Stephenson Tales

Nightmare Hill

After our Beemer house trailer caught fire and burned, Lucy Chase bought the Airstream trailer for us in about 1960 and we had a big Chevrolet van with which to pull it. It was like a great silver bubble—24 feet long—a double bed in the front, a single bed on the starboard side, a double decker bed on the port, and, at the stern, a bathtub just the perfect size for Baby Robin. It was a self-sufficient trailer: hot and cold running water, furnace, refrigerator, cooking stove with oven, toilet, shower. We felt quite out of our class.

One day we decided to take the entire family to spend the night on the shore of Lake Michigan. This was before the modern zoning laws forbade such a lark. (My father used to say "Progress is not necessarily improvement.") We would spend Friday evening, all day Saturday, and come home on Sunday afternoon with a load of Petosky stones.

Traveling along U.S. 31 from the Interlochen Corners, west towards Lake Michigan one passes the turn off to Thompsonville (home of the famous Laurence), down a very long, very steep curving hill; through Honor, along Deadstream road; right on Indian Trail and then left to 72 and, in a mile, left again to Lake Michigan. It is a beautiful serene trip which reinforces the correctness of our choosing Northwestern lower Michigan as home.

I often have dreams that recreate situations and events of things that have passed. One night I had a terrifying nightmare. I dreamed that the whole family was in the car and we were taking the Airstream to spend time at Lake Michigan. All went well until we got to the hill just east of Honor. I naturally wanted to brake slightly before going down that long hill. My brake pedal went unimpeded all the way to the floor. We began picking up speed. Faster and faster we flew around the wide left hand curve. Faster. Faster. Faster. I glanced down at the speedometer, I read 83 miles per hour and going up. We came to the flat outskirts of Honor going at least ninety. We flew past the County Roads building on the right and I could see the curve to the right at the beginning of the business district. I screamed!

Somebody screaming woke me up. I was shaking all over. My hands were clenched and locked into two fists and I was gasping for air. This was just about 1961, almost 50 years ago.

That portion of the road is still known by everyone in our family as "nightmare hill." The Airstream has taken up permanent residence behind Harper House, and is used as a guest room! It has lost its silver gleam and the plumbing leaks, but in its elderliness it is still beautiful.

Composed 25 December, 2008, Transcribed by Robin

© Jim Bob Stephenson 2008

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