The Wild Child and the Mystic Merc
by “Animal Jim” Feurer
Observing fog always triggers this true story about one of many mysterious happenings when I owned The Mystic Merc. It is a wild ride, experiencing not only five but six senses.
The horizontal thermometer-looking speedometer on my Arctic White, ‘57 Mercury Monterey Convertible’s dashboard reads 100 miles an hour. My dash clock reads 3:30 a.m. It is September 10, 1961. I am almost 21 and heading west, somewhere outside Streator, Illinois on the desolate, freshly paved two lane, state route 18. The top on the Merc convertible is down.
Seasoned “hot rodders” would remark: “Hell, 100 mph is not so fast!” (not actual car but identical)
It is when the wet fog is so thick I can barely see past my Merc’s hood ornament. I only see glimpses of the highway centerline. At this speed, only seeing white fog and augmented by the new smooth road, almost feels like my Merc and I are in a state of suspended animation. But the cold mist and 100 mph wind are buffeting and soaking me, and the inside of my car makes me realize I am not.
I hear my two four-barrel carbs on my Turnpike Cruiser engine moaning their shrill song and the eardrum-breaking roar from my glasspack dual exhaust go up a notch. I glance at the speedometer - it now reads 110 mph. I am going faster! Have I gone insane? Did I have a death wish? If I come upon a vehicle or critter at this speed, I will not have time to avoid hitting it! To make my vision condition worse, the intense cold mist from the fog is streaking on my windshield. Even if I had my wipers turned on, at this speed they are useless.
Only a fool would drive over 15 mph in this wet, misty, soup. In my dazzled mind, I still had presence enough to recall there are no stop signs - or curves - on the 15 miles from Streator to the busy Rt. 51 intersection south of Lostant. But really, how far had I actually gone? It was impossible to see any landmarks.
My mind is a mess. Big Denny Beasly and I closed down the Senate bar in Ottawa at 2 a.m. I then, while still drinking our last call beers and a couple carry outs, gave Denny a ride to his home in Streator. But I cannot remember leaving Streator after dropping Big Denny off. I must have slid into an alcohol-induced twilight zone?
I think I snapped back to conscious awareness, when I smelled and felt the cold wet fog in my senses.
Oh God… how far is route 51? All I know is that I am going west on route 18, with my Turnpike Cruiser engine howling its thundering tune, and I’m streaking like a white hot wraith through the foggy night.
In this fog, and at this speed, I would blow right through that semi traffic infested, route 51 intersection. It only has stop signs on route 18. Chances of hitting a moving vehicle on that traffic over-populated, 51, even at 3:30 am are more than 50%. continued on next page...
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