Wiley Baker was what some would call an "aggressive driver." Or, more accurately, Wiley Baker was what most would call an "aggressive driver."
I remember one day-trip we made with Wiley and Lauretta from Missoula up to Glacier Park. Wiley was driving his big Suburban, and the passengers included Lauretta, Aaron, Caleb and Sascha (Marci's three kids), my mom and dad, Chris and Tim, and Dan and me. Lauretta was riding up front with Wiley, and had fallen asleep, as was her custom whenever they traveled.
Wiley wasted no time getting to the park. At one point, on a 2-lane road, he pulled around a car that wasn't going fast enough, only to see an on-coming car in our lane. In the back, Mom and Dad, Dan and I were white-knuckling it . . . especially my Dad. Wiley never flinched. The on-coming car drove off the road, onto the shoulder, thus avoiding a head-on collision. Wiley smiled and said, "That was sure nice of them, wasn't it?" (That line has since become code, between Dan and me, that someone might be driving a little too aggressively.)
As we climbed higher up the steep mountain road, it became narrower and the switchbacks became sharper. It seemed as if Wiley thought he was driving on a straight, flat Texas freeway! I remember someone asking my dad, who was holding a camera, to get a shot, over the edge (which I recall as being perilously close to the outside tires of the Suburban). He stuck the camera out the window, aimed it downward and clicked, all the time keeping his head and eyes straight ahead, so as not to risk seeing the ever-increasing distance to the valley floor. Through all of this, Lauretta slept soundly and peacefully - not a bad strategy, I decided.
When we got to the top, all in one piece but with shakey knees, and stepped out of the vehicle, my dad, pale and frightened, put his arm around Dan's shoulders. "Dan," he said, "I'll never criticize your driving again!"
With that background, I'll share another little story involving Wiley and his driving.
At the time that Chris was in college, in Abilene, Texas, Wiley and Lauretta were living in Montana. Since they still had relatives and some farming interests in Texas, they came down a couple times a year, often without forewarning. Chris, at the time of this story, was dating Kelsey. The two of them were in the Wal-Mart parking lot one afternoon when a car backed out of a parking space and rammed into a light pole. Kelsey said, "Did you see that old man? He just ran into that light pole!" Chris looked in the direction of the accident, and by then the long, lanky driver was climbing out of his car, to examine the damage. "That 'old man'" said Chris, "is my Grandpa!"
3 weeks ago