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Tragedy Averted on Highway 101

PETALUMA A quick-thinking ranch hand became an unlikely hero Sunday when he helped avert tragedy for a family of Wine Country visitors.

San Anselmo resident Lucy Freed was driving her brand new Lincoln Navigator southbound on Highway 101 near the county line after an afternoon of winetasting when she became distracted by activity inside the vehicle. "It seems that her kids, Tiffany and Chad, were fighting about who was going to get the last drink of a wheat-grass smoothie," California Highway Patrol spokesman Nick Handel reported. "The cup slipped and splattered on the front seat."

Freed panicked and her vehicle careened into a 1989 Toyota Corolla, forcing the driver--Sandy Bottom, 33, of Graton--into an adjacent pasture. Bottom's car, leaking gasoline from a ruptured fuel line, came to rest in a steaming mound of manure. Bottom suffered a minor head injury.

Luckily, the alert ranch hand, Simon Licht, saw the accident and rushed to the scene.

"When I got to the vehicle, the air bags had deployed, the children were hysterical, and Mrs. Freed was fit to be tied," Licht recalled. "I knew just what to do. I went back to my lunch box, grabbed the salt shaker--I always eat a couple of hard-boiled eggs for an afternoon snack--and rubbed it on the upholstery with a damp cloth. That lifts those wheat grass stains in a jiffy."

CHP Officer Handel praised Licht for his quick action. "Without him," he said, "the Freed family would be looking at a serious devaluation on the resale of that vehicle."

Bottom was treated on the scene and released.

"Who the hell's gonna clean up this mess?" Licht asked. "I've got cow shit all over my chrome wheel covers."

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From the October 12-18, 2000 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

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