Updated February 10, 2023
A triple header gig with the Swing Pirates band, an auto accident, Hazards of Life on the Road!
By Ryan Thomson
On a snowy Friday afternoon in February, the "Swing Pirates," my swing and jitterbug trio, loaded the equipment into the "Captain Fiddle" truck, squeezed into the front seat, and set out for Woodstock, New York, a 5 hour drive from Newmarket, New Hampshire. Arriving at the town Hall one hour before the dance, the sound system was set up, my electric piano plugged in, Brian's guitar tuned, and Paul's drums set up. After the dance, we were invited to stay the night at a farm house next to the "The Big Pink," where many famous Woodstock era musicians recorded their albums in the 60's.
The next morning we were up bright and early and headed for Albany, New York, the site for the "Dance Flurry," a weekend festival and dance extravaganza. We arrived minutes before our scheduled dance set and changed into our "Crawdad Wranglers," cajun/zydeco band attire. After our one hour performance, we quickly loaded the accordion, rubboard, and guitar back into the truck and headed back across the mountains of Vermont to our next dance, our regular Saturday night swing dance at the Kittery Grange Hall, in southern Maine, a 6 hour drive from Albany.
One hour from our destination, in the early evening, while driving through the town of Northwood, New Hampshire, we began telling stories of car accidents to keep ourselves amused. A few minutes later I noticed an oncoming vehicle crossing into our lane and driving directly towards my truck. The speed limit was 50 mph. We were closing at a combined speed of 100 mph. I waited a split second. Would he stay in my lane?
A photo of the Captain Fiddle
truck the next morning!
His vehicle was unwavering. I took evasive action. My choices were limited. There was a long stream of oncoming cars on the two lane road, so I couldn't go left. On the right side was houses, utility poles, trees, and mailboxes. I swerved hard to the right and headed between a utility pole and a clump of trees, trying not to hit a house which was a bit more to the right. I chose to take out the mailboxes, as a softer landing. I successfully avoided a head on collision, but the other driver must have swerved a bit more to his left at the same time, because he struck a glancing blow to the left rear of my truck.
His impact with my truck aimed him back into the oncoming traffic, and he had a head on collision with the vehicle which had been following me. We were shaken up a bit, but quickly exited our vehicle to look for injured persons. Our next concern was to examine our musical instruments for possible damage. Remarkably, everything looked intact. After filling out the accident reports, and talking the police into letting me drive my damaged truck from the scene, we made a phone call to the Kittery Grange, to explain that we would be a bit late. We jumped back into the truck and headed for our next musical adventure!
The Kittery dance went well, and we accomplished our tightly scheduled musical mission. The person who had been struck head on by the drunken driver of the other vehicle was not seriously injured, nor the drunk himself who was insured by the large insurance company that he also worked for. They provided him with a clever lawyer who worked out a "plea bargain," with the judge. Thus equipped, he got off lightly with a reduced charge of "reckless driving," despite multiple prior arrests for drunken driving.
We were safe, the truck was repaired, and is still providing reliable transportation to musical jobs throughout New England!
This article by Ryan J Thomson, 1997
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