I was about to be eighty-seven years old and I knew exactly how to get what I wanted for my birthday. On the afternoon before the big day, I called my eighty-eight year old gentleman friend, told him the next day was my birthday and gave him his choice of taking me to watch a sunset or writing me a birthday Haiku. Richard can talk your ear off about city water systems, back-flow prevention, or what’s going on at the nearest construction site, but he is not poetically inclined. So, as I expected, he agreed to drive me to some west facing high place, park the car, and let me watch the sun go down.

The next day, he picked me up as planned, an hour before sundown, allowing time for us to go by a Wendy’s drive-thru to get our favorite thing, two small chocolate FROSTYs. Then, at my suggestion, we parked on a high spot on the Santa Fe College campus facing west near the large American flag. We sipped our FROSTYs and waited. The sunset occurred on schedule, but was not spectacular.

What captivated us was hundreds of buzzards. They flew in from the northeast and circled over I-75 traffic, right in front of us with the bright yellow sky as a backdrop. After watching for several minutes we realized they were all going down to roost in some spot directly across I-75 from the campus. After the buzzards had all settled down and the unusual “sunset with buzzards” show was over, we drove over there to find them. But, by then it was too dark and we could not locate their roosting place. 

Several days later we were in Richard’s car again at about 5:30 p.m.  With buzzard-roost spotting in mind, we entered the commercial area in the southwest quadrant of the I-75/39th Avenue interchange. Richard has a history of going off road. I have been with him when a tree branch was in his way and he took a saw from the trunk and cut it off. So, when the pavement ended, he did not slow or stop, but just continued driving on a two-rut road through the grass.

We were soon headed down a very steep hill and fearing an unmanageable precipice below, Richard opted to turn the car around in the thicket and aim it back uphill. He parked, told me to wait in the car while he walked, exploring, to the bottom of the hill and back. To protect me from a possible mugger, he locked the car doors and showed me which button to push to let him back in the car. He had the key. It was fast getting dark. When he returned, I pushed the button as instructed, and that activated the anti-theft alarm, Whaink, Whaink, Whaink, Whaink. . . . .    Richard got into the car, but was using a secondary set of car keys which did not have the needed controls on the key ring and the key would not start the engine.

After a seemingly interminable two minutes the alarm stopped blaring and Richard started telephoning for a tow truck. I listened to him make two or three unsuccessful calls, then decided to walk while there was still some daylight, up the hill to where there were streetlights and pavement. Alas, when I opened the door to get out of the car, the alarm started whainking again. I left Richard in the car talking on his phone with an uncooperative tow truck driver and the anti-theft device loudly announcing trouble in the woods.

Being a true gentleman, Richard soon left the car with the alarm still sounding, caught up with me and accompanied me out of the woods and up the hill to civilization. By then he had called his son, Stuart, who had the master set of car keys with the needed controls. The alarm had blessedly stopped after its two minute requirement and the scene was quiet and peaceful.

Richard and I waited there, sitting on a transformer box under a street light. The moon and evening star, Venus, were spectacularly beautiful. I was thoroughly enjoying every aspect of this evening. There was plenty of stress, but none of it was on me. Richard was stressed because his car was stuck in the woods after dark and he had to ask his son for help again. Just a day earlier he had locked his keys in the car and needed Stuart to rescue him. Stuart was already stressed by the demands of his five children and now his 88 year old father needed rescuing again. But I was stress free and enjoying myself immensely. Ever the southern gentleman, Richard solicitously positioned me so the concrete slab under the transformer box served as a foot rest for my comfort while I gazed at the beautiful moon and “evening star”. 

When Stuart arrived, we said to him meekly “Sorry, Stuart, we were just looking for buzzards”. He was not amused. Using the flashlight on his smart phone, he disappeared down the grassy road into the woods. After a time I saw headlights coming up out of the woods. It was Stuart in Richard’s old Lincoln Town Car. He parked it on the pavement, having pointedly aimed it toward home, got out, folded his arms sternly across his chest, and started his lecture. “You know there are better ways to see a buzzard. I will drive you to a zoo and show you a buzzard. And, Pattie, I thought you were supposed to keep him from driving off-road and getting into any more crazy scrapes like this.” We said goodbye to Stuart. I even got a hug and a few words of sympathy from Stuart.

Richard and I drove to my house and explained our adventure to my son, Eric, who stared at us with a mixture of consternation, amusement and disbelief, plus relief that everybody was home safely from yet another Richard/Pattie off-road episode.

The elusive buzzards’ roost is yet to be found. It is our kids turn to worry and be stern!



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