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We had seen the Rockies, the Redwoods, the Golden Gate Bridge, Hollywood, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, but nothing had prepared us for our experience in Parachute, Colo.

Nearing the end of a twenty-day road trip, we were wistfully anticipating an air-conditioned night in our own home. After having seen everything and everyone from the Redwoods to Jay Leno and Tom Cruise to the classy shops of Rodeo Drive, Colorado meant nothing to us. It was simply a state through which we had to pass to get home.

Until we stopped at a gas station in the tiny town of Parachute. We filled the tank, used the rest rooms, and were ready to keep on driving. I sat behind the wheel, belted up, and turned the key.


I tried again.

A small click.

Our wagon had given us no forewarning. No signs that told us it would flat-out die. My husband tried the key. The same click that had mocked me now mocked him.

He hoisted the hood, which really meant absolutely nothing since neither of us knows much about cars. There was a small repair shop across the street, but it was a Saturday and they were closed.

We entered the gas station store and asked the cashier if she knew of a nearby mechanic shop. She asked what the problem was, and we told her our car wouldn’t start.

“Well, let’s see if we can get someone down to help you,” she replied and pulled out a phone book and began leafing through for us. Customers began arriving, so she furnished us with phone books, pen, paper, and the names of the two mechanic shops in town. We called one place and found that they weren’t open on weekends. We tried the second and were informed that they didn’t do repairs on weekends. We then phoned Napa Auto Parts, hoping they could help us. They gave us the number of the only other mechanic shop in town, which we also found to be closed on weekends.

Almost at the end of our trip, we were also about at the end of our budget and weren’t looking forward to having to tow our vehicle, stay two nights in a hotel, and buy several more meals, then have our car looked at on Monday and cost us another fortune. We still had 24 hours until we would arrive home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and were supposed to be at work Tuesday morning at 8.

But we had no choice. The cashier apologized for nothing being open, and we walked back to our car to pull out an atlas and figure out what to do.

Just then a man and his teenage son walked over. “The girl inside said you were having problems.”

“Yah, um, our car won’t start.”

“Well, pop the hood. Let’s have a look.”

We were stunned. What did the girl inside care? What did the man and his son care? It was Saturday, and I am certain they had better things to do than look under the hood of some Canadian’s car. We didn’t object – we popped the hood.

Another man in the lot drove up in his big brute of a yellow Ford truck to try to give us a boost. But our car ignored the energy from the yellow beast and remained lifeless.

Ruling out the battery, they diagnosed our car, “It’s the starter. You’ll have to call a mechanic.”

My mind went back to the “Where do we stay? How do we afford this? Where do we call a tow truck?” while my husband informed them that we had exhausted all mechanic options and would have to stay the weekend.

They pushed our vehicle away from the gas pumps, then Chuck, the owner of the yellow beast, said, “Call Wild Horse Service Center in DeBeque – see if they can change the starter for you.”

Husband Josh and I headed inside to call the shop thirteen miles away. We got the response we expected, “Sorry, we don’t do work on weekends.” Just then Chuck walked in and took the receiver, “Hey, this is Chuck. Listen, these guys are from Canada. They need to get going by noon (it was 10:30). If I take him to get a starter, can you put it in for him?”

Minutes later, Chuck hung up with a, “They’ll do it.”

He then drove Josh to Napa to buy a starter. The lady at the counter said, “If you bring back the old one, we’ll refund you $60.” Then, knowing we were out-of-country, she automatically refunded the money to us, saying Chuck could return the part later. (I have never in my life heard of a store doing that.)

Chuck said he would be glad to and told her he was going to chain us up and tow us behind his truck to DeBeque. When she expressed concern that it might ruin our transmission, he had her call a Ford dealer and they learned that our Taurus would be fine.

Soon, Chuck and Josh returned to the gas station and chained up our car. When we reached Wild Horse Service Center, Josh and I exchanged glances. This was the last place we would take our car for repairs. But we were desperate.

Nick dropped what he was doing that warm Saturday and went to work on our car. Meanwhile, we sat in the shop talking to his assistant about Canada and road trips and exchange rates. Forty-five minutes sped by, and in walked Nick.

“Twenty-five dollars,” he said.

What? Most mechanics charge $25 just to lift the hood! $25? On a Saturday? When you don’t usually work? When we intrude on your day? $25? My mind whirled, but I said nothing. We thanked them profusely and were soon back in our car and on our way (by noon).

Josh had tried to repay Chuck – after all, he had found us a mechanic, taken Josh to get a new part, and had towed us thirteen miles.

“I just like to help people,” he said.

“But you really helped us. .”

“I know. I just like to help people.”

We will never forget Chuck. We will never forget Wild Horse. We will never forget Parachute, Colo. When we returned home, people asked for the highlight of our trip. Often our first story said nothing of Tom Cruise, nothing of the tall trees of California, and nothing of the glitter of Vegas. It simply tells of Chuck, Wild Horse, and Parachute – a person, a shop, and a town who erased our slavery to the corporate, grew our trust in the individual, and made us want to do things “just because we like to help people.”

Tammy Wood is a senior writer and editor at a local television station in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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