If That’s All You Need

By L. Harding
California, USA

It was 1972. “The Summer of Love” was gone, hippies were a rare sight, but there were still large pockets of narrow minds, filled with distrust, in rural America. More than once we met with proof of that in our travels across “the heartland of America.” Our only home was our tent, our only “real furniture” the baby’s crib, all piled atop the TravelAll. My husband and I were down on our luck, moving from one temporary job to another.

Driving through Nebraska, a wheel bearing started to squeal. With no traffic, no sign of humanity, and fingers crossed, I drove 20 miles before I finally saw an exit. Barely slowing down, I took the offramp and saw a gas station ahead. There were no lights on, but I turned in anyway; there might at least be a pay phone.

The owner was there, with his wife and kids. It was about 8:00 on a Saturday evening, and he was obviously homeward bound. But he walked up to my window and asked if he could help. I told him the problem, asked if there was a pay phone, and if we could use his station to do the repairs.

He said he wasn’t a mechanic, and had no tools. I assured him that, if I could only get the parts, I could do the repair work myself. “Well, if that’s all you need …”

If That's All You NeedIt was unbelievable! My truck went into the service bay, and he went off to get the parts I needed. Being farm country, that meant the International Harvester service and parts department was open even at night. By the time he came back with the bearing, I had the wheel and old bearing off, despite having few tools to work with.

But there was a problem. Because it was harvest time, the IH dealer had sold the last race for the bearing, and a bearing without a race is worthless! My panic must have shown on my face, because he quickly told me that he knew another place to look for the race. He made a number of phone calls, then came to tell me the owner of the parts store would meet him there. All he needed was the race so they could be certain they were getting the right part. I quickly handed it to him, then went to work installing the bearing.

It was close to 11 p.m. before the race had been pressed into the wheel, and everything put back into working order. When I asked how much we owed, he refused to take even a penny more than the original $20 I’d given him for parts.

For a man who “had no tools,” he accomplished a lot that night: He called in favors from people all over town, played “go-fer” for hours, found the parts, gave me a safe place to work, and even fed us. He also managed to raise — tremendously — my opinion of the people who lived in Nebraska.

Originally published as HeroicStories #253 on Nov 15, 2001

3 thoughts on “If That’s All You Need”

  1. They don’t call the middle of the USA “the Heartland” for nothing. It’s because the people that live there (and I was born and raised in Kansas so consider myself “one of them”) have heart and will seldom, if ever, let someone in need go without help. I’m so proud of the way my fellow heartlanders support their fellow man, regardless of race, creed or religion. The media today would have you believe that that all of humanity is selfish, heartless and thinks of no one except me, me, me. Thank you for printing a prime example of what people are really like. God bless you and God bless America

  2. I think most of RURAL America would help today.
    Despite all the horrible things going on in our world,
    we DO want to do the neighborly thing, and help
    others who need it…

  3. I am from Chicago and married a military guy. So I have lived a number of places and I have found that no matter where I go, if a situation comes up and I need help, someone steps and gives a hand. In Chicago, I was on my way to work and got a flat tire. I stopped in front of the VA in Chicago on Polk street and a black man came up and asked if I needed help. I told I had a flat so he proceeded to change the flat for me. Then I discovered I only had $3 on me and asked for his address. He gave it to me and I sent him a check for $20. I know he was surprised! Fast forward from 1970 to 1994 and I am in GA just a short time and my car stalled. I managed to get over to the side of the road but most folks that stopped looked at my car and admitted they didn’t know much because it was more electronic than anything. One fellow took me to a pay phone so I could call for roadside assistance and then took me back to the car and then waiting with my daughter and i till they got there. I had the car towed to a place in town and they didn’t know anything either so recommended I take it to the dealer. Had to go the next day as roadside assistance would not take the care up the next day. So my real estate guy took me home and came back and got me the next morning to get to the car so I would be there when the tow truck showed up. I got in and wnt with the car to the dealer and got a loaner. People are fantastic and they will help, regardless of who you are, who they are or where you are. I pay it forward by offering rides home to folks that are stranded whenever I can.


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