Cathy Dunlap, 1956-1976


The accident happened sometime in the early morning hours, jus’ north of the Trees Motel. The vehicle Cathy Dunlap was in drifted off of Highway 101 and slammed into the trees lining the road.

Dad said Cathy, who had turned 20-years-old the month before, had died on impact. Whether that was true or he had jus’ told me that to make me feel better, I never knew.

It was later in the day when he informed me that he and I were going to go clean up the scene. It was something Dad had me doing since I was nine years old.

We drove by the site but since there wasn’t a turnaround close by, we had to go to the old sawmill and drive back to it. Dad turned on the fire-rigs flashing lights and we climbed out, put on our gloves, and opened the paper bags we used to place things in.

There wasn’t much in the way of personal items like there can sometimes be in a traffic accident. A car or truck flips over the windows break and objects get ejected and sometimes lost in the activity of trying to save a life.

There was a blush compact and a hairbrush as well as a shoe, all picked up and placed in one of the bags. I was down below Dad scanning the ground when I found a few drops of blood.

I asked Dad, “What do you want me to do?”

“Scatter it as best you can,” he answered.

So I spent the next couple of minutes trying to erase any sign of the blood by kicking the stones and dirt with the toe of my tennis shoe. Then for some reason, I looked up.

Gently waving in the air, hanging from a fracture tree branch was a twist of blond-like hair. At one end I could see, what I can only describe as a tag of skin, hanging from it.

My heavy work gloves wouldn’t let me get a hold of the hair, so I removed my left one and pulled the strands from the tree’s branch. I rolled it around between the tips of my fingers and thumb for a second and then stopped.

It was like a hot shower had jus’ washed over my face – tears were streaming and I felt so warm I became sick to my stomach. I had jus’ realized that Cathy, a girl I knew and had gone to school with had been killed and I was holding what remained of her.

Dad was quick to come down to me. He took the hair from my hand and placed it in a plastic bag as I stood there crying.

To this day, I’ve never passed that spot in the road without recalling that memory or of Cathy.

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