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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lending a Helping Hand in the Valley…

March 5

As far as good deeds go, there’s an old saying in our household—maybe in yours, too: “No good deed goes unpunished.” I know for a fact that’s true. October before last Gladys and I had just passed the point of no return and were homeward bound when I noticed a large white van mired up to the axels in good, old Valley mud.

Two Cambodian women, one young, the other of grandmotherly age, had been working their flower fields (digging dahlia tubers, I believe) east of the Sky River driving range. They had parked their vehicle well off the shoulder so as not to impede Loop Road traffic. And there they became stuck, had sat there and spun the wheels until they managed to work their way even deeper in their futile attempt to free the vehicle.They had no digging tools to move aside the dirt and wood chips packed around the rear tires and were using their hands as shovels like they were trying to move one large dahlia tuber.

I eased Gladys to a stop and asked if they needed some roadside assistance. The young woman smiled and nodded. “We try…no move,” she said in halting English. Grandmother only grinned and squinted. Well…I had stopped, hadn’t I? Now I was mired in my own good intentions.

My first thought was to locate something to place in front of the rear wheels to provide traction, let the van free itself, if possible. The other option was pushing. Ahgg!  Grunt work! Good to avoid that kind of exertion if at all possible. I looked across the road at Peter Alden’s jumble of farm equipment. An old flatbed truck, part of its decking gone, seemed a good place to find a loose board, a plank or two. I wandered over to the truck, which was pretty much buried in brush, to check the planking. I parted aside some sort of tall weed, examined the decking, and leaned over the bedrail to check for loose boards. Nothing to pry loose or break away. I turned, lifted my right arm to brush my way back, but my arm was stuck to my sweatshirt. Wouldn’t budge. I was stuck to myself? Those tall weeds were some sort of burr and my right arm was festooned with them; my sleeve was Velcroed to the front of my shirt. “This isn’t going well at all,” I thought, and gave my arm a good tug to free it. My arm was free but both sleeve and shirtfront bulged with burrs.Now for a saddle blanketBy the time I returned to the van, I was able to pluck most of the prickly spheres from the material, but the stubborn ones remained.

I positioned myself behind the van.“Maybe if we rock the rear end while (Grandma) guns the engine, we can budge ‘er on out,”I say to the younger. I motion the elder to the driver’s seat and get ready to shove from the passenger side. My partner, who looks like she’d barely weigh in at eighty pounds (even burr-covered) puts her very small, unshovel-like hands on the rear door. “Ok!” I shout. The engine roars and I lean into the rear panel. At that instant I’m pelted with Valley mud. My face and glasses are peppered. Like an idiot, I’m standing directly behind the spinning wheel; I’m a human mudflap!The heavy van doesn’t budge. The artillery continues;  mud spews from the spinning wheel, then my mouth. The van does not budge. It might as well be set in concrete.

Did I mention the second van? No need to; it wasn’t the one stuck. In a haze of burr and mud I realize a tow is in order. We pile into van II. The little Cambodian drives; Gramma and grandchild in the back seat. I direct them to my driveway where I pick up the pick up and my humongous logging chain essential in crises, especially situations requiring a tow. Back to the van. A couple rounds of logging chain around the front suspension. “Straighten your wheels,” I tell Cambodian the younger, who’s now behind the wheel. A gentle tug and the van is on asphalt again. The Cambodian women nod their thanks. I unhook, throw the chain and Gladys in the back of the truck. Off to home and a load of laundry and one hot shower to wash the day’s “punished good deed” from clothes, body, and memory.

Today I’m afoot in the windswept Valley. As I approach Gramma Snow’s driveway, I notice her mailbox is down in the weeds and it ain’t gettin up either: the victim of a vicious attack on Valley mailboxes a few weeks back. Good deeds in the Valley? Dare I attempt a reprise? Well, it’s Gramma, after all. Need I say more? I ponder scooping up the box, taking it home to make repairs. But what about the day’s mail? Has Steve, our diminutive postal worker, made his rounds yet? I leave the box as is and continue on my way.  And happy accident, here’s Steve now delivering the Valley mails. I flag him down, tell him about Gramma’s fallen mailbox. “Will she get her mail today?” I ask. Emphatically “No. Are you going to fix the box for her?” Steve asks. “I was thinking about it.” “That would be nice. While you’re at it, why don’t you lower the post!”Postal worker Steve, of Asian extraction, is not much taller than my little Cambodians. He has to leave his seat and stretch to deliver Gramma’s junk mail. Here’s a chance to do two good deeds in one fell swoop. Should I risk double jeopardy? Two good deeds bundled in one? “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice….” Good Deed One Gramma’s mailbox, like most projects, requires more attention than at first glance. The battered door and side need some hammer work. The door swings freely because one rivet is broken. This is a home repair job.I take the project to the Extensive Care Unit in my garage where I bend, pry, and hammer the box and door to functionality. I replace the broken rivet with a bolt, washer, lock washer, and two snugged down nuts.

But what about Good Deed Two? Steve’s request? I return with the functional box and my chainsaw. I visualize Steve in his Ford Taurus, Steve pulling up to Gramma’s mailbox. He lifts from the seat, stretches, and—I size it up to about a five inch inconvenience—slides Gramma’s mail into the box. I fire up the chainsaw and slice five inches of wood from the post. Five inches added to Steve’s reach. That should keep his posterior firmly in his seat. I replace the mailbox platform, screw it tightly in place with four new screws. The box settles neatly on the platform and rests there in comfort while I screw it firmly to the base. And who should drive by while I’m fussing over her mailbox on the tailgate of the truck? Why Gramma herself in that big black sedan. She gives me a smile as she passes, drives on up the road as if it’s a commonplace thing for someone to pluck her mailbox out of the weeds and reinstall it. Well, that’s Gramma….

Two good deeds in one, as yet unpunished. But we’ll see. Punishment can be retroactive; I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.Good Deed Two


with the morning's mail

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1 comment:

  1. Great post dad! Though nothing had me chuckling more than, "Why Gramma herself in that big black sedan. She gives me a smile as she passes, drives on up the road as if it’s a commonplace thing for someone to pluck her mailbox out of the weeds and reinstall it." In fact, I'm still chuckling. Thanks for being such a good neighbor in the Valley. It's nice to hear of good deeds, as I watch a graffiti company scrub unnecessary scribbles of spray-paint off a building. Makes me miss the Valley and its people all the more.