After I left Italy, I went back to Hawaii, living there for about a year. More on that later. I then moved near San Francisco for a few months, until my friend Melissa invited me to come to New Mexico, to stay with her and help her renovate her house.
So I packed up everything I owned into one of those big honkin’ 24-foot long UHaul trucks. I didn’t want to leave my Toyota Forerunner behind, so I put it behind the truck on a 14′ trailer.
A more inept driver for such a long vehicle train you couldn’t have found. It was fun being up so tall, but I didn’t have a very good sense of where the sides were yet, or where the end of my rig was. I was probably the slowest, careful-est driver in the entire country that afternoon.
After an hour or so, I was still so nervous I had to pee – and I was out in the agriculture district, field after field, no turnoff or truck stop or even gas station was anywhere to be had.
At last! A run-down, boarded up country store with a deserted parking lot. I pulled in, shut off the truck, climbed down, hid in some bushes and got some relief.
The parking lot had looked plenty big enough for me to do a u-turn in.
It was not. Well, not for clumsy-driver me, anyway.
I turned the wheel this way and that, trying to make the whole rig-cum-trailer do my will. All I did was back and forth and back and forth myself into a scrambled t-bone formation I couldn’t get out of. Stuck. In the corner of a parking lot. At 6 pm.
Would I have to spend the night here?
What if the cops came by and told me I had to leave?
I couldn’t get out!
Somebody must have been smiling on me, because as I was sitting there with tears of frustration pouring out of my eyes, I heard a big diesel pickup pull into the lot.
I contemplated how embarrassed I was, weighing that against having to stay the night there.
I wiped off the tears, jumped down, went over and reached up to knock on his window.
A huge grizzly bearded guy with a backwards baseball hat appeared behind the glass, grinning like a mad man.
“Um, hi … I … um … ” I started…
“Looks like ya got yerself tangled up in a corner, miss,” he interrupted. His ear-to-ear grin could have split his head in two. I was embarrassed out of my mind, but he was obviously good-natured-laughing, not mean-laughing, so I didn’t mind that he was having a laugh at my expense.
“Want some help gettin’ out?”
“Ohhh yes! Thank goodness!” I could have hugged him!
Not thinking that he could just get in and untangle my rig and then just take off, I thrust the keys at him.
He climbed down, and left his own truck idling, ready to go. Nope, he wasn’t going to steal my stuff! I stood out of the way, by his truck.
In a nice, lazy, graceful three point maneuver, he unwound my poor truck and trailer in about eleven seconds flat, and had it all straightened out good as pie. He emerged from the driver seat, still grinning, and tossed me my keys.
Still laughing, he called, “See ya on the road!” as he jogged over and swung back up into to his cab, and off he went. I was so embarrassed - but so grateful to him!
What a relief!
From then on, when I stopped to eat or pee, I made sure to park in those drive in and drive out parking spaces at truck stops.
The next day, right as dark came down and consumed the last part of the light, I was right outside Flagstaff, Arizona.
I knew from having been through here before that there was a truckstop just west of Flagstaff. You drive through the lands of a local rez to get there.
It was confusing, because there were two exits right on top of each other.
As you pulled off the freeway and got to the end of the first exit, the road turned off to the left, crossed over the freeway, and went back to the rez.
The other exit, immediately after that one, went to the truckstop.
I was so tired and so hungry I wasn’t paying much attention. I got to the truckstop, parked, went in, ate, came back out, planning to spend the night. But discovering that I had more energy than I thought, I decided to keep going.
Oh big mistake.
When I drove out of the truckstop, I got the roads mixed up, and ended up going back the way I came. On that road that went to the rez.
There was no place to turn around. I had to keep going all the way to the end. The sign said 5 more miles.
It was an absolutely pitch black night. No street lights. No stars.
The road narrowed, becoming one pitted, potholed lane. Dirt shoulder on both sides, sloping at a hard angle. No way to do a you-ee on that road in my big rig.
I grew more and more flustered as I slowly slowly drove on. Just over a low ridge on my left, I could see the head and tail lights of plenty of traffic on the freeway zipping by, but there wasn’t a single soul on my little road.
I got to a cattle guard, clanked across it carefully, worrying that my truck was too wide and would get caught on the sides. Nope, got through OK.
As I got closer to the rez, there were signs, but still no lights. Where was everyone? Did they have houses near the freeway? Wasn’t there some sort of entrance guard hut or something? Nope and Nope.
Finally, I just stopped. Right in the center of the road. Not like I was blocking anyone!
But I hadn’t noticed that in the exact spot where I stopped, there was a slight curve in the road. Movement in my right door’s rear view mirror caught my eye. I watched in horror as the end of my trailer started to slip off to the side into the curve, down the angled very soft shoulder, and finally, into the ditch.
Because the trailer was attached to the truck right where the curve started, the back of the truck felt as if it was slipping, too, threatening to do a flop over into the ditch – maybe even go all the way and turn upside down!
My heart dropped to my feet. Every last thing I owned was in that trailer. Out there in the middle of god’s left armpit. I fantasized hearing wolves howl. Or maybe coyotes.
My truck! Oh my god.
I couldn’t bear to think what it would take to right it all if both the trailer and the truck flipped. It would take a sky hook and forty miracles to get them out! I had very little money – the thought of the expense made me gag.
I shook myself. NO! I refused to go there in my head. There had to be a solution.
I was so tired from driving all day, and groggy from eating a big dinner. My second wind energy was long gone. I had to get some air. Besides, I didn’t want to be in the truck if it was going to play kangaroo into the ditch. I jumped down from the driver’s seat onto the crumbling asphalt pavement.
Freezing! Oh my lord it was cold! I reached back in for my wooly jacket, hurried to put it on.
Suddenly, tears of grief and loneliness and desperation rocked me full force. Poor me! Stuck again! And so much worse this time! And no one around for miles!
Cell phones were not invented yet. The nearest phone was a very long walk back to the truckstop.
My internal Critic exploded into action. What were you thinking, doing this all by myself? You’re all alone – again! Feel helpless, do we? So stupid! So stuck – again! What now?
Suddenly, as abruptly as the tears started, I stopped them. I chastised myself for wasting creative energy on destructive thinking that got me nowhere.
I crossed my arms over my chest to keep warm and made myself be still. Stone statue still, right there in the middle of that road under the inky black sky.
I prayed. Well, not really. I felt the frigid air pass in and out of my nostrils. So cold it hurt. I closed my eyes and imagined what I wished for: someone to come help me out of this.
I opened my eyes again. Stood there, feet planted shoulder-width apart, head back. I top-volume screamed into the air above me: “You got me into this – you get someone to come help me NOW!”
I’m not sure who the ‘you’ was, but whoever it was, they responded. I’d like to say that Spirit was with me.
Because within a couple minutes, sure enough, I heard a vehicle coming. I looked to see if it was just the hum of freeway traffic, but no – it was a big dusty Ford 250 pickup, with a Native guy driving.
He parked, walked up to me, held out his hand. We shook, in that gentle light-handed barely-touching Native way.
“I’m Tony Yazee, and you’re stuck!” And he laughed and laughed and laughed. I wondered what it was that made all these guys think my being stuck was so funny.
“Come on, hop in, and I’ll take you back to the truckstop so you can call for help.”
So I did, and he did.
We sat in a booth and had coffee.
I called AAA road service.
Tony drove us back.
They sent out this weeny little pickup truck, the tiniest tow truck I’ve ever seen. I knew right off that it would never in a million years pull my rig out. The guy was such a doofus – he wouldn’t listen when I tried to get him to call for a bigger tow truck.
He wasted half an hour trying to get his little straps hooked up under the back of – get this – the trailer! It was like watching a bad comedy movie. And of course that silly strap broke in an instant on the first pull. Like an old rotten elastic band.
He finally called in and asked for bigger help.
A new, bigger tow truck came. Still too small.
By now I was a stumbling ice cube. And really, really pissed at how stupid these guys were. Oh – of course – they were guys! They knew it all!
My Indian friend was so kind – he stood by me and waited with me. He didn’t have to do that, but he did. We shared his thermos of coffee.
I finally couldn’t stand watching them doof around one more second. I walked over and asked them to please radio back in.
When they did, I snatched the radio right out of the guy’s hand and in my most furious, calm, gritted-teeth, livid-quiet voice, told the dispatcher, “I have a 24′ trailer. I told you that in the beginning, and you still only send a pickup? And then just a bigger pickup? What were you thinking? Send your biggest TRUCK-towing tow truck!” I was gritting my teeth so hard it felt like they were going to crack to the roots and turn to dust any minute.
At last, their biggest rig came growling down the road – from the rez! He’d driven all the way around so he could approach the front of my truck. The man had brains!
This one was a real pull-a-semi tow truck. The driver hooked up a fat heavy strap to the front, gently gunned the engine and got my truck moving and pulling the trailer out of the ditch in about two slick seconds. The trailer easily righting itself, obediently climbing out of the ditch like a bashful little kid.
The first tow guys left. The big tow truck backed away and was gone.
Tony offered to drive my rig to the rez entrance to turn it around, because there was only a small parking area. I said YES please! Tony turned the rig around like a pro, and brought us back to where his pickup was parked.
He wouldn’t take anything in payment – I knew he wouldn’t, but wanted to offer something just to say thanks. He drove off, waving, laughing again.
I limped my poor truck and trailer back to the truckstop to spend the night, exhausted. And so, so thankful, so filled with gratitude.
There really are angels walking among us.
Image: Wooooing through the Night
text and image © Angela Treat Lyon 2023
Original paintings and prints: https://LyonArtandDesign.com
Original paintings and stone sculpture: https://AngelaTreatLyonART.com
The Inside Secrets book series: Stories I’ve Never Told Anyone, Volumes I-IV, plus my audio books and a whole slew of free ebooks: https://atlyon.gumroad.com
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