by Kelley Connell
Wilmington, Delaware, USA
In 1989 I had just received my Master’s degree in Texas. Since I had been away from home for six years, I had accumulated a lot of “stuff”, so my father flew out to help me. We rented a 22′ truck with a trailer for my car, and loaded every single possession I owned onto that truck and began the 1,500 mile drive back to Delaware. My two dogs and a cat served as extra passengers in the cab.
We stopped for gas at a rural station off of an isolated stretch of highway in Arkansas. My father started the pump and added some oil while I took the animals to a neighboring field for some exercise. Apparently, some oil spilled on the hot motor and caught flame. The motor was on fire! Dad asked the attendant for a fire extinguisher and was told, “Somebody used it last week. Haven’t filled it back up yet.” What about the fire department? The attendant replied, “Wouldn’t do any good. They’re too far away. Would you mind pulling her away from the pump before she blows?”
I had been unaware of the events leading up to this point as I was walking my pets, but as my father grew more anxious I heard his voice rising. When I turned back to observe the scene I knew we were all in great jeopardy. The flames were several feet high now and the pump was still running! I stood helpless in the field thinking that everything I had — especially my father — was about to explode.
Just then three good ol’ boys in a battered pickup truck pulled into the station. They had just finished a long day of fishing. Though they didn’t have any fish, they did have a very large cooler that sloshed with melted ice and water. “Need any help?” they asked. Well, it seemed obvious that we did. “Is the motor running?” No the motor wasn’t running! We were pumping gas! It’s bad enough that we were so frightened out of our senses that the pump continued to run after the flames erupted.
“Start her up!” one of them said. What? “Start her up so we can take care of this fire. DO IT!” With no better idea, my father started the engine. They hoisted their cooler and poured it over the motor to douse the fire. It was enough water that it worked! The fire was out. They explained the engine had to be started before the water was applied or else the engine would freeze. And time really was of the essence with regard to getting this fire out. “Y’all want to save this motor, don’t you?” (Not to mention the surrounding countryside!)
It still amazes me to this day. We were all in such a dangerous position, yet these men remained calm. How many people would have willingly approached a fire at a gas station? Thanks to their quick thinking and action, we made it safely to Delaware.
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.