by Robert Brightup
Richmond, Virginia, USA
During the first year of my marriage, I lived in Richmond, Virginia for work, and my wife lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, for her last year of college. Every weekend I drove the three hours to Raleigh to spend the weekend with my wife.
One Friday evening I found myself in Eastern Virginia because of work. I realized my five hour trip back to Raleigh wasn’t going to have me in town early enough to attend a banquet where my wife was being honored.
I decided to head South on back roads until I could hit a major highway. I drove the curvy roads of Sussex County, Virginia and only passed one other car in an hour. I realized I was going to make it on time and was feeling pretty smug with myself, until I found myself face to face with a big black pickup taking up both lanes. I headed my car for the side of the road, but the soft earth sucked my car into the ditch, where I was stopped suddenly by a tree stump.
Now I was stuck in a ditch in the middle of nowhere. I was just crawling out of my car when an older gentleman in a red pickup drove up and asked, “You need a hand?” It turns out he lived only about a mile up the road and said he’d return with a tractor and chain to pull me out. Little did I know that this man’s name, which he hadn’t told me, would be marked in my memory forever.
Here’s why: seven more cars drove by during that time, each one stopping to offer a hand in any way they could. Each time I said, “Some guy in red pickup went to get a tractor to pull me out.” Each time I was greeted with the same response, “Oh, that’s Bobby Proctor. Good man. He’ll help you out.” One of the seven was a local mechanic who offered to look the car over for me once we got it out of the ditch, and waited with me until Bobby Proctor returned.
Before long my car was out of the ditch, right side up, with a clean bill of health. Neither Bobby Proctor, nor the mechanic, would accept any money. In less than 30 minutes from the accident, I was on my way and made it to my wife’s banquet in time.
The real story is more than the fact that somebody stopped to help me. It was how everyone who came along knew Bobby Proctor. I don’t know how, but I can assume, if his actions that day were any example, he’s a local hero to many. They obviously remembered his name, too, and what an honor it is when people speak highly of someone who isn’t present. I realized that if I had to be stuck in a ditch in the middle of nowhere, that was the best place to be because Bobby Proctor was there to help.
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.