I pushed on through the mountains, my Lumina maneuvering the curves with great accuracy. Snow lay along the roads as I watched diligently for patches of black ice on the interstate. I had hit a patch of black ice before when I was about 20. I exited Atlanta’s 285 at Doraville returning home from a concert in Marietta. About 20 feet into the circular ramp I found myself spinning out of control. Using every bit of knowledge gained a few years earlier in driver’s ed, I simply did all I could do to not fight it, giving in to the scenario, allowing myself and the car to be out of control by turning into the spin and praying as it eventually came to rest facing the oncoming traffic. I was blessed that it was about 2 a.m. and no other car was coming off behind me, so I slowly allowed the car to slip backwards off the ice until I was able to turn around and continue my journey feeling like I had just walked out of the scariest scene in a horror film. I looked in my rearview mirror and headlights seemed to be on top of me. My heart began to race as I realized that the Jim and Jesse song I once recorded – “Diesel on My Tail” was becoming a reality. As I hugged curves, speeding along trying to stay out of its way, I was not going fast enough in the dark icy conditions to suit the trucker. I looked at my alternatives and decided to get into the other lane, though there seemed to be a higher probability of hitting ice there. It seemed in my mirror, no matter where I was, the truck was behind me in my lane. Maybe it was an illusion of the turning roads but needless to say, I continued to do my best to get out of this stretch of the mountains and make it to the flatlands as quickly as I could. Finally, as we cleared the Appalachians, the truck passed me and sped off into the night. I continued on the journey home from North Carolina now much more relaxed as the icy conditions were behind me and my greatest concern was keeping my mind occupied and my eyes open. Before I faced the potential perceived metal peril of tons of truck careening out of control with me in it’s wake, I was thinking of how my ancestors had crossed that same section of mountains making their way westward without the advantages of modern travel. I am sure that my heart pounded much as that of my ancestors as they perceived the danger of a bear coming close or as they avoided a party of Native Americans out hunting through the area. I guess the passage of time and the advantages of technological advancement do not change the basics of the human condition. We still find ourselves facing fears, sometimes simply imagined, sometimes real in nature. What makes that experience worthwhile is it reminds us that we must never forget that while the world is beautiful and filled with God’s amazing creations, we can still find those moments and situations that make our heart beat faster, and our mind rush to fear. It is how we react to those moments knowing that God is with us in every thing, that shows whether we have the ability to continue on that brave path my ancestors walked one step at a time pushing forward into the unknown.
Randall Franks is an American TV and film actor, award-winning Appalachian entertainer, motivational speaker, author, award-winning journalist, and a syndicated newspaper columnist. He is best known as “Officer Randy Goode” from TV’s “In the Heat of the Night,” a role he performed on NBC and CBS from 1988-1993. He has co-starred or starred in two other TV series and 15 films with superstars including Dolly Parton, Christian Slater, William Hurt, and John Schneider.
Randall and Courier publisher Jim Clark are friends.