Today is the day before I receive my first paycheck for teaching (I am an ag teacher now; things changed a lot; someday, I’ll write a post about it, but today is not that day). I thought I would be able to make it until tomorrow before fueling up the Bos Taurus. Wow, was I wrong.
I travel between two schools to teach, and usually I take the main U.S. highway that connects the buildings. However, it is going through major de–I mean, con–struction, and I became weary of driving through it. I decided to take the winding back road that curves past Amish farms and schools, a beautiful route. There were places where I wished I could have stopped to take photographs. The sky opened before me like a joyous banquet, waiting for me to enjoy its spread. I passed the bulk food store, and that reminded me I need to stop there some Saturday to pick up freshly made donuts.
I taught, and then on my way back to my home school for a meeting, I decided to take the scenic route again. My low fuel gauge was still on, as it had been the past couple of days, and I was betting on it lasting until tomorrow.
I was enjoying the gorgeous day and listening intently to an audio production of C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy when my car slowed down as I went up a small rise. When I reached the top where the land plateaued, my steering went out. My right foot pressed the pedal to the floor in a a vain attempt to revive the car, but when that had no effect, I gripped the wheel hard and strained to turn it to the left onto a white gravel county road.
The car died, and all I had to do was steer it to the side as it rolled and then put it in park.
All was quiet. Two white two-story Amish houses sat on either side of me, clothing strung on the line. A lumberyard sat in a hollow between them. My car sat on the road slightly up the hill from the lumberyard. I decided to see if anyone who worked at the lumberyard would have fuel, even though I only knew for sure that the Amish use kerosene. I wasn’t sure about gasoline.
I shut my car door, my windows still down. My dilapidated Skecher boots crunched against the hard, bright rock. My cell phone stuck out from my jeans pocket, and the closer I drew to the lumberyard, the more anachronistic I felt. But also, I felt free and peaceful and quiet, despite the challenge facing me.
Unsure of where to go, I aimed toward the large door of the lumber storage shed. Hearing a voice echoing from somewhere within the cluster of buildings, I continually looked around, trying to figure out where it was. It was a man on the phone in a small building outside the lumber shed. Spying me through the screen door, he said, “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
This gave me a chance to take in my surroundings. I wandered just inside the shed door to see wood and siding samples hanging on the walls. Forklifts rested next to piles of lumber. The presence of the machines assured me that there would be gasoline available.
I then looked toward the house and soaked in the silence. I thought of all the options I could have pursued, such as calling the school and waiting for someone I knew to come pick me up. Standing here, I could have looked at my cell phone. But it stayed in my pocket.
The man hung up the phone and asked how he could help me. I explained my situation. He smiled slightly and said with a Pennsylvania Dutch lilt, “Ah yes, we have gasoline, we can help you there.” He went into the office for a minute, then came back out and said, “I’ll get the five-gallon can and put it on the forklift and drive out to meet you.”
Returning to my car, I leaned against the side and crossed my arms. Sunglasses protected my eyes from the glimmer of the golden crops surrounding. Again, there the silence was. Yet, it wasn’t truly silence–cicadas broke through, singing from the tall grasses in front of me.
The rumble of the fork lift drew nearer as my rescuing gas can approached. I directed the driver to the left side of my car and the fuel tank opening, and he said, “Two and a half gallons, that should do it!” Opening the spout, he began to pour the gas in.
Then he said, “Start it up!” and I turned the key to hear the engine rumble. I smiled, and said thank you again. He backed the forklift up to return to the shed, and I pulled out of that serene place. I made it to my meeting, the gas station, and eventually to home.
I hope to drive down that road often, and I wonder how many times I’ll want to stop and feel that peace again.