On the Orchard Road

by Ed Eudy
Auburn, Washington, USA

In 1997 my family decided to go see my sister-in-law on Independence Day in Tonasket, Washington, a five-hour drive from our home in Seattle. Much of the last part of the trip is through endless miles of apple orchards. We hit the road at around 8:00 in the evening.

On the Orchard RoadAbout an hour after leaving the last large town, we got a flat tire. No problem, I thought — we had checked the spare before we left and it was fully inflated and never used. So we got out the flashlights, the spare tire, jack and lug wrench. My nephew volunteered to change the flat but after getting the old tire off, he turned around and said that the spare wouldn’t go on.

I looked closer and noticed the lugs didn’t match the hole pattern in the rim of the tire. That’s when I saw the spare said “Chrysler Motors”. Our car was a Pontiac. We had bought the car used from a friend.

Surrounded by apple trees on a small two lane highway, it was 35 miles back to the nearest town. It was also 35 miles ahead to the next town and late into the night on a holiday eve.

I decided to have the family stay with the car along with my nephew while I hitchhiked to the next town. There I stood, beside the car, with the family hiding in the orchard so as not to scare off any potential ride. After what seemed like an hour, a pickup stopped and said I could have a ride. I told him about the family staying with the car. He insisted they come too, so we all crowded into the back of the truck and away we went.

We arrived in Brewster at around midnight and the only place open was a gas station/fast food restaurant. After hearing of our dilemma the cook offered the kids pizzas and said he knew the owner of the only tire store in town. He called and found the man was away for the holiday. But the young man that answered the phone worked for him. He said he could help since he had the key to the store, and he ran right over and picked me up. I left my family at the restaurant while he and I drove the 35 miles back to the car with a new tire and rim.

He insisted on changing the tire himself and then refused when I offered him proper compensation, saying the old rim would be enough payment. At last I managed to shove twenty dollars into his shirt pocket. He waited for me to start the car and followed me back to Brewster, making sure I would be OK.

We were only three hours late arriving at my sister-in-law’s house. The immense generosity of those total strangers, and how they all went out of their way to help my family, was the highlight of a truly great weekend.

Originally published as HeroicStories #88 on Nov 23, 1999
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.

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