August 26, 1972, my 19th birthday. Gary, my going to be college room mate and I were driving in his car to Plainview, Tx. He had a '69 Plymouth Sport Fury. It was drizzling all day and had rained all the day before. We'd stopped for lunch in Santa Rosa and were taking the state road down to Fort Sumner. Cruising at around 80mph (speed limit 70) we topped a hill and staring us right in the eyes were the headlights of an 18 wheeler passing a car on the two lane road. All Gary could do was swerve to the right onto the side of the road. The truck whizzed by as he tried to navigate around a culvert and come to a stop. Then we started shaking. Once over the frights when we tried to move we couldn't because we were stuck in the mud. We didn't have time to think about what to do when a pickup truck coming the other way stopped and asked if we needed help. He had a winch on the front of the truck, hooked it up to the front bumper and as pretty as you please pulled us up to the road. When Gary offered to pay him for the help, the man said he was a Christian and only doing God's work. From being run off the road to back on our was was less than five minutes. In New Mexico early 1970's we could have been sitting there (no cell phones) for five hours or more before another vehicle came along. To this day when I think of those headlights I ask myself, "Why are you alive?" And we both are eternally grateful to that kind gentleman who pulled us out of the muck.
June 1976 first wife and I were moving from Plainview, Tx to Fort Worth for Seminary. I loaded up the little 1969 Ford Maverick with as much stuff as it could hold and dropped it off at our student apartment, then turned around to get the rest of the stuff and wife. It was about ten at night raining cats and dogs. I was on the bridge over the lake at Breckenridge when I had a flat tire. Thoroughly soaked I couldn't get the lug nuts off the tire with the little tire iron. A man stopped, pulled out a pipe, placed it over the tire iron to give it leverage and we got the tire changed (back then the cars had actual tires for spares). He wouldn't let me pay him for his help.
February 1993, the school year I refer to as the long bad hair year. I was in the teacher's lounge after a really nasty evaluation by the principle. Sitting across of from Larry Tracy a special ed teacher he could tell I was ready to bite nails. I told him the horse shit the lady in question had said to me.
He looked at me and said, "Remember you're permanent, she's temporary."
We had sat around the lunch table for about a year and most of the other teachers couldn't figure out why we were good friends. He was special ed and I was regular, he was a Mormon bishop and I was a Baptist preacher. What we did was compare notes, he had the same problems with his little Mormon church of squabbles among the members and visiting everyone in the hospital that I'd experienced in the churches where I'd been on staff.
About two weeks after he said those words to me, which really calmed me down, he had a heart attack. He was out of work for six weeks. When he came back it was his turn to throw a temper tantrum in the teacher's lounge. The idiot principle had called him in, said that while he was out his students had run off three substitutes. She wanted him to take a class in effective discipline techniques. He'd been teaching for thirty years the last thing he needed was to learn how to keep control of his classroom. I wasn't the only one in the lounge that day trying to get him to calm down and lower his blood pressure. The next fall end of October he had another heart attack while tending his garden and passed away. Perhaps one of the hardest funerals I've ever attended. His words to me that day are why I'm still teaching.