The day I was saved by a cowboy … and Walmart

The other morning, driving to work, I saw 5 men helping one woman in a red car. It broke down in a puddle and she was laughing, but looked worried. Since when does it take 5 guys to push a car out of a puddle? Usually you just need one. But she was pretty enough – red car, black outfit. One guy who was gay or newly married or drunk or always the kid who stood by the wall in High School was standing on the curb, watching. Maybe he had nice shoes on and didn’t want to get them wet? Maybe he though, ‘hey, there are already 5 guys helping her, why would she need one more?’

It reminds me of a time when I lived in Texas. I was 23 and driving to Austin on one of the many roads in Texas that happen to be in the middle of nowhere. Strips between towns, connecting the dots. No cell service (naturally) and my tire blew. It was starting to rain. Does this sound like a cliche? It does to me. Anyway, I pulled over to the side of the road. Gravel and white sand. There was a lot of space for me and my car – Texas has a lot of space to give away. And I pulled out my doughnut tire, the manufacturer’s jack, put it together piece-by piece and positioned it under the frame, just how my step-dad taught me. This wasn’t my first tire change, but it was the first one, alone, in the middle of nowhere, in the rain.
I got the first lug nut off, the second, the third. I cranked it and cranked it until the metal sprung loose from the metal. Cris-cross just like my step-dad taught me. “Don’t jack up the car before you loosen the nuts, otherwise you’ll be spinning” “If you have a metal rod, put it on the wrench for leverage.”
metal rod? who carries a metal rod in their car?
Well, I suppose I should have. The fourth lug nut was gripped on there like a knot on a tree. I jumped and pulled and bounced and got on my knees and pushed until I almost passed out. I took breaks, watched the sky turn a deep gray, sprinkles of water in my face. And then I’d try again. I jumped and pulled and bounced and got on my knees and pushed until I almost passed out. And nothing. I did this for about 15 minutes and then stood there, almost in tears, cursing the guy with a compressed airgun who screwed it on so tight my wrench couldn’t even get traction.
I was one fucking lug nut away from saving myself. Just one. And I could do it all, too, I knew how, I knew what. I just didn’t have the strength.
The next town was 10 miles, maybe. I was lucky. I was close to a town. 20 miles ago, I was NOT close to a town. I was surrounded by mesquite trees, and cows and sheep.
I figured if nothing else, I would have to walk. Cars kept passing me and not stopping. I didn’t want to be saved, but was offended when I wasn’t. I was about to gather my things and walk when a silver truck going the opposite way stopped. A cowboy jumped out. Boots, jeans, hat, the whole getup. He was in his 30s and looked kind, but I grew up in a land of stranger-danger, so was relieved to see a woman sitting in the car watching us. Unless she’s waving frantically as a kidnap victim, I think I’m OK.
“Do you need help?” He asked.
“I can’t get this last lug nut off,” I said, making sure I didn’t seem half as pathetic as I looked.
I handed him my tools, stepped back, watched him struggle with the nut once, then pop it loose on the second try. God Dammit. And then he jacked the car up, pulled the tire off, slipped the doughnut on and i was ready to go. It took him 10 minutes. It would have taken me 15 if I’d done a few more pull-ups in my life.
But I let him change the entire tire, swallowed a little bit of pride, thanked him profusely, prayed for a walmart (yes, a walmart) in the next town to get my tire fixed, drove 15 miles an hour on a limp wheel, SAW A WALMART!, waited another hour to get my tire fixed, drove another hour to Austin and arrived around 10:30 pm.
But I swear, I loosened the nut for him just a little. All that pulling and banging and pushing. I swear.

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