Survival of the Fittest?

Photo by Frans van Heerden:

Adherents to Darwinism believe in the survival of the fittest. To be clear, when Darwin’s devotees discuss the idea of survival of the fittest, they are not saying the most physically fit creature or creatures survive.

Thankfully, species survival is not nature’s version of American Ninja Warrior, an Olympic competition, or a battlefield. If it were, God might have given responsibility for His creation to some species other than humankind.

You will be sorely disappointed if you now expect some deeply spiritual or philosophical discussion of humanity’s dominance within the animal kingdom. This piece aims to point out that individual humans often survive when any intelligent person would expect them to perish.

For the record, I am not speaking of heroic deeds in battle or putting one’s life at risk to save another. Instead, I am writing about circumstances highlighting God’s mercy or, if you prefer, nature’s whim. For example, consider the saga of a fellow named Willy.

I was reminded of Willy while heading to the sprawling metropolis of Krum, Texas.1 On this day, I followed my phone’s directions to see how the route it suggested compared with the one I thought was best. Giving the app much credibility was challenging when it insisted it was directing me to “crooom.”

Language algorithms aside, the directions were pretty good. I am not 100 percent certain it was a better route than the one I would have driven. Still, it worked, and the road led me past where Willy should have died in the early 1970s. My normal route would not have passed this location.

Okay, Willy is a pseudonym. The primary reason for using a pseudonym is I cannot remember Willy’s real name. Also, the story is not flattering, and I hate to accuse someone of something when they may not be able to defend themselves.

This Willy was a hardworking guy, as I remember it. He worked so hard during the week that he needed to relax as quickly and thoroughly as possible when his work week was over. In plain language, that means Willy cashed his paycheck around the corner from his job and started pounding beers until the week was, at best, a hazy memory. On a good weekend, Willy would make Monday morning without ending up in jail, but Willy did not have a lot of good weekends.

When I met Willy, he was on a first-name basis with most of the local law enforcement community. He was also beginning to realize he faced the possibility of becoming a long-term guest of the state if he did not change his ways.

I would love to tell you that Willy swore off alcohol, started going to church, and never stepped into a jail cell again. Of course, that would be a complete fabrication. The real story is less heartwarming but quite fantastic. It started on a Friday or Saturday night just after Willy’s favorite watering hole closed.

Willy was headed home from his favorite place when he attracted the attention of a local Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) unit. When the trooper hit his red lights, Willy hit the gas. Yep! That was Willy’s plan to avoid jail; outrun the cops.

As the city officer working in the area, I was dispatched to backup the DPS unit. I did not have much to do as the incident was almost over when I caught them. You see, Willy tried to make it to the interstate, where he hoped his hotrod Pontiac would prove fast enough to make his getaway.

Willy’s plan worked for a while. He headed northwest out of town, attempting to make it to the highway. There was not a lot of traffic at that time of night, and that Pontiac could fly on a straight road. Whether it would have outrun the DPS unit is something we’ll never know. Willy encountered some problems, which might have been obvious if he’d been sober.

The first problem was the so-called muscle cars of that era had lots of horsepower. That means they could go fast! I can testify cars like Willy’s could hit speeds of well over an indicated 125 mph on the open road. Of course, I never drove that fast in my muscle car. I only went that fast while pursuing someone like Willy.

Yes, those cars were fast. Their biggest shortcoming was in the stopping department. As both a young hot rodder and later a young police officer, I can attest to that reality. A four hundred horsepower, three thousand pound car had, for the most part, the same brake system as your grandmother’s hot-water six in those days.

The second problem was, in a way, related to the brake issue. The road Willy chose dead-ended at the interstate in a rural area, with minimal lighting. The only light came from the truck stop near the intersection, which was more blinding than illuminating.

Another problem was a driver could not see the truck stop or the intersection until he topped a hill a few hundred yards south of their location. Willy was traveling well over 100 miles per hour when he crested the hill.

I do not know when Willy realized he had a problem. I do know he locked his brakes when he recognized his situation. His car left long skid marks before it left the pavement. They led right up to the bar ditch, which the Pontiac jumped, before slamming into the embankment. If I remember correctly, the front bumper plowed up 60 feet of sod before the car came to a rest.

When I arrived on the scene, the senior DPS officer was on the radio, calling for assistance. Fresh out of the academy, the younger officer was standing next to Willy’s smashed Pontiac passenger door. He was staring into the passenger compartment with a strange look on his face. When I reached the car, I realized why the rookie was standing there pale-faced, gazing into the vehicle.

The Pontiac was a mess! The front end was smashed up and covered with dirt and sod. The impact force used Willy’s body to destroy the steering wheel, damage the dash, and smash a good portion of the windshield.

Willy’s body added to the devastation and the look on the rookie’s face. The force crammed the body into the right front floorboard, and Willy’s head was nowhere in sight. From outside, he appeared decapitated. That, or his head burst through the side panels into the fender.

In retrospect, that was not possible. Still, it looked that way, and we could not assume he was decapitated or dead from blunt force trauma. If he was still alive, we needed to render first aid, and we could not do that with him jammed under the dashboard.

I reached in through the driver’s window, grabbed his belt, and pulled. Willy was not a small guy and was dead weight at the moment. The body shifted some, but I needed help. Suddenly, the young trooper came out of his daze and helped.

Reaching through the passenger side window, he grabbed Willy’s arm and shoulder. That shifted his weight enough that he rolled onto his back. At first, he just laid there. His head was intact, but there was no sign of life. Then he took a breath.

If you are wincing at how we were handling Willy, or his body, keep one thing in mind. This incident occurred long before EMTs, Paramedics, and Mobile Emergency Rooms. We were waiting for a funeral home ambulance driven by a college student. He might know basic first aid but would not be more qualified than either of us to render assistance.

Also, we had to do something to determine if the driver was alive or if we needed to call a Peace Justice to declare him dead. Those were the only choices we had in those days, throw them in an ambulance and hope they made it alive, or leave them there until the judge showed up and said, “Take’em to the funeral home.”

The guy was still alive! He was breathing! We yelled to the senior trooper, and he said the ambulance was coming over the hill. About that time, Willy made a horrible rattling noise in his throat and stopped breathing. We quickly pulled him out of the car, laid him on the ground, and he took a breath. Whew, maybe this would not be a fatality accident after all.

In this case, we needed to keep Willy alive and get him to the hospital. The report we received later from the hospital and ambulance crew was that he quit breathing and spontaneously started breathing three times before arriving at an Emergency Room with the equipment needed to keep him alive.

The doctors told his family he would probably not survive. If he did, he might have a severe brain injury or be a vegetable in the vernacular of the time. Instead, six weeks later, he was back in town, walking around and as cognitively functional as before. True, he was in an upper-body cast, but he wasn’t taking that last sleep in the family plot.

So, is there a moral to this story? Is there a lesson to be learned from this experience? The most fundamental moral of this story, depending on how one thinks of God, the universe, or good and evil, is the fittest are not necessarily the ones who survive. Willy should have died on the side of the I.H. 35 at U.S. 77 that evening. The fact he did not raises a few questions.

My theological education and belief system led me to believe there was a reason for his survival. Perhaps he did sober up at some point. Maybe he became a volunteer helping others deal with their alcohol problems. Or, his experience led one of his buddies or family members to change their ways.

My old cop and pragmatist side thinks Willy and many other hard drinkers I ran across as a police officer ended up the primary character in a fatality accident or other tragic incident. Yet, I know several people who changed and managed to do it without hitting a highway embankment at high speeds. One can only hope that someone else is paying attention when God shows His mercy to someone like Willy.

 1970 Population 454 (2020 population 5,749)

© – 2019 (updated 2022)

About S. Eric Jackson

See "About."
This entry was posted in Faith, Religion, sin, Spirituality and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Survival of the Fittest?

  1. Pingback: Speaking of Drivel | An Old Cop's Place

Leave a Reply