by Jim Lumsden
Los Angeles County, California
Nearing the freeway off-ramp, on my way home after work on a Friday evening years ago, I passed a car pulled off the road, and a figure climbing up the steep roadside embankment towards the car. Knowing that feigning car trouble is a favorite criminal decoy to get well-meaning motorists to stop to try to help, I zipped on by and took the next exit to head for home. Then I remembered a fleeting image of the vehicle’s driveshaft hanging under the car. I doubled back on surface streets to the previous freeway entrance, entered the freeway, and pulled up behind the disabled car. The driver looked to be in his 70s, so I relaxed a bit as he told me his predicament.
He was headed north on his way home to his organic peach ranch in the San Joaquin Valley. The freeway call box he had stopped next to did not work, so he walked down the embankment separating the two roadways at a major freeway interchange, and crossed the freeway to use a call box on the far side. He was returning when I had passed by. He had little money to pay for a tow truck, so I towed him off the freeway and up to a service station. The station was closing, but the operator said he’d stay open long enough to try to help him out. I wished him luck and went home.
My wife and I went out to dinner shortly afterwards and drove by the service station. It was dark inside, and the car was still up on the service rack. On our way home, we spotted the gentleman I had helped crossing the street nearby. He told us that the service station could repair the driveshaft, but had to wait until Saturday morning to get the parts, and he had checked in at the only motel in our entire valley just across the street from the service station.
We invited the gentleman to come to our home for a couple of hours of camaraderie and some snacks. The conversation was great. A couple of hours later, we returned him to his motel. His car was repaired on Saturday morning, and he continued his journey.
That experience turned into a long-lasting friendship. He was extremely grateful for the help on the freeway, and every time he was in our area making deliveries of his organically grown and processed peaches, he brought us a case.
In this day of highway dangers, we often reflect on this experience and continue to enjoy the lasting relationships he brought us, even though the “Peach Farmer” passed away in 2005, at 88.
My wife and I are still very good friends with the “Peach Farmer’s” son and daughter, and their families. We even visited and stayed in the house he had helped his father build back in about 1912. Sitting on concrete blocks for a foundation, it had nary a level floor in the whole house, but was filled with warmth and sharing. His heart was pure gold, and his son and daughter carry his ethic forward.