A few years ago, The Jons Family embarked on another one of our beloved adventures, this time heading toward the hills near Elkader and Guttenburg. It was a beautiful golden September day, our teenage son, Seth, was chilling in the back seat, and Steve and I were griping at each other in a Everybody Loves Raymond kinda way, cracking ourselves up 'cuz we couldn't stay crabby with each other. We loaded up for treats and essentials at Dollar General in West Union. Whales (their version of cheezy goldfish but much better), sugar free vanilla wafers, sugar free A&W creme soda, Mt. Dew, and Cherry Pepsi. Plus Laundry soap, toilet paper, etc. "Come ON Rob, let's GO!" urges my Beloved.
We head out SW on some old highways, take a few gravel roads, see some pretty spots. Stop at the Guttenburg scenic overlook to buy our annual honey and maple syrup. Bikers are out in full force. Someone says, "Hi, Robin!" and I look at Steve and ask if he heard someone call my name? "Nope," he says. Then I start bonding with the honey lady, and another nice lady says, "Don't know me, huh, Robin?" And somehow from the depths of my 48 year F'burg consciousness, I say, "Ruth?" It was Ruth and Donny Rowe. Donny just had his seventieth, I saw in the F'burg paper, and he was in my dad's class in high school. Ya just never know who you're gonna run into on a road trip.
So Steve is talking Jesus talk with the maple syrup lady, her son was in a bad motorcycle accident, her faith saved them, yada, yada, yada. And I was telling The Honey Lady (Carol) about my music and how I download it from God and she said,"You're a vessel," and I said, "Exactly!" I told her how one of my Sisters-in-Christ at Bethel A.M.E. Church in Des Moines said, "God makes some folks soft so they can take many forms." And I'm one of those kind, and the solid ones can get nervous around us shape-shifters. So Carol and I had one of those intense ten minute profound conversations, and I hugged her and said,"It's always great to find another kindred spirit." And she agreed.
So Steve is getting his Holy Spirit Sparkle on and he says, "How wonderful it is to find new sisters in Christ!" Turns out the jam lady was saved, too.
This biker dude all in black leather, long black hair, and gray beard is just wanting to buy some maple syrup, and he's looking at us like we might start up a revival right there, or hand out pamphlets, or, God forbid, try to HUG him. To his vast relief, we drive away talking 'bout how you just never know who God will place in front of you and wasn't that amazing? And Seth's like, "It's a typical Jons Family Adventure."
As we're shouting hallelujahs and praise Jesuses, little did we know the enemy had a little trick up his sleeve. We drive through Guttenburg, taking the street by the river, and notice a nice house with a pretty deck and a screened-in gazebo on the corner, and remarked on how nice it would be to sit in there and watch the river.
So we find a gravel road heading NW, and see an unimproved road to the left. We LOVE Level B, enter at your own risk kinds of roads, and as long as there's been no recent rain, we usually give it a go. Got a little ways in, and there's a trout stream to ford. Seth says, "Go for it," Steve says, "I don't know," and I say, "What would the Jonses do?"
So Steve revs her up and we ram through about fifteen inches of water. Get to the other side, follow a little marshy area, and there's another stream to cross. This one's smaller, so Steve revs her up and gets through with no problem. The road peters out into a corn field, but I got some beautiful pictures of the surrounding hills, so I thought it was worth it.
So we head back. The sun is going down. It's cooling off fast. We get to the deeper stream, and Steve has Seth walk across it in the icy water to see where the rut is. Seth finds it, it's to the left, so Steve revs her up and, despite his intentions, heads straight for that rut.
I won't repeat what Preacher Steve said, but I don't believe it was scripture, though I did hear a few damns and hells. The car is stalled in about twenty inches of water. The view is lovely, I take some pretty pictures. Meanwhile, Steve is ranting and raving and beating on the hood and saying he KNEW we shouldn't have come this way. After what seemed like three days, he calms down and apologizes to God and prays, "Lord, help us out."
Seth and I are sitting calmly in the car watching the Ranting Steve Show, and Seth said, "Aren't you worried?" and I said, "Aw, no, God is sending His angels as we speak." Steve takes off down the dirt road in the middle of nowhere and calls his mother. A guy needs to hear his mom and dad's voice at a time like this. Plus his dad knows a lot about fixing cars.
A few minutes go by, and Steve comes back riding in the back of a big ol' black pickup truck. As he was walking down the road, talking to his mommy on the cell phone, this nice pair of seventy-somethings stop and ask what they can do to help. The man formerly owned his own Chevy dealership, and his truck had a wench* to pull us out. So they pulled us out, with a huge sucking sound, and Steve tries to start the engine. Chug chug, click. So Chevy Man says, "Take this piece off and pull the plugs and let's get this water outta here."
So Steve starts her up and a six foot high fountain of water comes spouting out the engine. Mrs. Chevy Guy jumps out the way and decides to come visit with me. We had the nicest talk. Turns out she grew up near Waukon in Dorchester, and I knew the town from driving through it after a bad flood last year. And the house with the gazebo WAS THEIR HOUSE! Talked about her 2 marriages, was widowed young, I talked bout our 30 year relationship and how it seems like I'm on my 5th marriage by now. Meanwhile Steve is getting in and out of the car, repeating the fountain process until it's a slight trickle. Each time Steve turns the key we pray so hard for that starter to work. After what seems like the 30th time, lo and behold, IT STARTS!!!!!!!! And continues to run, sputtering and shimmying, with tons of steam coming out the tailpipe, and water spurting here & there.
Steve asks,"What do I owe ya?" Mr. Chevy Guy said,"You do the same for me next time I'm stuck somewhere." Steve said "GOD BLESS YOU," and you could see our helper knew he'd been sincerely blessed. I got their cell number, and they followed us to Garnavillo to make sure we were okay. I called and said we made it, and thanked them again, and they said take care. And about 20 minutes later, he left a message hoping we were still doing alright.
The car shimmied pretty bad when we got over 50mph, so Steve took her to a car wash and got all the mud off the tires. And now she's running just fine!
So you just never know when you might be assisted by angels that seem human, or by humans that act like angels. Again I say, AIN'T GOD GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!
*WINCH, not wench, but you gotta admit “wench” is funnier...
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.