Cassandra Crabtree, in the passenger seat, looked back to see the black case hit the road and flip, and the truck drive over it. She drew in a quick breath and screamed.
Her mother, Janelle Crabtree, hit the brakes on the Ford Taurus. Before Janelle could bring the car to a complete halt, Cassie had jumped out and was streaking back along Camino del Rio.
All I could see was her running down the side of the road, Janelle said.
The story has a happy ending. But at this point, you have to be concerned about the contents of the black case a several-hundred-dollar violin. And foremost, youre worried about your excitable 16-year-old daughters safety as she runs the gantlet in rush-hour traffic between Home Depot and Walmart.
Cassie is a sophomore at Durangos Big Picture High School, an alternative school under the auspices of Durango School District 9-R. Shes been playing the violin for about eight years and is part of the youth symphony orchestra at Fort Lewis College. One of her Big Picture internships was teaching music at Florida Mesa Elementary School.
On that day last month, she had just finished her music lesson with Allison Cook at Katzin Music. The Crabtrees stopped at Walmart to pick up a few things, and during the shuffle of putting items into the Taurus, Cassie placed her violin on the roof. She remembers her mom saying something funny, they both cracked up and then slid into the car.
A man in the parking lot tried to tell them, pointing his finger at the roof of their car.
It looked like he was shooting a gun. Does he know me? Cassie Crabtree wondered.
Another car honked at them as Janelle Crabtree drove up toward Camino del Rio, veered right and began to merge into the heavy traffic. As she accelerated, something slid off the roof. Cassie was debating whether to look back when Janelle demanded she do so.
Cassie looked in horror as the violin bounced on the highway and disappeared under a big truck.
Another truck behind it stopped in front of the vulnerable black case. As Cassie ran toward the scene a couple hundred yards away, all eastbound traffic came to a halt behind the stopped truck.
A passenger in the truck the Crabtrees remember it being black or dark, large and probably a Ford got out and picked up the case. In Cassies head were visions of a smashed instrument and the potential end of her music career. It was not insured.
He just handed it to me, Cassie recalls about the man, perhaps in his 30s, wearing a purple coat with a diamond pattern. Hes just like, I hope its all right.
Cassie hugged the case and returned to the car. She opened it slowly, eyes closed, afraid what condition Aurora might be in. She opened her eyes.
Nary a scratch. Not only that, as she determined later, it was still in tune.
The cases fabric has a couple of deep scuff marks, but nothing debilitating. For all intents and purposes, it was as if the whole incident never happened.
Allison Carson, who teaches string instruments at Katzin Music, said Cassie treats her violin with great respect. Still, crazy things happen all the time. Her worst recent horror story is a student who sat on her violin and snapped it beyond repair.
Cassies the first one who lost her violin into traffic, Carson said.
Now, the Crabtrees want to show appreciation to the men who stopped.
Cassie will dedicate her May 15 afternoon recital performance at First United Methodist Church to the men in the truck and hopes somehow to meet them. (Reach her through Katzin Music, 259-2211.)
Both of them saved my life, Cassie said.
Shes probably exaggerating, but by stopping traffic, its possible they did prevent some extra carnage.
We want to celebrate this person, Janelle said. To stop his truck, to stop traffic and hand this goofy girl running down the road her violin. That was a generous thing to do.
The moral of the story? Yes, yes, you should always check your roof before you drive off. But theres more. Once again, its proved that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
If Ive learned anything, Janelle Crabtree said, its worth investing in a case.
firstname.lastname@example.org. John Peel writes a weekly human-interest column.