By Joann M. Ringelstetter
Having recently completed our fall photography for the year, I am reminded of a number of “situations” that occurred over the past couple of years during fall photographing. As we’ve explained before, we are always drawn to the counties that are west of us due to the hills and valleys which offer the best photo opportunities.
Often, when we are traveling up a ridge, we will see something down in the valley that would make a good photograph, so I stop the car on the hill. Sometimes the hills are very steep, so I engage the parking brake. As I do this, I often say to Ruth, “Don’t go anywhere!”
This is usually a source of laughter or at least a smile from Ruth, but this was not the case one time when I stopped the car on a steep incline to capture a barn down in the valley. I engaged the parking brake, said, “Don’t go anywhere,” grabbed my camera equipment, and hiked up the hill a bit further to compose my shot. As I was focusing on my subject far below in the valley, I saw Ruth coming towards me.
And then the conversation went like this:
Joann (smirking): “I thought I told you not to go anywhere.”
Ruth (looking sternly): “If you think I’m going to be sitting in the car when it rolls over the edge, you’ve got another think coming.”
Usually, I stop the car on the up side of the hill. In this case, I had stopped the car on the down side of the hill and it was apparently a little too scary-looking from that vantage point. The following photograph will give you some idea of what I’m talking about, but imagine it about twice as steep.
Speaking of scary, I am now going to share something that happened during a fall drive several years ago. We were out enjoying the fall colors in western Wisconsin and we decided to stop at a cheese factory to buy some cheese. This cheese factory had a very small parking area beside it and it was situated in a small town up on a ridge. I didn’t take a photo of this particular cheese factory, but here’s a photo of an old cheese factory in another area of Wisconsin.
As we pulled up in front of the cheese factory, a couple in a maroon car pulled into the last remaining parking spot, so we parked the car out along the street. Before we entered the cheese factory, we noticed that there was a pasture at the edge of the parking lot and there were horses in the pasture. The barbed wire fence ran right along the edge of the blacktop and the pasture dropped steeply into the valley below.
After watching the horses for a bit, we went into the cheese factory and started looking at the different types of cheese that were for sale. Suddenly, a woman came running into the store shouting, “Who owns the maroon Buick?” It was one of those moments that seemed frozen in time. Everyone looked up, but no one answered for what seemed like a minute. This was probably due to the fact that people are usually calmly asking who owns a car so they can tell you that you left your lights on, but in this case, the woman seemed panicked.
Finally, a woman spoke up and said, “That’s our car,” to which the first woman replied, “Well, it just rolled over the edge and went down the hill.” Again, there was a frozen moment, and then the second woman said, “Oh, my god, my mother's in the back seat.” At this point, everything speeded up as someone called 911 and some of the men working in the cheese factory rushed outside to see what they could do. We immediately went to our car and drove away so that we wouldn’t be in the way when the ambulance arrived. As we drove to our favorite apple orchard, it was very quiet because we were basically in shock over what had just happened at the cheese factory.
When we returned to the parking lot after purchasing our apples, we ran into someone who had stayed at the cheese factory to see how things turned out. He explained to us that the woman in the back seat was a little banged up, but she was okay. We thanked him for the update, which made us feel a whole lot better, and then we headed on down the road.
As we drove along admiring the beautiful autumn day and feeling relief that the woman in the back seat had survived the ordeal with the runaway car, my sense of humor took over. I said, rather sheepishly, “You know that couple in the maroon car? Well, the man was the one who parked the car and the woman was the one who said, 'My mother’s in the back seat,' so it would have been the man’s mother-in law…” And that’s all I’m going to say.