Spirit of the West

By Shawnee Cavnar-Brown
California, USA

The summer of 2000 found me in Wyoming to see the Oregon Trail, married but traveling solo. I had two weeks worth of food and camping supplies aboard my truck, driving very slowly along the ruts in the vast and barren areas of central Wyoming.

About two miles after crossing a small highway, I came upon a gully that crossed the trail. The ditch got hold of one tire and jerked the steering wheel so both front tires were stuck. The bumper jammed into the dusty ground. There was not a house for miles and miles — just an endless expanse of sagebrush.

I tried gearing from forward to reverse to get the truck moving, but the back tires spat dirt. I stuffed my canvas tarp and sagebrush under the tires for traction, but when I spun the tires the tarp flew out. I heard what sounded like a gunshot — the back tire had blown out. No point changing the tire since I was stuck anyway, so I took a water canteen and hiked the trail two miles back to the highway.

When I got to the turnout I found a couple parked there, adjusting something on their truck. They drove an older truck, with a tired-looking camper hitched to its bumper. The husband and his wife appeared to be from a rural area. They were simple-looking folk, with three dogs on leashes panting beside them and Wyoming license plates. I approached and told them my dilemma.

Their truck had a winch on the front, and without a second thought, “Bill” unhooked his trailer and left it in the turnout. I hopped into their truck bed, and we drove back along the trail to my truck.

Bill managed to free my truck, and insisted on helping me change the tire. Good thing, because I didn’t know how to get the spare down. When he finally lowered the spare, it was flat! Bill insisted on taking me and the spare to the nearest town, 40 miles away. There, he aired up the tire, produced a valve wrench and tightened it, and drove me back to my truck. There he changed the tire for me, and followed me all the way out to the pavement to assure my safety.

My rescuers had been heading for the Sweetwater River to fish. I offered them money, propane fuel, food, water, whiskey, etc. Seeing my tired and defeated face, he offered ME a beer. This humble fellow, a simple guy in soiled clothes, spent hours of his own time helping me, and expected nothing in return. Bill told me a “thank you” was good enough. As I drove south, I saw him pull his trailer from the turnout and head north.

The amount of kindness Bill showed me that day warmed my heart. I learned a good lesson: the finest books sometimes have the dustiest jackets.

Originally published as HeroicStories #288 on March 17, 2002

2 thoughts on “Spirit of the West”

  1. People like the couple who helped this man know what it’s like to need help, and had probably received it from a good-hearted person in their past. Now this man is likely to do the same.

    • It just occurred to me that the writer of this story might have been a woman, judging by the hyphenated name! The story is actually gender-neutral, though. It was not mentioned and seemed to make no difference.


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