Good Samaritans in Disguise

Good Samaritans in Disguise

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

Good Samaritans in Disguise

Kindness makes a fellow feel good, whether it’s being done to him or by him.

Frank A. Clark

“Al, you better watch that tank.” My mother smiled at my father and motioned toward the gas gauge. “You know you’re not used to this new car yet.”

“Honey, relax. I know what this baby can do,” my dad replied, pacifying my mother and applying more pressure on the accelerator. He was driving our new dual exhaust 1955 tan and white Ford Fairlane. How he loved that dual exhaust. I ignored the banter between my parents. I was lost in my own little world, my blond hair flying in my face, pretending I was Annie Oakley. I had on my red cowgirl hat and my new leather holster, complete with cap gun, as we sped down the highway. We were cruising across the big state of Texas on our way to California when the car gave a gasp, coughed, and coasted to a stop.

“Are we out of gas, honey?” my mother asked.

“Sure sounds that way, but I could have sworn we’d get better mileage than this. Yup, it’s on empty. We’ve got our-selves a problem,” my father replied. That was the understatement of the century. Cotton fields lined both sides of the highway as far as the eye could see. They seemed to go on for miles. We hadn’t seen a car for a very long time, and we’d passed the last town an hour ago. “Don’t you worry your pretty head,” my dad said, looking at me. “Someone will be along soon.” But he didn’t sound very sure about that. My father got out and put the car’s hood up. “This will let them know we’re in trouble,” he explained to me.

My mother proceeded to produce a snack of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Her solution to any problem was comfort food. After about an hour, we saw dust in the distance. A car was fast approaching, going the same direction we were. My father jumped to his feet, waving his arms wildly. He smiled as the car got closer. In my cowgirl mind, I thought he wanted them to know we were the friendly hombres, not the bad guys out to do them harm. I think, in reality, he was just secretly pleased to see another soul on this lonely highway.

My father swore softly under his breath as the car tooted its horn and whizzed on by. What had started for me as a fun adventure, pretending to be Annie Oakley stranded in the badlands, was now becoming a tad scary. Dusk was approaching and we had been sitting a couple of hours. Then we heard it. A faint noise in the distance.

It sounded like men singing at the top of their lungs. It got louder, and pretty soon we saw a beat-up old truck meandering slowly down the highway toward us. The whole truck seemed to float along surrounded by songs sung in Spanish, punctuated by lots of exuberant whoops and hollers.

“Get in the car immediately and lock your door,” my mother instructed me sternly. “Al, you better get in here, too. We can’t be too careful out here in the middle of nowhere.” My father just stood by the car door, tension making the veins on his forehead stand up and salute.

The wooden-sided truck came to a halt right beside him. Mom and I held our breath. Would they hold us up? What would happen to us? We were at their mercy.

“¿Habla Español?” the driver called out his window at my father.

“No,” my father shouted back, shaking his head.

Through gesturing and some small English pronouns, my father managed to convey that we needed a ride to a gas station. The next thing I knew, my mother and I were sitting inside the truck next to the driver, and my father was in the back riding with the men. They sang us all the way to the nearest town, twenty-five miles back down the road they had just come.

We pulled into the gas station, and one of the men lifted me down from the truck. He offered my mother his hand as she stepped down onto the floorboard. “Gracias,” I said, the only word I knew in Spanish. His eyes lit up and he smiled.

My father thanked them profusely and offered to give each man some money. None of them would take a dime. My dad asked the man at the gas station, who spoke some Spanish, to tell them he really wanted to repay them. When he did, they all laughed and shook their heads no. The gas station owner said they were very proud men, even though they labored in the fields all day under the hot Texas sun.

We expected them to leave, but they sat and waited while my father filled an old container with a couple gallons of gas. When he finished, they motioned for us to get back into the truck. My father gave the owner a puzzled look.

He laughed. “It’s dark and they want to make sure you get back to your car safely, so they’re driving you back.”

We rumbled back down the highway to our car. The last we saw them, they were singing and driving away into the night. When I look over my pictures from that trip, I see a young girl in an Annie Oakley hat with a holster at her side who learned a valuable lesson that day. There are Good Samaritans everywhere, even if they come disguised in an old pickup truck.

Sallie A. Rodman

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