Archive for November, 2019

Angelic attire, part 2

Continued…

(When we last left our damsel in distress, the motorcycle guy had just replied to her request for help with a flat tire, saying, “I’ll take a look at it.” To which she privately thought, “Oh. Thank. God.”)

I walked over to the Durango and opened the trunk, pointing around to the extremely flat left front tire. He came around to the back as I yanked my suitcase, computer, and a few other things out and piled them on the ground.

He studied the back end of the car, looked at the spare mounted up under the trunk, and said, “Hmm… Haven’t dealt with a Dodge in a long time. Don’t know how this thing releases. Usually they’ve got a button back here or under here that you press to release it.”

“Wait!” I exclaimed. “Lemme look in the owner’s manual. That probably says how to do it.” I got it out, flipped to the index, found the place where it was written, and started reading aloud. Turns out the release thing is on the inside and at first it was not obvious, but I found it, and as I read the instructions, he did what it said. The process involved using a part of the jack to twist a certain thing for quite a while till the spare was lowered to the ground and the cable had enough slack that it could be unhooked. He left me cranking up top while he lay on the ground under it to get the spare off.

I was greatly relieved to see that it was a full-size spare and not one of those little “donuts” that you’re only supposed to drive 50 miles on. I had no idea how much air was in it, but whatever it had was significantly more than the one on the car!

The guy rolled the spare up to the other, and as I read him all the blurb about where and where not to put the jack, and as he started on the lug nuts, we talked a bit.

“What does your husband do?”

“He’s a missionary.”

“What kind?”

“Christian.”  = )

“With what organization? Or what denomination?”

“We’re non-denominational. He’s an independent missionary. He goes to other nations and trains pastors.”

“Oh. I’m Southern Baptist.”

I responded immediately and fervently, “Southern Baptists are the greatest people in the world!”

“Well, your husband’s doing ten times more than I ever do.”

“You’re a veteran. Thank you for all you’ve done for our country. And thank you for helping me. I sure do appreciate it.”

“I’m a retired policeman. I’m used to helping people.”

“Well, I’m sure you’re on your way to somewhere…”

“Actually no. I’ve been riding all day. Headed home. I only live two miles from here.”

He was a big, strong guy, and he was grunting and sweating over my lug nuts. He finally got three off, but the fourth was stubborn. He was putting all he had into it. I said, “That one’s a real son of a gun.” He was red in the face and didn’t reply, but leaning hard on the lug wrench, he finally broke it free. Unfortunately, the fifth one was worse, and no matter what he did, it would. not. budge. Uh-oh. I hadn’t really thought what would happen if a brawny man couldn’t get my lug nuts off. Then what?!?

He stood up, and suddenly I fought panic. What if he said he couldn’t do it and just left?

“I can’t get that one loose without breaking it, but I’ve got just the right tool to get it off. I’ll go get it and be back.”

“Well… okay.” (What else could I say?)

“I’ll be back in a few minutes. I’ll be driving a blue truck.”

“Okay. Thank you SO much. Hey, what’s your name?”

“Jim.”

“Well, I’m Patty. Thank you again, Jim. Say, how about I just wait here till you get back?” We both laughed, and he got on his motorcycle and drove off.

I spent the next few minutes thanking God and praying for Jim. I was sure he’d come back. God clearly had everything under control. The guy was a vet, a retired policeman, and a Christian! Seriously?!? What more could I ask?

In less than 15 minutes, Jim pulled up in a big, shiny, navy blue pickup. It was one of those with the high tires and an extended cab. The color made sense, too; he’d told me that he rides with the Blue Knights.

He asked me to move the Durango to a different part of the lot, where it would be on concrete instead of gravel and therefore easier to jack up. I was wary of denting the rim, and so drove very slowly, but it was fine, and besides, the tire was only flat on one side. = )  Jim reminded me to set my parking brake, then opened the tailgate of his truck, pulled out a yellow handheld drill, tried a couple of tips till he had the one that fit my lug nuts, and with a few impressive “zint-zint-ZINTS” (just like the guys at the tire shop) popped them all off – even that recalcitrant fifth one –  in nothing flat. Then he was back to the truck for the pièce de ré·sis·tance: a yellow hydraulic jack that looked something like this: 

He said he’d brought it because it would work a lot better than the scissor jack that was in the car, and sure enough, it did. He slid that puppy under the side of the Durango, gave it three or four good pumps, and that tire was up off the ground.

Jim pulled the tire off and rolled it over to the side, and he showed me the nail that had started this whole problem. It was broken off in the tire, but he said it looked like the tire could be fixed, that it had plenty of good tread. (I was already planning to be at Taney County Tire first thing Monday morning.) Jim changed the tire, lowered the jack, tightened all the lugs nuts, and said that since they’d have to get to the tire to fix it anyway – and since getting the flat one rigged back onto the cable the spare had been on would be a pain neither of us wanted to deal with – he’d just put it inside. And with a mighty heave and a grunt he heaved it up into the car.

Suddenly it occurred to me that I should pay him something –  for his time, his expertise, his tools, his willingness to do all that – but I had uncharacteristically left home without any cash, not a single dollar! I said, “I don’t have any cash with me, but I can write you a check… and it’s good.”

“Oh, no, no, no! This is my good deed for the day… or for the month!”

“Well, thank you so much. I can’t even tell you how much I appreciate all you’ve done. I need to at least get a picture of you.” So he posed for this one,

but then said, “Take a selfie.” I am not a skillful selfie-taker, and the lighting and composition are both bad, but at that point quality photography wasn’t the goal.

So I said, through uncontrollable tears – the kind that come after the fact and seem to make no sense, the kind that come when I fall apart once a scary situation is over – “Well, at least let me pray for you!” And I prayed ALL the good things I could think of for Jim Grissom. I wish now that I’d gotten a picture of him in riding gear. I didn’t think of pictures till it was all over. It was a warm day and he’d worked up such a sweat over my lugs nuts that he’d changed when he went home.

He was an angel to me that day.

Our church is planning a Christmas outreach, and some of the ladies are sewing costumes; you know, for shepherds and angels and such. Those angels’ll be wearing robes, but some angels wear skull caps and leather vests.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As Jim drove off, I drove over to the actual, functional air pump, thinking it would be good to confirm that my spare had 35 psi. As I stepped out of the car, a young (well, 40-ish) man was just putting away the hose after airing up his tires. “Would you like me to air up your tire, ma’am?” (I immediately thought of Rebekah at the well offering to water Abraham’s servant’s camels.)

“Well, I can do it.”

“Oh, it’s no problem, ma’am. I’m done with mine and it’s still going. Might as well use it for yours.”

So he started filling my just-mounted spare tire, which by the way, had only 20 psi. Good thing I stopped to check. As he aired up my tire, it occurred to me that for this air you had to pay. And I had NO money at all. So if this young man hadn’t “happened” to be there with extra time on his dime, I couldn’t have aired up my spare. Also, small world, he and his wife were from Conway, so we talked a bit about college in that town, and his brother-in-law has a condo in – you won’t believe this – Rockaway Beach!!! – where they go for vacation every year! I drive past those exact condos every time I go to the post office. Incredible.

That gas station is indeed the last gas station in Damascus. The next one was seven miles up the road.

I drove north on tires that made a bit of “tire” noise and now pulled slightly to the right, but which gave me no trouble all the way home.

Monday morning I was indeed at Taney County Tire (where we’d bought the tires) before they opened, and Justin took care of me. They fixed the flat, mounted it on the car, rotated the tires (they were due for that anyway), and re-attached the spare up underneath. No charge, and all is well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As I type this, I am amazed all over again at how God took care of me.

~ When the tire blew at 70 mph, I didn’t lose control of the car.

~ I was able to stop at a gas station that had an air pump…

~ Before the tire went completely flat.

~ God just “happened” to have a strong man on a motorcycle getting gas at that specific station at that particular moment…

~ Who was a veteran…

~ And a retired policeman…

~ And a Christian…

~ Who knew what to do…

~ And had the perfect tools to do it…

~ And lived only two miles away…

Yes, some angels wear skull caps and leather vests. They do indeed.

Angelic attire

I was driving home on Saturday afternoon from a wonderful visit with my parents. They live in North Little Rock, and about an hour from their house, as I was tooling north on 65 at 60 mph, I heard something funny up under the left front part of the Durango. It was a really fast “fump-fump-fump-fump-fump” that kept going for about 20 seconds, during which time something about the left front tire felt rough. I noticed it but didn’t think a lot about it. I was zinging down a hill a bit south of Damascus, and since I do coast on the downhills – although the cruise is set to the speed limit – I was probably pushing 70. Anyway, there was a sudden loud metallic “pop” and then everything went back to normal: no “fump-fump-fump” and everything felt smooth again. I figured there’d been a rock stuck somewhere around the tire and it had finally worked itself free. I was relieved.

Until about a mile later when I thought, “Is this car pulling to the left?” And it was. Rather strongly. Hmm… Two weeks ago I’d had a flat on the left rear tire (story below), so I was rather hypersensitive about tires and thought that I should probably just pull into a gas station and check the pressure on that left front tire and maybe air it up a bit, as I still had over 100 miles to drive that day.

But Damascus just isn’t overrun with gas stations. As I came into town, I passed a tire place on the right – that would be a great place – but it being about 3:00 PM on a Saturday, the place was closed up tight. I knew I’d soon be coming to that old dumpy tan brick building gas station that’s set at an angle, where we used to stop for gas back in the day, but which has pretty scuzzy bathrooms so we don’t anymore. Maybe I could get some air there. By now the pull was pretty significant, and very definitely to the left. Sigh. I pulled in, made for the blue and white sign on the (probably now defunct) car wash that said AIR, and parked. I grabbed the tire gauge out of the glove box (why I still call it a glove box could be a topic for another post), stepped out of the car, and was stunned. It wasn’t that the tire needed a little air. The tire was completely flat, and I was almost on the rim. As in, the depth of tire between the ground and the rim was about an inch and-a-half. This was seriously not good. Before I cried, I evaluated the situation:

~ I was at least 100 miles from home (technically 129).

~ It was a Saturday afternoon.

~ Scott was not at home.

~ Although I do know how to change a tire and have done so several times, that was always on a small passenger car in a driveway and just for practice. I’d never changed a Durango tire, and worse, I didn’t even know how to get the spare down from up under the trunk. I really needed a man. Glancing toward the gas pumps, the only man I saw was a rough looking guy filling the tank on his motorcycle.

~ If I couldn’t find someone to help me, what would I do?

So I started to cry. I’m a grown adult and should be able to take care of things on my own, but at that moment I couldn’t seem to think very clearly, so I called my dad. That really didn’t make a lot of sense. Dad was 51 miles away, and he’s in his 80s. I knew it wouldn’t make any sense for him to come, but I thought he could at least help me figure out what to do. And he did. He mentioned a few common sense things, encouraged me to look around and try to find someone to help me, and said that if I couldn’t, to let him know and he’d come. My dad is wonderful. I thanked him, told him I’d let him know, hung up, tried my best to quit crying, and looked around again.

A 65-ish man had just pulled in (headed south) pulling a large camper. Ha! A man who has a large camper surely knows how to change a tire. I took a deep breath, walked over to him as he was getting out of his truck, and said something like, “Excuse me. I’ve had a flat tire, and I need some help to access the spare. I’m wondering if you might help me (that would be a stretch) get my tire changed.” And he said, nicely, “I’m going to Little Rock and I’m on a time constraint. Maybe you could find someone local who could help you.” I thanked him.

I looked back to the pumps and now there was a 35-ish guy filling up a white pick-up that had some kind of business logo on the side. The guy was sturdy-looking, so I walked over to him and repeated my speech. He looked at me for a minute and said, “Well… Um… lemme check something. He got on his phone and talked to someone. “Hey I’m at the gas station” (he called it “the” gas station; sounded pretty local to me) “and there’s a lady here with a flat tire who needs help changing it…” He turned back to me. “I’m really sorry, but I’m on the clock and my boss says I have to keep going.” I thanked him, but I was really discouraged. And trying not to cry again. But I HAD to find a man to help me, so I took another deep breath and went into the store.

A skinny little lady with kind of stringy hair, maybe 30, looked like she’d already had a tough life, was behind the counter. “I’ve got a problem. My tire is flat, and I need some help to get it changed. I’m wondering if there’s a man around that might be willing to change it for me.”

“I’m the only one here. There’s no men. Sorry.”

I didn’t want her to see me cry for real, so I thanked her quickly and went back out into the sunshine. It was a beautiful, warm, clear, sunny day. Not a cloud in the sky above Damascus, but I was about to fall apart. Three strikes does not make for an encouraging at-bat.

The rough-looking guy was still sitting on his bike at the gas pump. Looked like he was about to leave. I could see one of the patches on his leather vest said something about Iraq. He was a vet. He was a big, burly-looking kind vet, and he had on one of those skin-tight head things that they wear under helmets. I have this thing about veterans. I’m just really fond of them, and I always make a point to thank veterans for serving our country and securing our freedoms whenever I can. Well, this guy looked a little intimidating to me, but I clearly couldn’t leave until I found somebody to help me, so I’d just have to keep trying till someone said yes.

I walked up to him, just a little teary-eyed (not for dramatic effect; just ’cause I couldn’t find my shut-off valve), and said, “Excuse me, sir. I have a flat tire over there, and I’m a little upset, and I’m wondering if you might come change it for me.” He looked at me. He didn’t say anything for a moment. I didn’t know what I’d do if he said no too. There was no one else around.

“I’ll take a look at it.”

Oh. Thank. God.

To be continued…

But first, here’s the scoop on my left rear tire a couple weeks earlier:

 

Let there be steps!

A few months back, I began noticing that when I went in and out of the smokehouse to deal with gardening supplies or to refill the bird feeder, the steps seemed kind of spongy. But awareness does not always equal alarm, and I usually have enough other things going on in my life that if I can’t immediately correct a mildly unpleasant situation, I tend to ignore it and hope it will resolve itself. This theory worked well for me until one day when the sponginess was, shall we say, significantly more prominent, and I perceived a distinct slope to the left on the way up. I still wasn’t especially concerned. After all, I went up and down those stairs every few days – albeit gingerly – and I just figured one or two of the steps was loose or something. I’d never really examined them very closely, but I figured I could just ask Scott to tighten them up.

I already knew the second step from the bottom had previously split lengthwise, and so I was accustomed to being very careful with it. And the very bottom step, the one that essentially sat on the ground, was also beginning to split lengthwise and therefore rocked back and forth a bit, but since it was almost totally supported by earth, that in and of itself was also not a problem that warranted attention.

But this ever-increasing slope to the left – now that was a whole ‘nother thing; enough to cause me to examine the steps more closely, and what I saw explained the problem.

 

This was indeed a problem.

For several weeks, I just gingerly walked up and down only on the far right (going up) side of the steps, but one day Scott was hauling the cuppers boards up into the smokehouse and forgot to walk only on the right, and the thing cracked loudly.

Sometimes when Scott is feeling especially magnanimous, he says to me, “Is there anything you’d really like me to do for you?” And I have learned to ALWAYS have an answer – or three – at the ready. So the next time he made such an inquiry, I immediately replied that I’d like the smokehouse steps repaired or replaced. I didn’t care which. I just wanted to be able to get in there with my gardening stuff.

Scott examined and evaluated the situation and then asked our friend Ron, who works as a handyman, to look at it. Ron did and he agreed to help Scott replace the steps. Wonderful! It was expected to take a couple hours of what ended up being the coldest Saturday morning yet this season, but due to some possible miscalculations on the part of the guys, and due to Menard’s selling them the wrong size stringers not once, but twice(!), which resulted in multiple trips back and forth to Hollister, it ended up being a parts-of-several-days project.

First, the guys removed the treads. Note the absence of the cracked step that sat on the ground.

Then the ripped out the stringers. (I’m proud that I looked up what you call those side pieces that the tread sit on. “Stringers” is my new vocabulary word for the day.) If you scroll up, you can see that the old steps were mounted on little side support boards that were screwed into the straight stringers. So in the old days, whoever built them just set the stringers and then could decide how many steps to add and where to put those side support boards. But the new plan was to buy stringers that were already cut with zig-zags and have the new treads be screwed directly into the stringers themselves. Having the old stringers removed left the smokehouse looking high and dry and kind of lonely.

Andrew was home for a few hours one day, and Scott asked him to help do something smokehouse steps-related; I’m not sure what it was, but they did it with enthusiasm.

 

Then Ron came over one evening after work, and he and Scott assembled the new steps.

Since they were doing it up right, and since the bottom step wasn’t going to rest on the ground – the old bottom step sat on the ground only because dirt had washed in from somewhere and piled up under it over the years – the bases of the stringers had to be on something firm. They weren’t going to pour concrete, but Scott said we had some flat, brick-like things that would work. They were actually holding up the camper, sort of. One was under the thing that you crank down to the ground when you set up the camper, and the other was somewhere else in the toyport. Scott hauled them down to the smokehouse, and they worked perfectly. I think you can see them in the above picture.

I thought it would take hours of work, but once they finally obtained the right stringers, got them set on the “foundation” stones, and attached them to the – well, what do you call that long piece of wood at the bottom of the doorway anyway? the foundation? the floor joist? – the whatever it is that the smokehouse floor is more or less nailed to, well it went really quickly after that. Darkness did fall, but they finished the deed, and here’s the proof:

 

And I’m telling you, those steps are absolutely rock solid. Not a bit of wiggle, and definitely no sponginess. Thank you, Ron and Scott!


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