It was a beautiful day in Germany back in the early 1970s; the sun was shining bright and the autumn air was brisk and fresh. I was the clerk for the First Battalion, 68th Armor, and my roommates all were drivers. J.C. drove the ambulance, Charles drove a tank, and Bruce drove a jeep. And on this day, the four of us got in Bruce’s jeep to go joy-riding.
It was not hard to find an off-road trail in the hills above Baumholder. Soon we were high in deep forest, driving on a carpet of leaves, pushing forward into a curtain of oranges and browns and yellows. The route soon narrowed to one lane as we continued into the thick woods.
We told Bruce we should go back; the thicket was so dense it would be hard to turn around. “I’ve been driving these trails for years,” Bruce said. “I know when it’s time to turn around.” I was concerned we would get lost but Bruce assured me that we could always radio for help. “But I’m not going to get lost,” he said.
The passage continued to constrict. Soon we were traveling on nothing more than a cow path. Another 300 yards and we couldn’t see the trail anymore at all. Bruce was just driving between the widest spaces among the trees. He finally decided to turn around – but there was no room for that.
He put it in reverse and started backing up, guiding his way through the view in the plastic window in the back of the canvas roof. The jeep antenna, about 15 feet long and normally held back by a clip, popped loose.
I had the view through the windshield and the leaves knocked loose by the antenna swallowed the jeep. Rich apricot hues bounced off raisin radiance and recoiled against harvest golds. Colors of coral and salmon blended with cinnamon and saffron.
Bruce heard his passengers clamoring with excitement as the essence of autumn smothered the front of the jeep. He would glance back towards the windshield as he continued backing up to catch a glimpse of this living lava lamp of organic colors, but his riders had the best view of all.
A solid sheet of leaves – no, it was thick as the earth itself, but tinctured with the iridescence of the equinox – entombed us in a hurricane of hues. Honey and hazel and henna ricocheted off chestnut and chocolate. Rusty pumpkin copper colors joined the smoothie of peaches and papayas and pomegranates.
It was as if we were inside a kaleidoscope – a treasure chest exploding with jade, topaz, opal, garnet, agate and tiger’s eye. I have always admired God’s creations. But on this autumn day almost 50 years ago, He completely outdid His self.