Twenty-five years ago this month I incurred a debt. It is for twenty dollars. It was the result of an act of generosity from a complete stranger. Let me share the story and hope that it helps in some small way to repay this kindness. Once before I told the story in a round about manner in the book A Tree for America now, I want to just tell the story as it happened in December of 1986.
Unable to find a job in Denver my wife at the time and I decided to accept the offer her sister and brother-in-law had extended to us. They would help us move to the Seattle area since the economy there was growing. We made the arrangements to store what we couldn't fit into the car we had at the time, a 1977 Malibu. With the help of a friend we replaced a faulty starter before packing the car with my wife two daughters, two cats and a full grown Alaskan Malamute. All went well until the car died alongside the Interstate just west of Baker Oregon. There was a storm coming in and it was very cold. A Department of Highways snow plow stopped to check on us. Not being really mechanically inclined I had NO idea what was wrong, and the cash was getting very low. Above my protestations he radioed in a asked for a tow truck. There wasn't any getting around it the car had to be towed. The truck arrived and hooked onto us then took us to a little town just south of the highway where the driver had a shop. Putting the car on the lift he found that the starter had come loose and within a few minutes he had us ready to go. My mouth went dry when I asked him how much we owed him. I almost passed out with relief when he told me, twenty bucks. I thanked him and explained that we were on our way to Seattle looking for work. That was when he told me to pay him after I got a job. Later on when my wife and her sister went back to Denver to get the rest of our belongings she was supposed to stop and pay him. She didn't and I have always felt bad about it. I have been by there a million times but always in a semi so I couldn't just go looking for this guy to pay him. I hope in some small way this will help repay that kindness.