Before the boil, I had to go pick up a bridesmaids dress in Marksville, the parish seat for Avoyelles Parish with around 5,500 residents and unfamiliar territory for me. I had only been there once or twice when I was a kid.
I had no problem getting there. The problem was getting out, which took me two hours to do so. I obtained directions from my grandfather, who has traveled in the area all of his life. My first mistake of the day was to ask a local for directions as well.
I ended up on a snake-like blacktop country road; the kind with a few sparse houses and no traffic except for an occasional tractor. But it looked like my grandfather had said, so I wasn’t worried…yet.
I found out my first endeavor quickly: I needed gasoline. I was in the middle of nowhere needing gasoline with no idea if a station was nearby. I said a quick prayer and “presto” a gas station appeared around the next curve. I was saved! Well now the mishaps really began...
The station had the old-time gas pumps with actual scrolling numbers and all. I had never used one of them before. It was easy to figure out, except the one I was using was broken.
After the owner informed me of my mistake, I immediately removed the pump from my car. Gas began spewing everywhere! Hastily, I made amends with the owner, paid and got back on the road. The road soon switched to a white gravel one accompanied by only a levy and crop fields. I was really in the middle of nowhere.
I drove for six miles and come to a direct halt at the start of a nasty dirt road - its ruts forming mini Grand Canyons ahead. At that time, I saw a sign that read ‘Lake Ophelia Wildlife Refuge.’ I had never heard of the lake nor had my grandfather whom I called after finding a bare minimum of cell phone reception.
The verdict: I had to go back, which made me just a little frustrated and annoyed.
Already approaching my wits’ end, I pulled on the side of the road and as my tires began to spin, I discovered one can bog down in mud on a dry day. The same moment, though, two gentlemen in a farm truck come to my rescue, which required a large chain and some ingenuity. In 30 minutes time, my car was free. As mud was slinging, my driver side window chose to collapse into my door frame. Yes...you heard right.
All I could do after that was laugh hysterically to keep from crying while trying to recall the day’s catastrophes to my mother over the phone. Days like that one seem meant to happen. All that can be done is laugh and force it out of mind. I cannot tell you I learned a life-altering lesson that day, but I guess the next time I travel I will have a GPS or listen to my grandfather over a local. I eventually made it to Larto after an additional hour and a half detour through Alexandria.
I offer encouragement to everyone who has, had and will have “one of those days.” Forrest Gump’s Mama was right, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get!” All I can say is, Reader, you are not alone.