Railroad Ride

by kfrego

New York State was hiring correction officers during the summer of 1967. It took me twenty minutes and a twenty dollar bill to get a job as a temporary officer at Green Haven Prison downstate near Poughkeepsie. A few months after starting at Green Haven Bobby Bowden came to work. We rented and shared a small kitchenette unit at Whaley Lake. Whaley Lake was located on a secondary road off of old Hwy 55. The area was similar to the lakes in the Adirondacks with summer homes, small lodges, and motels. Most of the units where we lived were occupied by correction officers from up north. There were a lot of people from up north working downstate.

The Bobby Bowden who showed up at Green Haven for work was considerably different from the Bobby Bowden who was my classmate five years ealier. He had just finished his military service. He loved to party, drink shots of tequila with salt and lime, and hang out at the local bars. Bobby had a clean little baby blue Ford Fairlane and was saving his money to buy a new Camaro. He normally drove like an old granny.

Bobby was on day shift and I was on swing shift from three to eleven. If the local bar on the old highway 55 was open I always stopped for a couple beers to unwind on the way home. Heading home on a summer night Bobby and about ten others were still going strong when I entered the bar. We stayed until the bartender turned out the lights. Bobby was backing out as I left the parking lot. When he didn’t show up at Whaley Lake I assumed their party moved elsewhere. Bobby came through the door a few hours later and looked like he had been drug through a knot hole. He was definitely distraught.

He had left the bar following me home. When he turned off the old highway onto our secondary road there was a double set of railroad tracks about two hundred feet ahead. Bobby completely missed the road and drove all the way across the two tracks. His car ended up just past the access road used for maintenance by the railroad. By the time he stopped the car was wasted. No body damage, but he left pieces of tires, wheels, oil pan, and frame all over the place. The wrecker had backed down the access road, loaded his car, and brought him home. He left all the pieces right there. No troopers, no visitors, no injuries.

Bobby quit drinking tequila…………….and bought a new Camaro RS two days later.