By Wayne William Cipriano
Do you remember the “Letter to the Editor” in the Dec. 26, 2019 issue of the Douglas County Herald where a newcomer to Douglas County, who signed herself Kristina Richards, told of a slip into a roadside ditch due to icy road conditions and the parade of helpful strangers that came to her aid? She didn’t explicitly say so, but you could tell from her rendition that being helped so much by so many was not what a “city girl” like Ms. Richards was expecting.
Haven’t we all in Douglas County at one time or another had much the same experience?
Thirty years ago or so, when we were first moving to Douglas County, I was towing an overloaded trailer of household goods behind an underpowered ‘59 Chevy pickup that had seen a lot of better days. I’d made it all the way from mid-state Illinois to the hill on T Highway just before Armour’s Store (later Bray’s Store, now The Feed Bag) when Big Red began overheating more than usual. I couldn’t make it all the way up the hill so I pulled over about half-way up to let the motor cool. After the truck cooled off and restarted I found I was stuck in the soft ground of the roadside. I started to back down the hill but began to jack knife so I stopped and took a moment to gather my thoughts and plan my next move. What a bummer to have come all this way (400+ miles) only to be stuck so close to home (7 miles).
Then along came one of Ms. Richard’s angels. It wasn’t Crayson – the years have clouded my recollection of his name – but he was just as welcome as he hopped into Big Red, backed expertly down the hill, and with a running start, crested! Like Ms. Richards, I know what a wonderful feeling a newcomer gets arriving from a densely populated area where help is seldom available without cost to find that here folks stop to help complete strangers and won’t take a penny in compensation.
Just before Christmas, thirty years later, I was driving Rosalie to the mailbox so I could get the mail and she wouldn’t have to open the gate to get out. When we got to the “smooth” county road we noticed a tire had gone flat.
No problem. We had a spare, a jack, and cookies to deliver; all the tools, supplies and motivation required to get the job done quickly and easily, except one little snag – well, really two interconnected snags. The first was the guy at the tire shop where we bought the tires put the lugnuts on with an air wrench set on INFINITY. (I don’t know how to describe his intelligence level other than to say he should be growing on a vine, not working in a tire shop.) And the second snag was the lugnuts were of a metric persuasion. Really? On a PONTIAC? An American car? Metric?
Anyway, even though I had a four-way lug wrench stowed in the trunk for just such an emergency, it was Gringo, no metric, and as I horsed away on the nuts I could feel the corners rubbing away. I tried using the wrench that came with the Pontiac, but that little “L” shaped tool didn’t allow for enough leverage to be applied, but a least it fit well. I needed a pipe to slip over the tool and I left to walk back home (exactly one mile) to get one.
I found the correct pipe, tossed it into the Mighty Camry and drove back to where I had left Rosalie just in time to see one of our fabulous neighbors putting the finishing touches on the spare tire installation.
While I was gone, our neighbor had stopped to help Rosalie but ran into the same trouble I had, so he drove to his place, got some metric tools, returned, removed and replaced the tire, and would not accept anything in exchange for his help. Neighbors don’t accept money to help, they just help.
Besides these two episodes separated by more than thirty years there has been countless times when we have been helped by Douglas County residents; like the time I spent a sub-zero night in the Mighty Camry at the foot of Beaver Creek Hill waiting for the ice to be cleared and a fellow offered a warm spot in front of his fireplace or at least the thickest, warmest, most welcome blanket in history. And countless time that we have stopped to help others in need; like the time we pulled over and helped a guy cut his terrified horse out of a barbed-wire mess.
And there have been many times when we stopped to help others or they stopped to help us and help wasn’t really needed. But it is always very cool when you find you are not all alone, you are among friends whom you haven’t yet met.
Some might say that we stop to be “neighborly,” and they would be right about that – but it’s not just that. We stop because we are trying to get even, to catch up, to pay back, maybe even pay forward for all the help we have received through the years – and may yet receive in the future. Just trying to get even.
I hope we are getting close.