the fire truck at the Liquor Cabinet in Silver Cliff. I was relieved that the fire truck was apparently not responding to a highway accident. I wondered what was going on, but I kept my eyes on the road as we passed.
The next day I stopped by the liquor store for a bottle of wine and asked what the commotion had been about. “Oh,” said the cashier, “there was this logging truck that came through here dragging a cable, and it snagged one of the overhead power lines.”
She went on to tell how the force had jerked the line from the power poles and had also pulled some materials loose from a nearby building.
“There were sparks flying everywhere.”
The following Monday, upon returning from the school run, Harrison noticed a dent in the car hood. I had been focused on the noise I heard underneath and never thought to look for damage to the body. Here, clear as day, was a silver dollar-sized dent. Perhaps the end of the cable whipped around the car and struck the hood.
A small reminder that timing is everything and the time is now.
Hal Walter writes and edits from the Wet Mountains. You can keep up with him regularly at his blog: www.hardscrabbletimes.com