WEST FORK KICKAPOO - I parked in front of the apartment complex where I needed to meet a client. As I opened my car door, a city truck pulled up next to a huge pile of branches on the shoulder of the road. Two young men hopped out and started tossing the branches into the back of the truck.
“That’s going to take a while,” I said.
“Yes, it looks like someone cut down a whole tree.”
I smiled, they smiled, and we each went to our own work. When I came out an hour later, the pile of branches didn’t look any smaller, but the guys said this was their second trip.
“What a drag for you two in this heat,” I said, and I got in my car—but it wouldn’t start. I had forgotten to stop for gas on the way into town.
“If I help you load those tree branches, would you be able to bring me back a gallon of gas? My tank is empty.”
They agreed, and the driver tossed me a pair of gloves.
I discovered that the guys went to UW–Richland Center and had finished their school year online. Working for the city was their summer job. One was interested in moving to New Zealand, impressed with its health care, politics, and beauty. The other was hoping to get residency in Canada; he said it would take about a year.
Even with all our talking, the truck filled up quickly with six hands working. I stayed behind while they went to dump the branches and bring me back some gas.
The day was sweltering and my shirt was soaked. Worse, I was taking Doxycycline for a tick-borne infection. Doxy and the sun do not mix. Any direct sunlight or even just the heat will make you feel like you have third-degree burns from the inside out. My arms were blazing red and hot to touch. I sat in my car with the windows down, praying for a breeze.
When the men got back, I tried to give them some money, but they wouldn’t take it. Off they went to work on the pile, while I got in my car and turned the key.
The engine still wouldn’t turn over. I got out the owner’s manual and learned that if the car runs out of gas, it can take a few tries and more than one gallon of gas to start it.
Unfortunately, by then the two guys had driven off with another load of branches. As I walked toward the nearest gas station, I saw a man mowing his lawn. I waved and made a can-we-talk-a-minute motion, and he turned off the mower. Yes, he had a gas can, and yes, I could use it. I promised to bring it back as soon as I’d filled my tank with a few more gallons of gas.
My face was now beet red and sweat was dripping down my body. The gas can banged my knees as I walked into town under the noontime sun, with no trees in sight.
I put three gallons into the can, but when I went to lift it I realized I hadn’t considered the weight. Dang, this was going to be a painful walk back to my car.
As I crossed the street, dragging the can, I noticed a man in a new truck, watching me through his open window. “Hi,” I called. “Could you spare a minute to drive me back to my car?”
He hesitated at first, saying he was working, but then agreed. I quickly hefted the can up into the back of his pickup, then hefted myself up onto the passenger seat.
When he dropped me off, I poured the gas into the tank, then tried again to start the car. No luck.
Just then, here came the guys with their last load of branches. They decided to jump my car in case the problem was the battery. But it still wouldn’t start.
They felt bad, but I felt only appreciation for their help. Waving good-bye, I grabbed the empty can and hiked back to return it to the kind man who’d lent it to me. Then I called a tow truck.
Two more helpful men later, my car was at Bindl Auto Repair, where I was told it was the starter.
It was well past 3 p.m., when I walked to Subway for lunch, and my skin was starting to blister. Having called my clients to say I wouldn’t be coming today, I treated myself to a turkey sub sandwich.
Walking back to the car shop, I started reflecting on good guys and bad guys. After all, the media has been full of this same topic. I’d just met six good guys in a matter of four hours.In my experience, most people are good. Pass it on.