The first time the small white pickup slowed to an idle and the driver with the snaggletooth grin asked if I needed a ride, I was on my cell phone.
“Who’s that?” my best friend asked.
“Some hillbilly.” I watched to make sure the truck continued around the bend. “I’m fine.”
A few weeks passed of scorching heat and no rain. The road I walked became a narrow stretch of chalk scattered with gravel. In the distance, I heard the growl of a logging truck grinding its brakes. I got off the road as far as I could, embracing chiggers and ticks over the chance of me and my infant daughter getting hit. I called to my dog, Dingo, who had run up ahead and tried waving my arm at the truck.
But the truck blared past—churning up dust that blurred my vision and made it hard to breathe. At the last second, the logger veered his heaped load of chopped trees and the orange flag hanging off the back fluttered jauntily. Somehow in the blinding swirl Dingo was not hit.
A few days later, I was almost to the abandoned antebellum home where five marauding Texas Rangers had been shot by Union soldiers trying to claim the land when the small white truck pulled up beside me.
“Sorry ’bout scaring you,” he said. “I didn’t see you ’til it was too late, and I was trying not to hit your dog.”
“You’re a logger?” I asked, stating the obvious.
He nodded. “You need a ride?”
“No. I’m just out for a walk.”
He began to pull away and then from the window stuck out his head with that salt-stained cap. “Hey,” he called. “You take care of that young’un.”
I watched his brake lights fade as he punched the gas and drove off. Despite the humidity and summer heat, I held my sleeping daughter closer and immediately turned to head home. The rain began to fall. The parched trees and brush on either side of the road were bathed back to green as the chalk-white road was shell-pocked to gray.
Twenty minutes hadn’t passed when the logger in his small white truck pulled up beside me again. My black umbrella was open, and the rain was not falling hard.
“You sure you don’t need a ride?” he asked.
I bristled as adrenaline shot through my legs, making it hard to remain still, making it hard not to run. “I’m fine.”
He sped past. Bearing the weight of my sleeping child, I jogged to my neighbors’ house with their five sheep dogs. The rain dripped off the edges of my umbrella, the droplets soaking into my daughter’s butterfly socks.
My neighbor came out to greet me while wearing her apron and calling off the dogs who were swarming around my feet.
I asked the neighbor if she knew the man, but she did not. “I’ll keep eye out, though,” she said. “And I’ll tell Russell.”
I smiled my thanks and headed down the hill toward home.
Determined not to let fear overrule me, for almost a month I took my daily walks toward dusk when it had cooled off and I thought the loggers would’ve already gone home, but as I was walking up the lane toward our porch lights, I heard a logging truck rumble past.
The logger’s snaggletooth grin as he’d said, “You take care of that young’un” reverberated through my mind, and though I knew other men drove those trucks besides the one who had offered me a ride, I thought, “He knows where I live.”
I would like to say that in the past month since I stopped taking my walks that I have conquered my fear, but my jaw still clenches whenever I hear the loggers barrel past with another stacked load. I now lock every door in the house, and if I am upstairs working out on the elliptical while Adelaide is taking a nap, I keep the baby monitor with me and look at it more often than I look at my time. I called my husband last week and asked which gun was loaded and how I would use it.
And it scares me to know that if I needed to, I actually could.
Eventually, I will take walks with my daughter again. Perhaps once these logs have been scalped off the mountain and the trucks stop barreling past our lane, choking it in dust. Perhaps once I have a big dog and a gun permit; perhaps once I have written the verse on my heart, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” But sometimes I wonder:
When does a sound mind mean heeding our motherly intuition?
Parents, how do you learn to balance trust and fear?