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From Jacksonville Beach, FL

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Remembering a happy coincidence

                                           Dry Falls near Highlands, NC.  Our campground
                                           was close by.

     If you don't believe coincidence exists, hear my story.  Some people might have other explanations for this lucky experience.  As a teacher, I often had the summer free from work, especially when my daughter was young and I didn't want to leave her all summer.  So, we had lots of time, but little money.  Our solution the summer my daughter was ten was to camp at Cliffside Lake, NC near the little town of Highlands.  This was many years ago and my friends and family did not approve.  They thought it was unsafe and one even offered the use of his pistol, which I refused.
     We set out with excitement and high hopes of a happy vacation with borrowed camping equipment, $100 in cash and a gasoline credit card.  In spite of our ignorance about the ways of camp stoves and bullfrogs in the night, we had a wonderful week.  We swam in near freezing spring water, fished with canned corn kernels in the trout stocked lake and learned to build a passable campfire.
     After a week, we headed home too happy to care that we were down to $12 and the credit card.  Somewhere in south Georgia on a road surrounded only by soybean fields, the car engine began steaming and the heat gauge shot to "hot."  After pulling off the road, we were stranded only a short time before a young man and woman stopped to help.  This was in the days before cell phones or car phones and people really did depend on the kindness of strangers.  Though they smelled strongly of rum and were, in fact, still drinking it from Dixie cups, we accepted their offer of a ride to a repair garage.  Since it was late afternoon, I feared that in rural Georgia everything would soon close for the day.
      They dropped us at a garage yard littered with drink bottles, empty oil cans and several cars with flattened tires.  Inside, a tall, thin, grey-haired man was working on a car.  I described our problem.  Wiping his hands on a greasy rag he said, "Let's go have a look."  We drove the fifteen miles back to our car in his pick-up truck.  
     I was remembering the remaining $12 and wondering how much this road service was going to cost.  "Do you take credit cards?"  I asked casually.  "No ma'm, I don't," he said.  Anxiety tightened my throat and I didn't say any more.  
     At our car, he patched together a split radiator hose and told me to follow him back to the garage for a new one.  Following him, my mind was frantically searching for a way to pay for all this special service.  I hoped he might be willing to take an out of state check.  I confided my fears to my daughter and asked if she had any money left.  She didn't.
     At the garage, we waited while he installed the hose and refilled the radiator.  After he finished, I asked, "How much do I owe you?'  
"Oh, $12 ought to about do it," he said.
     How did he know?  

                                           A street of Highlands.

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