Breakdown in the Desert
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by Frank Shortt
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Automobiles are a funny breed. We never know when something is going to go wrong with one of the components. This particular little story is about a flat tire.
In 1969 I loaded up my family and moved them to Flagstaff, Arizona. I had a good job with the School Department in San Jose, Ca. and was making pretty good wages. The reason I went to Flagstaff was that I liked the offer of Mr. Patterson who owned a hardware/ lumberteria/roofing business. He said that he would train me to become the manager of the whole shebang if I was willing to be a trainee for a while. (I might add that I was a little spiritually confused at that time in my life!) The problem was, Mr. Patterson did not tell me about the long hours, the ultra-heavy lifting, and finally reneging on the whole arrangement because the Veterans Administration had offered to pay me equal pay for training if Mr. Patterson would match the funding by giving me raises at chosen times. When he refused to keep his word, I began looking for greener pastures.
We had bought a two story home in Flagstaff thinking we would be there quite a while. When we decided to return to California we had only owned the place for two months. The night we decided to sell the place we were having a dinner guest, a Mr. Christensen, that we had met through our mentor and he came with great credentials. While we were eating dinner we told him about our plans. He told us that if it was God's will for us to go back to California we would sell the house to the first person who looked at it. This is exactly what happened and we made $2,000 on the place after only owning it for two months! In those days, that was a pretty good profit. It sure came in handy as that is exactly what it cost us to hire a moving van to take our belongings back to San Jose and to pay the Van Lines to store our furniture until we were able to get a place to live.
We were rejoicing as we left Flagstaff. Now my wife, Sharon, would be able to see her folks that she missed greatly and the grandparents would be able to see their grandchildren which were their first. We were going along fine until we began to feel a tire going flat. It was late in the evening, the night was so dark one could not see their hand in front of them. We were all hungry, the baby was crying for milk and we had none as we thought there would be places to stop along the way to replenish our supplies.
I looked in the trunk for the spare tire that I just knew would be our saving grace, alas, it was completely flat! The air had leaked out and I had not thought to check it before we left Flagstaff. What were we to do? I tried flagging down truckers all to no avail as they were all making about 70 miles per hour along that stretch of desert highway. I finally went off by myself in the darkness that one could feel and cried out to God to have mercy upon my family and allow me to find a way to get us out of the mess. I would have set off in the darkness to try and find a town but I did not even know if there was a town within walking distance. I also feared to leave my family alone in the darkness and at the mercy of anyone who might come along that would harm them, or a wild animal come along and hurt them. This was the instant that I felt the complete aloneness of the desert and I had never felt so deserted in my whole life!
As God has mercy on foolish young men and especially innocent mothers and children, after a while I was able to flag down a car that stopped. Two young men got out dressed as, and with the appearance of, the hippie movement at the time. Their hair was long and scraggy and I thought, "What did I get us into?" These two men were very polite and asked me if there was anything they could do to help us. I explained the situation and they said that they would take the tire into the nearest town and see if they could coax someone to fix it. What could I do? Thank God, the next town was about 30 miles away and these two angels in disguise did exactly what they said they would do. We could do nothing but wait and pray that this miracle would happen. They found a service station where the night worker lived in a small apartment in the rear. They were able to coax him to do them a favor and fix the tire as there was a stranded family out in the darkness of the desert. When they returned, they even took my afflicted tire off and replaced it with the spare. I did not have to move a muscle to help. It is not wise to prejudge anyone!
As these two good Samaritans turned to leave, we tried our best to pay them for all that they had done. They refused the money I proffered and we were finally able to give them enough money for their dinner for a couple of days. They were from Colorado and were traveling to the West Coast to try their fortunes in Southern California. That night, in my deepest despair, I understood the meaning of the phrase, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread!"
We made it to San Jose and were able to live with my in-laws until we were able to find a house of our own.