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Lamar’s own Bermuda Triangle

By Kay S. Pedrotti Unbeknownst to most Lamar County residents ‘“ except for law enforcement ‘“ is a mystery about two miles of Interstate 75 that defies explanation. It’s the area of the big highway that clips off a patch of the northeast corner of the county, forming an almost-triangle between mile marker 200 on the north and 198 to the south. ’Weird things happen there all the time,’ said an experienced lawman who agreed to talk anonymously to The Herald Gazette about the ‘triangle’ and other strange and humorous situations he has encountered in a long career. There was also an unusual incident in the police reports for March 5-11: three women were left sitting on a guard rail after a fourth woman drove away with the car in which they all had been traveling. It’s just one of many. In or near the triangle were the instances of animals hurt on the highway, including expensive polo ponies and an injured baby zebra. Once a cattle truck wrecked at High Falls Road and I-75, the lawman said, ‘and there was a horse and a donkey we couldn’t catch.’ For a long time the odd pair would graze on the grass near the interstate, eliciting many calls to law enforcement: ‘There’s a horse and a donkey on the side of the highway!’ The two ‘learned to recognize a patrol car and would take off back into the woods,’ he said. ‘We’d always go check it out but they never tried to come on to the pavement. We’d reassure the callers they wouldn’t cause a problem and they didn’t.’ Flat tires, drug busts, super-speeders and accidents are too numerous to remember, said the lawman. Cars and trucks seem to go off the road around the Buck Creek bridge and create problems with search and rescue. According to the law officer, one tractor-trailer driver apparently left the road without causing any visible disturbance on the embankment. That was in summer. The truck and its dead driver were not found until the leaves came off the trees in fall. A car that went over the embankment and turned over wheels-up was found but there was no one around. Later there was another check by law enforcement and all four wheels were missing. ’When we found the owner he said he didn’t want to leave the wheels because somebody might steal them, so he had removed them,’ the lawman said. One man who was driving too fast went over the Buck Creek bridge rail about 5:20 a.m. and wound up near the creek in pitchblack darkness, The lawman said it took him until 8 p.m. that night to crawl through the creek and up the bank. ‘He was lying under the guard rail, waving his hand for help. When we got there, we thought he had been a pedestrian hit by a car, so we asked if he saw who hit him. He said, ‘˜I wasn’t hit’ and then told us his strange story.’ A Jeep and a tractortrailer loaded with walkietalkies collided because the Jeep was going the wrong way, head-on with the big rig. ’The whole thing exploded and the drivers died,’ said the lawman. At one time, the twomile stretch had the highest percentage of fatalities on I-75, the lawman added. ‘Because it’s so short, just about two miles, and you have four deaths, that runs the percentage skyhigh,’ he said. ’I wish we had all kept a diary of all those oddball things,’ he said. ‘I’d tell new guys about the ‘˜triangle’ and they’d laugh but later they’d admit I was right.’ No excuse for speeding In a lifetime of handing out warnings and speeding tickets, not to mention finding drunk drivers, the lawman said he collected a number of unusual things people would use as excuses. ’I’d usually have a comeback for all of the things they said, like the woman I stopped for not wearing a seatbelt. She said it wrinkled her dress. I asked her what did she think that dress would look like with blood on it.’ In another case, the speeder said the lawman’s radar reading was ‘not what the speedometer said.’ When asked how he knew his speedometer was right, the man said something unbelievable to the lawman: ‘I know it’s right because I’m sitting still and it’s on zero.’ Medical excuses for speeding are common, sometimes among doctors, but they can usually be discounted with a little investigation. The one time he absolutely believed, the lawman said, was when he saw the woman in labor in the car. ’I led them to the hospital with lights and siren going full blast,’ he said. He might believe, he said, the driver ‘had to go to the bathroom real bad’ if it’s in the middle of a long stretch of road with no facilities, ‘but not if you’ve just passed four exits with services.’ He’s been in law enforcement long enough to remember when the field sobriety tests for suspected DUI drivers were not exactly prescribed, leaving the officer to his instincts and experience to determine intoxication. ’One thing I used was getting the people to say the alphabet (yes, some people would still sing it) but I’d always ask how far they went in school first. I got this one guy who snapped at me, ‘˜I’ve got a master’s degree.’ So I asked him to say the ABCs. Everything was fine until the end; he couldn’t remember Z as the last letter. There was no doubt he was drunk,’ the lawman said. People speed more on windy, blustery days, the officer said. He believes it is because ‘you know the sound of your car at 55 or 60 miles an hour but the winds throw the sound off and drivers think they have to speed up to get that same sound.’ Cruise control would come in handy on windy days if you don’t want a ticket, he said. One huffy driver said he couldn’t possibly have been speeding because his radar detector didn’t go off. After the officer insisted he was indeed speeding the man fooled around with the detector’s connections. ‘He said, ‘˜Just give me the ticket. It wasn’t plugged in.’

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