The Night the Angels Sang

Recently I posted a moose adventure experienced by our son. This sort of thing must run in the family.

Early in our marriage Hilary and I took a trip to Washington D.C., Richmond Va. and West Virginia. The road map showed a beautiful drive called the Skyline Drive Parkway on the Blue Ridge and overlooking the Shenandoah River valley to the west.

We had had a good dose of the big city, Lincoln Monument, Smithsonian, Capitol Hill, Supreme Court. Now it was time for some "Mountain Momma" greenery. The Parkway was about 120 miles long as I recall, but we were making poor time because of all the lookout stops. Breathtaking photo op's. Even hillbilly shacks down in the valley. At one stop a young college age lad was seated on the precarious stone wall playing his banjo - "Dueling Banjos" in fact.

Sunset painted a beautiful swath over the valley, and there we were, up a mountain, no accommodation in sight, getting groggy and "Deer Crossing" signs posted frequently. It was time to get serious and motor it to the small community of Front Royal.

Conversation ceased in the car. Simultaneously we heard something eerie out in the forest. Sounded like a high-pitched soprano chorus moderating and holding together certain notes. No recognizable tune. Neither one of us spoke for some time and then the question was asked, "Are you hearing that?" "Yes, is it the altitude?" "Are we just too tired?" "Angels?"

Another one of those signs. "Doug do you see the deer?" There were about four of them off to the left of the road, their sides and flanks showing in the beam. But I had not seen the three on the right. Their eyes froze in the headlight. Obviously one thought that if she could just loop around the lamps all would be safe. WHAM! She hit the right rear fender. I was braking as well as I could. Engine idling.

Up a dark mountain. Heaven knows what terrain just beyond the ditches on either side. Thoughts confused as to what measures I had actually taken to avoid disaster.
Hard to apprise vehicle damage in this dark, cricket chirping realm of the "Mountain Momma". Relatively unscathed.

Hilary and I remember it as the night the angels sang.

Eventually mist-laden little neon motel came into view. Front Royal. Clang the little bell at the desk. Owner's daughter gets up from the baseball broadcast. Room assigned. Particulars given. Pleasant chat along the board walk to our room. Amenities demonstrated. Who cares? It's just sleep for us now.

Ten minutes after lights out the smoke started coming under the front door and into our room. Then more smoke! Fire in the next unit. No response to knocking. Walk-run to the owner's office.

"Oh,it's Willie in number eleven. Drinkin' and smokin' in bed again." Daughter takes care of it all like a prize member of the volunteer fire brigade. Willie sheepishly watches as the mattress is doused. Fade to black.


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