In any case, I wouldn't be going back home until Thanksgiving, which was plenty of time before my father would be seeing my Jeep again.
When Halloween came around, I had the opportunity to go to a good party at what was supposed to have once been a real haunted house. I don't believe in ghosts or anything like that, but I'd heard it was a pretty interesting house and always a fun party.
The house was even built at the top of a very steep, unpaved hill and from the bottom, it really looked like the classic haunted houses in the movies. The terrain was too rough for regular cars, so the cars all had to park way down the hill and only four-wheel-drives could make it all the way up to the actual property. I was the only one of my friends who happened to drive a 4x4, so I was the designated driver that night.
Six of us crammed into my Jeep and when we finally reached the top of the hill, I was genuinely surprised at how steep that hill really was. There were no guardrails along the road either, and it dropped off very sharply into even steeper grades that no vehicle could possibly manage. It really wasn't a problem, even with my Jeep's stalling issue, but I did make extra sure that the emergency brake was set extra tight and I pulled the handle up higher than normal before taking my foot off the brake when we got out.
The party was a lot of fun, even though I stayed completely sober; I always take my designated driver responsibilities seriously. My friends didn't have to worry about driving, and let's just say that they took full advantage of that fact at the party. By the time we were ready to leave, two of my friends needed help getting into the Jeep and the other two weren't in much better shape themselves.
When we were finally ready to leave, I started the engine, shifted into gear, and popped the emergency brake. It snapped, making a loud snapping sound before the handle went completely limp....
Instinctively, I took my right foot off the gas to hit the brake and, of course, we stalled out. In the process, we'd also slid backwards a bit and my rear tires were less than a foot from where the steep hill dropped off into the darkness.. Nobody else realized that we were in pretty serious danger and my friends - at least the three of them who were coherent - were laughing hysterically. The laughter stopped when they realized our predicament. I kept all my weight on the brake pedal and my three coherent friends helped the other two back out of the Jeep. Initially, I prepared one of my friends to sit on my lap and replace my foot on the brake with his. Then I could operate the clutch and gas pedal and he could take his foot off the brake after we were in gear. That plan changed pretty quickly after we realized that the brake pedal was too small for both of us to share it before I removed my foot, and if we tried and slipped, there was no room to stop rolling before we went right off the ledge.
We spent the next two hours finding another sober driver of a heavier 4x4 vehicle, unwinding my winch hook, attaching it to the tow hook of the other truck, and slowly winching my Jeep out of danger. The sweat poured off my face as we slowly crept up the hill with my foot still lightly on the brake, ready to put my whole weight down on it instantaneously, if the winch cable snapped. I emptied out my student bank account the next day to get the emergency brake and the stalling problem fixed. When I got home a few weeks later for Thanksgiving, my father noticed right away that I'd finally fixed it because I left it idling after getting out to give him a hug. "So, what made you finally get that thing fixed?" Nothing much, Pop, I just realized you were right. Ya never know what could…
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