We are still waiting to pay this forward: (sorry this is long)
Searching for hay dealers in Oregon last year was simplified dramatically thanks to the Internet. I mentioned my frustration of being unable to locate local hay to a gal I knew on a horse board. She informed me that her neighbor had just cut his field of oat hay and she was laying up bales for the winter. Did I want any? I asked her to reserve 3 tons and told her I would drive over the pass to come and pick it up. She lived 6 hours away over the Cascade Mountains. Mike and I made plans to leave that Saturday. Our Suburban would be towing our flatbed trailer, and as always our German Shepherd Kenai would come along for the ride. We decided to leave before the sun woke up to get a jump on the day, for we would have to make two complete trips in order to get all the hay we needed for winter.
We found Kathiâ€™s place without a problem, and drove up her long, steep driveway to say hello to her mom and then turned around and drove down another private road to her barn to load hay. We spent a good hour together bucking hay onto the trailer, and after snugging down the load tightly with rope, we hugged Kathi and told her now nice it was to *meet* her and promised to visit her again when we had more time. Then we took off for the long drive home, got home, unloaded the hay and turned around and drove back.
As we were going up the main road that led to her place, our truck suddenly died. There was no warning sputter or chugging, just suddenly we didnâ€™t have any power. Mike managed to coast over to the side of the road, ironically coming to rest under a rusted out Triple A Towing sign. The only building in sight was clearly vacated and there was no one else on the road. Mike began tinkering under the hood and after several minutes the engine started and we were again on our way.
We got to the private drive and backed in near the hay pile jumped out to start loading when Kathi appeared in her beat-up pick-up truck. Another willing hand to help us load bales! Mike had decided to keep the truck running just in case, and the three of us hustled the bales off the pile and onto the trailer. Another farewell hug all around and off we went waving goodbye.
The main road near Kathiâ€™s place is dotted with farms and ranches. The houses are not clustered together and the land is green and fertile and stretches for miles. Horses graze in the distance and large irrigation systems spray water over the lush fields. As we were commenting on the fact that the landscape almost did not look real, the truck stalled again.
By now it was 6:30 p.m. We had been on the road since 3:00 a.m. We were hot and sweaty and grubby. Our necks and arms itched from contact with the hay bales and we were stalled in the middle of the road right on a blind curve. I looked hopefully all around for a house that was close enough, but the only places we could see were way in the distance. Grumbling under his breath, Mike jumped out and popped open the hood.
It was so peaceful there. I could hear the frogs and crickets as they welcomed the close of the day. Horses were neighing and cows were lowing indicating it was feeding time. If only we werenâ€™t stuck in the middle of the road, I could have actually enjoyed the moment. Then over the songs of the night there came the sounds of laughter and music. Coming around the bend in a pick-up truck was a group of teenagers our for a night of partying. They spotted us and slowed down and then stopped right across from us. Apprehensively I watched as two boys got out and swaggered over. I wondered what was going to happen next. Turns out, they stopped to help us push the truck off to the side of the road, and soon 5 heads were bent over the hood of the truck while discussions were thrown back and forth about what could possibly be wrong. One teenager mentioned his friend in town was an auto mechanic and he would be happy to go fetch him for us. Just as he was getting ready to jump in the pick-up truck and take off, a horn beeped and his friend drove up! Now there were 6 heads peeking into the engine well.
They narrowed the field down to an electrical problem. Now all we had to do was go get the part. We were about 15 miles from town and it was getting quite late. The mechanic said his shop stayed open till 9:00 and he would drive Mike in to town and get the part, and then he would join his friends later on. Mike was putting away some of his tools when a white van came around the curve, saw us and stopped. The man who got out came over and introduced himself as Lonnie. He was a GMC parts distributor! He and Mike huddled over the engine to see if what had been discussed was actually the problem. The teenagers were all thanked profusely, and we presented each one of them with a pocket knife (Mike is a knife maker). Lonnie had the part we needed in his van- but when they tried to fit it, they found it was too big. He said he lived up the road a bit and would go home and call his GMC mechanic friends and come back with them. I gave him Kathiâ€™s phone number and asked him if he would call her as well and let her know we were broke down. He said he would.
Soon Kathi had joined us and upon hearing our tale of tribulation offered to tow us to Lonnieâ€™s house. We could park the truck overnight, and come back and spend the night with her and tackle the problem in the morning. Lonnie and his friends were just now returning and Lonnie took one look at Kathiâ€™s beater truck and offered his 4WD to tow us instead. Soon we were parked at Lonnieâ€™s farm and we went to spend the night with Kathi. Plans were made for Kathi and Mike to go into town early and secure the correct part. The dog was put in the horse barn, and Mike and I fell into an exhausted slumber.
The smell of coffee woke us and when we stumbled into the kitchen there was a marvelous spread before us. Sausage and biscuits, bacon and eggs, fresh juice, pancakes and ham. To much food for only four people, but we were ravenous and ate till we were stuffed. Kathi and Mike drove off soon afterwards and I settled down to wait, and to try and stop my curious German Shepherd from playing with the goat.
It would be several hours before Kathi would return and she was alone, so I knew the truck was finally running. I was rounding up the dog and some of our gear, when I heard an all to familiar whistle. I looked up to see Mike hoofing it up the driveway. The truck had died again!
Several options were discussed. Kathi offered to take us home, which was a wonderful gesture seeing as she would have to leave her invalid mother alone for several hours to do this. But the dog had never traveled in the back of an open pick-up truck and so one of us would have had to ride back there with her, and that was against the law. Kathi offered to hook up her horse trailer, and put the dog inside and take us home, but that seemed like a lot to bother about. We decided to see if Mike could get the truck running again and after a fashion, he did just that. Then we called a friend of ours from home and asked him to start driving up to where we were and to keep an eye out for us in case we broke down. He agreed, and so we said our last goodbyes, piled in and started off.
Ten miles down the road, the truck stalled again. By this time Mike was so furious he is almost in tears. He had done everything humanely possible to fix the problem and now he was out of ideas. As we sat there staring numbly at each other, a white van pulls up and Lonnie sticks his head out the window and hollers to us. He had just gone to town and saw us in his rear view mirror so he turned around and came to help. Mike asked him if we could at least park the truck at his place again and get it off the road. He was reasonably sure he could get the truck to limp along to Lonnieâ€™s but no further.
Lonnie looked at both of us and offered instead to lend us his van! He said we could park our truck at his place and take his van home with us. It had a trailer hitch, so we could take the hay home with us as well! We were stunned; this man did not know us. There were no strings attached to his offer. We could keep the van as long as we needed until we could come up to get our truck home. The tears we had been holding back freely came. We were so overwhelmed by his offer we did not know what to say.
As we were getting ready to limp the truck to Lonnieâ€™s place, who should come down the road but Kathi! Boy was she surprised to see us again! She followed us to Lonnieâ€™s in case we needed to be towed, and once parked the dog was transferred out of the truck to the van. Business cards were exchanged along with phone numbers. We left a set of keys with Lonnie, he said his buddies would come over the next day and fix our truck. We gave Kathi what we hoped would really be the final goodbye hug and started on our way.
When we cleared the town and were heading up the pass, I happened to glance back to the rear of the van in time to see that one of the windows was sliding off itsâ€™ track and it would of crashed in the road! I shouted at Mike to stop and he did by pulling off to the side of the road. As I got out, I noticed that we were not the only car stopping. Kathi was right behind us! She had followed us â€œjust in caseâ€ and thought we had broke down! We all laughed and exchanged hugs. I set the window back in place cranking it up all the way. As we drove away, I could hear Kathi shout, â€œCome back again, when you have more time to visit!â€ Mike and I looked at each other and just grinned.
Earlier as we had turned off the main road to go up Kathiâ€™s road, I had noticed a man putting up a Neighborhood Watch sign. But for us, that neighborhood did not only watch, they cared!
On a side note, we kept the van for 5 days and before we returned it, Mike fixed the broken window, took the van down and had it detailed and lubed. I filled underneath the seats with coloring books, crayons, puzzles and other goodies (Lonnie had 7 kids) we filled the ashtray up with coins and put some grown-up gifts in the glove box. Then we took it up there to pick up our fixed truck and drove home.