A Tale of Motor Vehicle Fatalities

Today is my birthday and the plan was to be in Ireland. I’m not sure where exactly although the county of Connemara was high on the list.  If not for the pandemic, I’d be on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the one my ancestors faced hundreds of years ago.  Tomorrow we face that grey abyss, that swallower of ships … battered and seasick to finally land where the mighty river narrows, Quebec.

I was born on a Friday afternoon in a small town in the middle of Massachusetts. If it wasn’t for the recklessness of  motor vehicle drivers I probably would have been born in Springfield which is closer to my grandparent’s house.  To explain, we go back to the year 1913.  In that year people drove “motor vehicles” on roads meant for horse and buggies with little or no instruction and zero regulation.


This led to an alarming number of accidents.

I can’t imagine why, can you?   In the small town of Palmer, which is on the main route from Boston to Springfield, there was no hospital. The nearest was in Springfield, a distance of thirty miles.  Thus most of the accidents were ultimately fatal.  The newspapers highlighted the need for a hospital and a local philanthropist by the name of Mrs. Emeline Wing stepped forward to donate her home to the cause and that is where I was born on this day many years ago.   My grandmother was the head nurse and I was her first grandchild. Shortly after I was born the hospital moved to a more modern building on the outskirts of town.  The house is no more.  Now there’s a bank. 

My parents were of the opinion that children only needed food, clothing and schooling.  They didn’t need big, fancy birthday parties.  However, for my sixteenth birthday they did take me to Trader Dick’s Kon Tiki Bar (across the street from the Sparks Nugget) and I had a virgin Mai Tai with a slice of pineapple and a miniature umbrella. I can’t remember what I ordered but it was probably a lot more exotic than pot roast (my mother’s speciality).

 I’ve had a few “unforgettable for all the wrong reasons” birthdays. One year we attempted to drive from Aspen to Reno in one day which would have been possible if the weather had cooperated.  By the time we got to Wendover Nevada we could go no further.  We had to stop.  Wendover is where your car breaks down after crossing the Bonneville Salt Flats and  Wendover is where the Mormons go to gamble, drink and hang out at strip clubs, particularly on Memorial Day weekend.  We had difficulty finding a room.  We couldn’t get a seat in any of the casino restaurants.  Dinner was buck fifty tacos from a stand and drug store gin and tonic. We sat in our hotel room and watched tumbleweeds blow into the hotel pool as sand storms went about the business of  destroying windshields. 

Wendover Nevada looking east toward the Salt Flats.

On the television we could only get three channels: Fox news, Spanish soap operas, and a marathon of Undercover Boss, a reality show that attempts to prove bosses really care about their employees.  The morning couldn’t come fast enough.

Today is supposed to be the hottest day of the week and so perhaps we’ll just stay home.  Water the green beans and the garlic and read a good book.  Ever have one of those birthdays you’d just assume forget?


33 thoughts on “A Tale of Motor Vehicle Fatalities

  1. Curious. Today is my wife’s birthday too. She’s 60. I’ve been stuck in Wendover. Fortunately there was a diesel fuel filter to be bought which allowed us to head on back to California. Most of my birthdays are one’s to be forgotten. I was illegitimate and always associated the hatred my parents had for each other (a “whoops” marriage) on my existence. (Not really, but kinda.)

    1. I hope your wife is having a good one!! It’s too hot for me today – I feel like a sponge. Wendover is one of those places in Nevada where you expect to run into aliens (of the outer space variety) bellying up to the bar. I’ve known so many people who got stuck there. Sorry about your mom and dad. Rough.

  2. I easily forget my birthdays because I don’t like celebrating it. Perhaps my parents contributed to it, because they were of the same opinion as yours when I was a teenager, though back then I would have died to have a celebration, like the rest of the world, or least my friends.

    Have fun reading and happy birthday. I enjoyed this story a lot.

    1. We once had a Pakistani grad student living with us and they do not celebrate birthdays at all. He thought it was very strange to even care about age. I’m starting to agree with him!

  3. I’ve never been to Wendover but, I have been to Aspen from Glenwood Springs (beautiful countryside).

    I’ve forgotten most of my b-days. My parents didn’t do parties. My first two b-days were with my maternal grandmother. One thing I always did for myself was not working. My b-day was a holiday for me. My b-day occurs before Labor Day and I always had long weekends for my personal celebration.

    Happy (late) birthday, BTW…

    1. My daughter was born on my birthday so I can’t forget about them! Wish I could. Because I’m not a hot weather person, Labor Day is always my favorite holiday. Means cooler temps. Fall smells and colors.

  4. My actual 20th is a mystery or at least most of it as i was so drunk the night before. And my 22nd is never talked about without medication nearby…

  5. Happy birthday , you deserve it. I usually find Birthdays to be a let down . MIL just celebrated her 100th on a Covid19 ward with hubby there in Full PPE. Hubby’s Birthday had to be scrubbed! The boys and I arranged a huge surprise party for him but due to lockdown it was postponed 💜💜💜

  6. Happy Belated Birthday. Most of my birthdays go by un-remembered. I’m glad that you’ve made a point of remembering yours. Sorry you’re not in Ireland, but maybe next year, eh?

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