Whose Earth?: A reminder of one’s mortality

Caving in the wilds of West Virginia
Having the time of our lives.
Well aware of dangers above.
Each giving our luck a friendly shove.
Revel in the beauty of creation.
Stare into the face of ageless time.
Emerging to the light of August day
Relieved to think we got away.
We never felt the danger come.
We only wanted to have fun.
But, Fate did us a turn,
Told us we had a lesson to learn.
Never forget Whose Earth you’re on.
Went for a swim on our last day
After we had climbed the hardest one.
The sun felt good with the beer.
So good to be free of all the gear.
Grudgingly returning to the campsite.
Packing up the tents and all the bags.
How could all this stuff come from two cars?
I swear all of this junk just can’t be ours.
We finally got it all inside
And settled in for a long, long ride.
But Fate did us a turn,
Told us we had a lesson to learn.
Never forget Whose Earth you’re on.
We didn’t even make it to the highway.
In fact, we’d only gone a mile or two.
Around a blind turn on a narrow dirt road
Came a truck and left us no place to go.
I’m told that the crash was really something.
Though, thank God, I don’t remember much.
I came to still wondering where I was
Trying to shake off this awful buzz.
A boy from the truck asked me if I was OK.
I said “I’m not sure. How are they?”
But, Fate did us a turn,
Told us we had a lesson to learn.
Never forget Whose Earth you’re on.

I mentioned in the notes for “Before I Turn Around” that I’d been in a serious car accident. It was August 2nd, 1987.

Most of the events leading up to the crash are in the song (almost in documentary detail). Three friends and I were on a weekend caving trip. It was a fantastic weekend and nearly the last for three of us.

My roommate and I were riding back to Morgantown from somewhere in Pocahontas County, WV in another friend’s car. I try not to dwell on it, but my roommate and I argued about who was going to ride in the front seat of the Renault on the long ride home…I lost.

So my roommate was riding shotgun and I was behind him in the back seat with all the camping gear. I wasn’t paying much attention and was listening to music on my Walkman, but something made me open my eyes just in time to see the pickup truck in front of us. The next thing I remember is wondering if we had hit the truck…we had.

By virtue of the fact that I was in the backseat, I walked away from the accident with relatively minor injuries. I was the only one who did. My friend (the driver) spent the next month in a coma and most of the year after that learning how to walk again.

In yet another odd twist of fate, the impact propelled me into my roommate’s seat, tearing it from its mount and driving him into the dashboard. He ended up with a fractured sternum and a broken arm.

Our other friend was about five minutes behind us in his car. He’d stayed to pick up the trash at the campsite and was going to drop it in a dumpster on his way to his parent’s home nearby. When he arrived on the scene, I was still unconscious, but recovered quickly enough to go for help. So picture me, broken headphones around my neck, inseams on my pants exploded, broken back, sprained ankle, left arm full of window glass, running a mile-and-a-half down the dirt road looking for someone who could call an ambulance. You might think that was bad enough, but there was no one home at the first house I came to. Luckily, the second house was owned by an EMT who called in for help and then drove me back to the scene.

A man with his two nephews (their dog in the truck bed) collided with us head-on (Ford pickup truck vs. Renault Alliance) at a closing speed of about 100mph…I can still see the grill badge through the windshield.

While my friend lapsed in and out of consciousness, the first EMTs on the scene helped the truck’s driver conceal all the beer cans that had spilled out of the truck during the collision. He had multiple DUI convictions and a suspended license (as well as a bad reputation in general so no one wanted to cross him).

I rode to the hospital in the same ambulance as the drunken alcoholic from the pickup truck. We were put on adjoining tables in the same ER. He wasn’t cited for DUI that day because the hospital ‘forgot’ to take a blood sample for a BAC until it was too late…he told me he was really sad that the dog had died.

I played all the instruments (guitars, keyboards, drum machine) and sang the four vocal parts.

The song was recorded in St. Albans, VT in the summer of 2000 in digital 8-track and mixed to stereo on a Roland VS-840 EX. The final recording was mastered using Cool96.

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