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A flood of crazy memories

As the back parking lot of the Post turned into a lake, I couldn't help but think of the first flood I ever witnessed. That, in turn, reminded me of a story.

I'm not sure of the year, but I was still a teenager. I was in Columbus, Miss., where all my family is from. Every river, creek and trickle had jumped its banks, blocking roads, swamping houses, and well, I think you understand how that goes by now.

At the time, my Mamaw and my Granny lived a few miles apart. I was at my Mamaw's house and someone suggested that I go check on Granny.

What that trip did was twofold: 1) It allowed me to make sure my Granny was OK, and 2) it gave me an opportunity to drive Mamaw's 1970 Buick.

That Buick was some car - always under a carport, rarely driven and full of American muscle. It had an accelerator as big as my size-13 foot and an engine as big as some of today's cars.

And it would fly, almost literally.

There was a long, lonesome, unflooded road between Mamaw's and Granny's house. The rain had given way to a cool, country afternoon, and I rolled the window down and let my foot rest a little heavy on that giant accelerator. I could feel the car rising and falling on the shocks, nearly floating on the air that that streamed underneath.

Then I saw a van coming down the road the other way. I slowed a little, but not much. I was having too much fun in that big, bad car.

And then the most beautiful Huskie dog stepped out of nowhere and into the middle of my side of the road, right in front of me.

In a split second, several facts became apparent. I was going to arrive at that dog at the same time the van did, no matter how hard I jammed on the brakes. If I went left around the dog, I was going to have a head-on collision. If I went right, I was going in the ditch. Either one was going to send me to the hospital or the graveyard. And finally, one more heart-sinking realization: The dog wasn't going to move.

I did the only thing I could, and let's just say the dog didn't suffer.

It took me a couple hundred feet to get stopped. I was going to turn around, go back and knock on the door of the house where I thought the dog might've lived. I wanted to do the right thing, to tell them I was a dumb teenager and I'd just killed their dog.

As it happens, I stopped in a sharp curve in front of another house, where a mentally disabled man lived. Whenever you went by his house you had to wave, even if you didn't see him, because my Granny said he always looked out the window and he got really upset when people didn't wave.

But he wasn't inside that day. He was outside, chopping firewood with the biggest, sharpest, double-bladed ax I'd ever seen. He was wearing a flannel shirt and an orange hunting cap, right out of central casting.

And suddenly he was running right toward me, ax in hand, screaming "You killed that dog! You killed that dog!"

Oh my God, I thought. I've killed this man's dog. And now he's going to kill me.

Another thing about the Buick: It went just as fast backward.

I jerked it in reverse and floored it, throwing up dust and gravel, headed backward as fast I could go. Ax-man gave chase.

He pointed at the other house and yelled something, but I wasn't waiting around to hear it. The ax had my full attention.

I got to the other house, slid to a halt and ran to the front door. A lady answered and I quickly relayed two messages: I ran over a dog and now a guy with an ax is chasing me. She looked over my shoulder, and I followed her gaze. Ax-man had passed my car and was standing over the deceased dog, which he proceded to kick.

The lady yelled at him to stop, told me the man was harmless, and then spent about 20 minutes listening to my apology and making me feel very guilty about killing her son's dog, a guilt trip I richly deserved, of course.

Eventually Ax-man wandered back down the road and I left to go check on Granny. I've always felt really bad about killing that dog because it could've been avoided if I hadn't been going so fast, but I learned my lesson. And I may not have had the best head on my shoulders back then, but I've always been glad of one thing - at least it's still on my shoulders.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.