These are My People

Driving home late last night I spotted something in the road that made me do a “Whoa!” so I turned around to clear it off the road.  Pulling off to the side, as my right tires left the pavement I discovered that the saturated Palouse loess had thawed substantially.  Four wheel drive or not, it won’t matter.  Gigantic 4 x 4 farm tractors with six foot diameter wheels get stuck fast in this stuff.  The road bed was steep enough that my pickup just slid sideways and dug in deep.  My front bumper was resting on the gravel.

Zero cellular coverage and it’s 22:30.  Time for a little hike, to where I can acquire the Kamiak Butte tower.  OK, it’s a nice night.  Multiple calls to the house and no answer.  Randomly, as my wife’s phone is ringing, Son came down to get a drink or something and he answered, so I got him to come pick me up.

This morning I walked downtown to the one local auto shop to see if I could get a tow.  Nope.  That person was out of town.  Tried the one market where they know me, to ask if any of them had a heavy 4 x 4.  You know that wall that appears between you and another person when they just don’t want to deal with anything you’re saying?  Yeah.  Tried the city hall, where we all know each other.  There’s that wall again.

Walking toward the house, going through my options, along comes a rusty 1970s Chevy pickup with a winch in the front.  They wave, as is common in a small town, and I hand signal “come over here”.  Inside are two men, eyeing me suspiciously while eating brunch in the truck.  “Is this a four wheel drive?” I ask, as there are no manual locking hubs.
“Yup” comes the answer after a few seconds pause and some eye-balling. 
“Want to make a couple of bucks for about ten minutes work?”

So we talk back and forth as they explain that they’d seen my pickup and said to themselves as they drove by that they’d do it for a hundred bucks, and that you never know if you’re going to break something doing something like that, and so on.  They hem and haw and after a long pause they agree to it, so I squeeze into the short cab and we head off.  Now they’re concerned about what John Law might do if he sees us.  That was odd, but I explained that I’d take any heat, and that it wouldn’t be problem anyway.  I also reassured them that there’d be no hard feelings or anything like that if they decided not to attempt the pull-out after they saw how bad it was.

No problem.  Once they got there and saw that my truck was in fact dug in up to the bumpers, on a steep incline, they took it upon themselves to get it out as a matter of pride.  These are my people.  They forgot all about the 20 dollars they had demanded in advance, and set to it.

There was much discussion, as is the tradition in these situations, about the best way to approach the task– where to connect the winch, where to locate the rescue vehicle, what gears to use, and so on.  Three pulls– two nasty, poppy, pingy ones with the winch (with dirt and rust flying off the cable as it sings soprano) to get my truck out of the hole, and then a long pull with a tow strap off their trailer hitch.  Bingo.  These guys had done this before.  Of course we have to chat for a bit, and then I whip out my wallet only to discover that I didn’t have that twenty I thought I had.  They didn’t seem too worried, and agreed to follow me back into town to the bank.

As I hand them two twenties (I figured they deserved it) and we exchange thanks, they start up their old Chevy–  “Brrr…………….rr….rr….rrrOOOOMMM.”  It barely started, like it was maybe a one in ten proposition at best.  Maybe they can use that forty bucks toward a new battery.  Yes; these are my people.  Thanks, two brothers, from a small town in North Idaho that you wouldn’t even notice as you drive by it except for the road sign, who just happened by in a small town in Eastern Washington.

And the mission was entirely successful, even if it took 12 hours to complete– I got the junk off the roadway, and with some help, got my muddy butt out of there.

7 thoughts on “These are My People

  1. The first winter I had a 4 wheel drive truck I would drive around looking for people to pull out of ditches. I never asked for money, but I didn’t turn it down.

  2. Yeah, sometimes there’s a dirty job that just needs doing. Money might change hands, or it might not. I’ve been on both ends of that tow rope.

  3. I grew up in small town Minnesota and now live in Dallas. While I have no desire to return to a rural setting I do agree, small town people are really the best people!

  4. Normally, I’m happy to help people with stuck vehicles. However, a couple of years ago, a couple of yahoos were screwing around in my neighborhood driving at high speed, and missed the right turn corner in front of my house and ended up with the front wheels of their little rice-burner compact with the front wheels in a ditch, bottomed out.

    They knocked on my door to ask if I’d use the 3/4tr ton pickup in front to pull them out. But they were pretty squirrelly looking and I declined. They got a neighbor of mine to volunteer his pickup. I watched with amusement as the group proceeded to tear the entire back bumper assembly off the jap coupe in a single yank.

  5. SPQR; My wife’s rice burner has tow loops at both ends, welded directly into the unibody support structure. Yeah, you must have a good strong attach point or the “help” will tear you apart. I think maybe there’s a general, philosophical life lesson there.

    Big town/small town, I’m not sure is the very best indicator, as of course there are good and bad where ever you go and each town has its own culture, but there does seem to be some difference. “My People” live in all sorts of places and come from all races, sexes, colors and creeds. You’ll see plenty of people who seek a small town as a place where they can be a relatively big fish in a small pond. Those are the one’s you have to watch out for.

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