That’s what it was: A terrifying experience. My wife and I were going to see some friends in Grafton, Illinois from our home in Pittsfield. We had a little four door Renault (remember them?) with four tires quite barren of rubber and tread. Our two small children, six and eight years old, were seated in the back of the small car, fussing as usual. We were coming up on Clarksville, Missouri and it had just started to pour down rain.
If you know anything about Clarksville, highway 79S runs right along the river on the left and descends more than 100 feet down a steep bank to the river below.. We were in a hurry. and not being familiar with this road, I did not know the concrete surface changed to asphalt at the top of the hill just before entering the city.
We could see as we drove along, the Mississippi River flowing far below on our left. Huge, jagged rocks pierced through the foaming water like poised missiles, as far as the eye could see. We were clipping along at 60-65 mph when we came up over the hill onto the slick asphalt. Just like that, our little car went into a sudden skid. We weaved from the right side of the road and back left, turning completely around. My wife screamed. I had no control of the car whatsoever. I tried but the car kept careening back and forth across the wet pavement.
Desperately I tried to swing the wheel in the direction of the skid. I could see the jutting rocks hundreds of feet below on the edge of the river. Frighteningly, the car settled into a dead slide right toward the edge of the cliff. I felt a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was certain the momentum would carry us over the edge. My wife screamed, the kids were crying in the back seat, then seeing the car moving inexorably in the direction of the cliff’s edge, they too screamed, “Daddy, daddy!” All I could do was whisper a futile “O, God”, before we hurtled over the edge to an almost certain death. A hundred thoughts raced through my mind as I waited for the little car to fly over the rim of the precipice and down on the rocks below.
Incredibly, the little car jerked to a sudden instant stop as if someone had applied the brakes on level ground. Cautiously, I looked out the driver’s side window. The small vehicle was leaning to the left, slanted down toward the rocky shore below,stuck in a clump of mud. So close were we to the edge of the cliff, we all had to carefully scramble out the right side doors, to the safety of the road’s shoulder. To say we all breathed a collective sigh of relief, would be an understatement.
My wife and I were both trembling as we all held one another close and looked back from the safety of the highway’s shoulder to survey the ominous scene below. We were all unhurt, except for a few (?) frazzled nerves. Had the car not been muzzled by the mud, we all would have most certainly been crushed to death on the jagged rocks below. There is positively no doubt in my mind that we were spared a violent death by the merciful hand of Almighty God. All the natural laws of speed, weight, gravity, momentum and all the rest, were violated as our vehicle slid sideways toward a tragic and inevitable catastrophe. But God put on the brakes.
To verify the unbelievable way the car had been trapped by the mud on the side of the cliff, the guy who drove the wrecker truck and pulled the car back on the highway said: "You could have pushed this baby over the edge with one finger. Somebody upstairs must love you." We all said a silent amen to that.
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