For 36 years, Brown County resident Wayne Childs drove a big rig for a living.

He never had an accident in his truck-driving career, which began in 1960 and ended with his retirement in 1996. His only mishap at all: his 18-wheeler once jackknifed when he braked to avoid an accident in front of him.

But Childs, 72, couldn’t avoid an accident 10 days ago when he drove his wife, his mother-in-law and another couple into town, headed for supper at Lemon’s Barbecue.

A northbound pickup on Highway 279 crossed into oncoming traffic and hit Childs’ 2000 Buick LeSabre nearly head-on, shredding their car. The collision sent all five of the Buick’s occupants to the hospital, but none received life-threatening injuries and all have been released. The pickup’s driver was not injured, Childs said.

“I’m just counting my blessings … counting my blessings,” Childs said. “We never know what tomorrow’s going to bring — well, actually we never what the next few minutes are going to bring, really.

“You never think that something’s going to happen.”

Childs said he and his wife, Mary, who live on FM 2492 just off Highway 279, had decided to invite their neighbors, Jay and Mary Trammell, out to eat that Friday evening, Aug. 17.

The men sat in the Buick’s front seat, and the women, including Child’s 93-year-old mother-in-law, Phyllis Chambers, occupied the rear seat.

As they drove on Highway 279 at 5:45 p.m., Childs saw an oncoming pickup drift off the right side of the road. The pickup came back to the left and into the Buick’s path.

Childs yelled a warning to his passengers, began braking and moved to the right. “Then I started getting ready for the worst and hoping for the best,” Childs said. “It turned out the worst.

“In that split second, you don’t have much time to think. I saw him coming toward me and … he was there. Once he came back on the pavement, it seemed like he was coming like a bullet.”

When asked to describe the impact, Childs hesitated. “Whew,” he said. “It was enormous, the way it hit.”

Immediately after the impact, he said, “We didn’t know who was hurt and how bad each one was hurt, but everyone was talking.”

Firefighters and paramedics began arriving, and firefighters had to cut the Buick open with the Jaws of Life to get Childs out.

Childs looked at a photo, published in the Bulletin, that depicted rescuers working to get to him. “That little red dot — that’s me,” Childs said. “I was just sitting their praising the Lord.”

Rescuers asked him if he could move his hands and feet. “Yeah, I’m doing OK,” he told them. “I was just giving the Lord praise for taking care of us. I heard one of the guys say, ‘Well, there’s the media …’ ”

Childs said he and his wife will try again to arrange an outing with the Trammells.

“I started driving when I was 14 years old, and I never experienced anything like this in my life,” he said.