And It’s A Good Thing
By Thomas Zimmermann l Feb 25th, 2015 | As seen in Issue 214
Ever have one of those days when it was a good thing, then a bad thing, then a good thing, and then a bad thing, and then a really good thing, give or take a good thing/bad thing? (I think that’s enough good things/bad things to start with, I’m getting dizzy). One of our recent family experiences was just that.
Good thing #1. My lovely and I were together, doing one of our favourite things (not THAT thing, although that is way up on the list). We were in fact travelling, which is always an adventure with 7 kids. On our way south to visit family over the Christmas holidays, Vincent the van performing admirably, pulling our 17 foot “packing trailer” because that’s what you do when you have luggage for a family of 9, plus presents, plus winter activity items such as snow shoes and the like, plus the emergency tools I always pack, just in case.
Now, it has only ever happened once before (unconfirmed), but my lovely was upset with me for some reason. Having a typical guy memory I’ve long since forgotten about why, and as she sleeps peacefully beside me while I write I dare not wake her up to ask how I could have possibly transgressed in our otherwise fantastic relationship. Needless to say it was a little quiet in the front section of Vincent as we threaded our way south on one of the many of the lesser travelled highways in an attempt to avoid the crazy holiday traffic. Doesn’t usually work out that way, but we do get to witness some beautiful scenery and drive through places like Wasketenau. Don’t even try to pronounce that without talking to a local first.
We pulled into our favourite little Irish restaurant for a coffee in Rocky Mountain House, relieved all 7 children at the facilities (including one of the stinkiest diaper changes EVER), and were back on the road in 19 minutes flat. My gorgeously green eyed lovely let out a troubled sigh as we pulled away from the lights and rolled down the window. Conflict within our relationship is not something either of us enjoy, and I empathized with that sigh. As I was wondering why she would roll down the window in the middle of a -30 cold spell, I heard a soft, persistent metal scraping type noise coming from somewhere behind Vincent. (In case you’re keeping track, we’re onto bad thing #2). Safety chains dragging? Nope, not “tingly” enough. Rear diff starting to pile up? Nope, didn’t change sound the right way at speed. Trailer plug dragging? Hmmm, maybe, but it shouldn’t be that loud. I decided it would be prudent to investigate.
As I pulled into a quiet side road, my beautiful brunette glanced my way with questioning flashes of gracious green eyes. I mumbled something about something being wrong, but then took her hand and gave it a gentle, reassuring squeeze. Perhaps my chance to be a hero and prove my eternal, undying love for my lady by tackling whatever trouble awaited. One can always hope.
After reassuring the group of 7 that I would be back soon, I put on my coat and hat and proceeded to investigate. Quietly asking Vincent what was troubling him as I walked towards the back of the big white van, I didn’t get an answer. I would just have to find out for myself, he seemed to say. Fine, I thought, I’m good at dealing with the strong, silent types.
Having reached the back, I inspected the trailer plug, chains (just in case), and even the tongue jack. Nothing. I looked under Vincent. Perfect. I continued on and walked around the trailer, not once, but twice. On the second pass I saw it. One end laying on the ground, the other still attached to the trailer, was the front half of the second axle leaf spring, somewhat ground off on the contact side. That must have given off some sparks, I thought as I leaned in for a closer look. The rear half was still loosely attached, and still locating the axle, more or less, where it was supposed to be. Now what?
I texted a friend of mine that lives in the area. No one would have what we needed, he said. Best bet would be to see if we could get to Red Deer and fix it there. Only about an hour away.
I looked at the broken suspension, assessing it and going through a mental list of my tools/parts inventory on board. Then I thought, WWRD... What Would a Red Neck Do???
It came to me in a flash, and before I could think twice about it, we were back on the road, limping our way to Red Deer at close to 100 kph, because no one slows down for nothing on Alberta roads!
What marvellous plan did I concoct? I had gently looped and secured a ratchet strap underneath the broken spring components, cinching them towards each other, then tightening the strap until I was pretty sure it was tuned to a high D. And to top it all off, the strap was glorious camo!
Did it get us to Red Deer, and a place to repair our wounded trailer.? Absolutely!
So, by this point even I have lost count of the good thing/bad thing ratio. Suffice it to say, we were relieved to get to Red Deer, and to one of my favourite stores in all of Canada. Not sure I’m allowed to mention it here, but we affectionately call it PA rentals. One royally great just about everything a guy could want kinda store.
Did I mention I was still recovering from surgery? Well, I was, and I was still limping around and not supposed to do any heavy work for at least another few weeks when all this was happening. Turns out it worked out in my favour.
After perusing the aisles for the parts I thought I would need, I returned to the parking lot where we’d parked, and there were guys standing around talking to my wife, asking if we needed help. At first, and being a typical stubborn mechanic, I resisted the offers. But as the job progressed, and I was getting very cold and even more tired, yet another guy offered to help. This time, for some reason, I accepted the help. In a flash he had the rest of the parts back on and tightened, cheerfully telling me stories and of places he’d been and where he grew up. It made the whole effort seem worth it, just meeting this one person from out of the blue because we’d blown up our trailer.
I offered to pay him for his help.
“Nope” he replied as he helped put tools back into the trailer.
How about I buy him some supper?
Again, the answer was a “Nope” as he cleaned a dirty ratchet before putting it back in the case.
Was there anything I could do as a thank you for the much needed help?
He looked at me for a moment, as if studying a finished work, rocking back on his heels slightly as he did. It was dark now, the only light coming from the overhead standards in the parking lot. But in that light, I saw a gentle genuine warmth emanate from this man.
As he took hold of my hand to shake it, his crystal blue eyes met mine as he said, “What I want you to do, Thomas, is have a safe drive, take care of your wonderful family, and have a Merry Christmas.”
With that, he turned around and left. And I’m not even sure where he went. And I can’t even remember his name.
Somewhat shaken in a good way, I climbed back into Vincent to continue our journey and took a moment to think...Sometimes it takes a broken spring in the middle of winter to help you appreciate life, and other people. And that is a good thing!