TOWNSHEND -- One morning in late April, Rick Kenyon and Joe Chagnon met for the first time and bonded over talk of guitars.
On Thursday, they finally had a chance to play together.
What happened in between leaves both men at a loss for words: It was a convergence of circumstance that put them in a badly mangled Volkswagen on April 25, and it was good fortune -- or, as Chagnon believes, divine intervention -- that allowed them to strum six-string acoustics on a sunny afternoon less than two months later.
"You can’t put these pieces together," Kenyon said, shaking his head. "How do you figure it out?"
When Brattleboro police responded to Route 30 near the Interstate 91 overpass just before noon on April 25, they found two damaged cars: A southbound 2005 Audi S4 had plowed into Kenyon’s northbound 2003 Jetta.
The driver of the Audi, 32-year-old Dustin W. North of Putney, allegedly was under the influence. Police say they also found prescription drugs in North’s vehicle, and his court case is pending.
What Kenyon recalls most is the violence of the crash.
"I can’t describe the impact," he said. "It was unbelievable."
Had it not been for his chance meeting with Chagnon that morning, Kenyon would have had no reason to be on that stretch of road. A Brattleboro resident, he was driving to Wal-Mart in Hinsdale, N.H.
At the same time, Chagnon -- a West Townshend resident -- was
"I don’t normally pick up hitchhikers," Kenyon said. "I just don’t know why I decided to do that."
But Kenyon, 59, and Chagnon, 64, instantly found common ground and began chatting about their mutual interest in music.
"He’s very likable and very talkative," Kenyon said. "We hit it off."
So when Kenyon finished shopping at Wal-Mart, he waited a few minutes for Chagnon and the two departed together.
"We continued to talk," Kenyon said. "We talked about our guitar playing and how we should get together."
Kenyon says he could have dropped off Chagnon at Brattleboro Retreat and gone home, leaving his new acquaintance to find a ride up Route 30. Instead, the two decided to grab lunch at Newfane Cafe, a favorite spot of Kenyon’s.
Showing off a dry sense of humor, Chagnon said ruefully: "If I could have had it any other way, I would have had a free lunch."
Instead, they found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time when North’s car allegedly swerved.
"It wasn’t quite a head-on, but it was close enough," Chagnon said. "I remember I was trapped in there. Then, things start getting a little more fuzzy."
Kenyon climbed out of the Jetta and was treated at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. North left the scene in a police car, while a passenger in his vehicle also went to Brattleboro Memorial.
Chagnon fared far worse: It took rescue crews about an hour to extricate him from the wreckage, and he was airlifted to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass.
He stayed there until June 12, when he was transferred to undergo rehabilitation at Grace Cottage Hospital in Townshend.
Chagnon acknowledged that he wasn’t feeling well on Thursday. But he lit up a bit when took hold of a Taylor acoustic guitar, and he lit up a little more when he cradled a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar.
Kenyon had come to Grace Cottage, and this time he and Chagnon were going to do more than talk about guitars. They sat on an enclosed porch and ran through classics like "Hey Good Lookin’" and "Hello Mary Lou" with Chagnon contributing harmonies.
Chagnon’s wheelchair was a reminder of the accident, as was Kenyon’s black Jetta ballcap.
But there also was more evidence of the unusual number of connections between the two men. It turns out that Tommy Thomas, a West Townshend musician who joined Thursday’s jam session, knew Chagnon and Kenyon long before they knew each other.
And Kenyon’s wife Cindy, who works at Grace Cottage, now is serving as Chagnon’s physical therapist.
"We were always hoping that Joe would end up here," Rick Kenyon said.
Chagnon said he’s grateful for the support he’s received from Grace Cottage staff and from his girlfriend. And in spite of the serious injuries he suffered, Chagnon believes he owes a debt to his new friend, saying Kenyon was able to turn the Jetta just enough to avoid a direct, head-on collision.
"He saved my life," Chagnon said.