To begin this story, I would like to mention the fact that many, many years ago, a local attorney suffered serious legal repercussions for being involved in a DWI-fix scenario. Both my mom and dad were listed in the records. That should set the tone for the credibility of this post. It wasn’t unusual when I was younger for people to be able to make a quiet arrangement with some police or prosecutors. My dad was an avid believer in taking advantage of the process.
(Sidenote: once, my Aunt Ardith found out that m uncle was cheating on her. He left the house and she called the police in anger to report him drinking and driving. She then left to find him. She got pulled over and arrested – while he didn’t get caught. Guess who was already in the drunk tank when my Aunt Ardith was put in jail? My mom. You can’t make up that kind of great, albeit possibly sad, story!)
Both my mom and dad had multiple DWIs. Not all of them became official, of course, but both were arrested many, many times each. As for my dad, he was involved in the death of a relative back in 1970. Dad totaled more than one vehicle while drinking, as did my mom. (My mom seriously hurt a few people during her drinking and driving exploits. As far as I know, she didn’t kill anyone while driving.) Both of them had their licenses suspended and/or revoked many times.
Even though it sounds like hyperbole to say it, I was in a moving vehicle while my parents were drunk dozens and dozens of times. There were accidents with me in the vehicle. Some of the notable ones include one near the edge of the swamp toward Rich, Arkansas, one near the intersection of what is now I-540 and 412, another near Blue Hole in Tontitown, another in downtown Brinkley where the dress shop now stands, one at the edge of a drainage deep along the periphery of a rice field, etc.(On that last one, dad had been driving over 100mph on a dirt road.)
As always, if a family member reads this and jumps into revisionist mode, stop and ask yourself if this how everyone remembers dad? I’ve had family members scoff at some of my stories and memories- their intent is to cast doubt on the truth or to minimize how severely my parents abused alcohol.
I don’t remember being seriously injured myself in any of the accidents, although I remember hurting my hand once, a cut on the back of my shoulder and on my head in another and feeling like I had been beaten after the one by the Blue Hole in Tontitown around the 4th of July one year.
There were many times I was forced to drive, even when I didn’t really know how, by my dad. His insistence on me driving wasn’t a recognition of his impaired ability, but rather as a way to force me to “be a man.” I wonder how often I heard that stupidity of a phrase from him growing up: “be a man.” My idea of what a man is and his are wildly different. Drunk driving certainly shouldn’t be included, especially at night.
I used to get in the car or truck with one or both of my parents and be literally scared to breathe. Like most drunks, they vastly overestimated their driving ability. There were times we drove all the way back to Brinkley with one of them drinking and driving. Sometimes, I was in the bed of the pickup on the interstate, or going through the mountains before the interstate came all the way to NWA. Family members, especially the Cook side, would object to my parents drinking and having me in the car with them, but only be forced to shut up about it.
As my mom aged, she became increasingly hostile at the system that kept taking her license. She wouldn’t acknowledge that anyone had the right to stop her from potentially killing other people on the road. There was more than one DWI in the last years of her life that almost no one knows about. When she died, she had no vehicle – but not for the reasons she offered. (After my mom had almost killed those people out by Highway 49 one night I swore off helping her get back on the road.)
I have never been pulled over under the suspicion of drinking. While I might have one simple drink and drive, I would never consider having more than one and getting behind the wheel. So embedded into me was my aversion that I simply can’t consider it as a sane act. My birthright would demand that I drive frequently after imbibing, but like most things from much of my upbringing, I recognized the idiocy of it early enough to train myself into a different way of life.
People who know me also know that as long as no one is injured, I believe there’s no reason that a person’s first and only DWI should not be completely expunged from their life it is not repeated. It is very easy for anyone to have a lapse in judgment and drive after drinking. (And most of us were hideously stupid when we were young!) My commentary refers to those who have had multiple drinking and driving issues. (Also, to be fair, a LOT of people who should have DWIs on their records were able to pull strings and avoid accountability or even being charged with it. I’ve noticed that some of these people who should have gotten DWIs tend to be the biggest jerks toward other people about their lapses.)
I don’t mean to make it sound like all my family are drunks or drive drunk. But many did.