Last Wednesday night, whilst we drove along a county highway in northern Wisconsin, we had a flat tire. Totally flat, smell of burning rubber, flapping tire, the whole ball of wax. In the car were me, JJ, our two daughters (including one baby with a very painful diaper rash) and my parents.
JJ and Dad got out, surveyed the situation, found the spare tire, found other tools, and proceeded to attempt to change the tire, directions in hand. Everything went well until they realized that the spare was rusted to the underside of the minivan. They couldn’t carry on alone. Now they needed help.
Dad waved his hands at the first car that passed by, and lo and behold, the car did a u-turn on the road and pulled over. The driver of the SUV was a woman about my age, heading to her 8pm shift at Walmart. By this time, I was standing outside the vehicle holding Curious J, which I figured would help the woman know that my husband and my father weren’t two crazies trying to lure in an unsuspecting someone. She had a cellphone, and we tried to call my aunt and uncle, but their line was busy. We were 3 miles from my cousin’s farm (which was where we had been heading), but none of us had their phone number. So, this nice woman agreed to drive my father over to my cousin’s farm. I thanked her profusely. Later, after she had dropped my dad off and was driving past us again en route to work, she slowed down to tell me that my father would be coming soon with my cousin. I thanked her again. I never got her name.
Not long after Dad drove off, another man pulled over in a red car, also doing a u-turn on the road. This man had tools in his trunk, and he and JJ managed to get the spare tire detached from the car. He also verbally aided JJ in putting the spare on, thereby giving JJ the opportunity to have some practice changing a tire. By the time the spare was attached, my Dad and my cousin’s husband had arrived in a pickup truck, ready to help. Minutes later, my cousin also drove up with her car.
As they drove in, this good samaritan had discovered that my husband was a pastor, and so he was sharing his story. It was rather remarkable: he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer over a year ago, and he had been given two months to live. Yet, here he was, fit, healthy, and apparently cancer-free, and the doctors couldn’t figure out why. He attributed it all to God. We asked for his name, he gave it to us, and we thanked him profusely. My mother insisted on giving him a jar of homemade jam that she had brought along to give to my cousin, which he accepted.
I looked up his name on the internet when we returned home to California, and I found out that he is a high-ranking administrator of the UW-Marathon extension in Wausau. If we ever want to contact him again, now we know how.
After our good samaritan went on his way, we drove to my cousin’s dairy farm, where my children were enthralled with all the animals, and the grown-ups tried to figure out if we could drive the two hours home on the spare or if the old tire could be repaired or if we needed to find a new tire at 8:30 at night. It was soon determined that the old tire was past repair, so my cousin’s husband started calling around to people he knew to see if someone could help us out with a new tire. We considered driving home on the spare, but we weren’t sure about the quality of the tire, especially since it had been rusted on to the bottom of the car. We knew that we needed to return home that night, since my dad needed to be to work at 8am the next morning.
Finally, our last option for a tire came through. The last guy that my cousin’s husband had called would be able to help us, as he had a shop that was open until midnight. He had a used tire that would fit our car, and he would be happy to put it on. JJ and Dad drove the five miles to this guy’s shop to get the tire, while I put the girls’ pajamas on and tried to keep them occupied and calm until the men got back. When they finally returned at 10:30 p.m., we loaded up the car and headed for home.
JJ drove, and I prayed for him as much as I could manage between dozing off. It was so late, and we were so tired, and it was so dark. Thankfully, we made it home safely. Later I asked JJ how he stayed awake while he was driving, and he said, “I didn’t.” I’m not sure exactly what that meant, but by that time we were home safely. I don’t know how we made it, but I was grateful for the guardian angels who kept all six of us safe on the way home.
The experience ended well, and our guardian angels were truly watching over us through the entire experience. The weather that night was perfect: no wind, no rain or snow. If we had driven up to see my relatives one of the two previous nights (as we had originally planned), Johnold and Dad would have had awful weather to contend with as they stood on the side of the road and tried to figure out how to change a tire. Also, our tire went flat on a quiet country road, not on a busy freeway, and we were reasonably close to my cousins’ farm. And finally, the car was not damaged, and that was very good because it was not our car!
After it was over, JJ said to me that we ARE getting a cell phone. I’ll let you know when that happens. So far, we continue to maintain our status as the Last People in Silicon Valley to Not Own Cell Phones. But after this experience, a cell phone sounds like a pretty good idea to me, too!