Sunday, June 29, 2003

Looking Into The Sky For Answers: Part One
Copyright (c) 2003 Allen Steadham

I remember sitting on the trunk of the broken-down, dusty, gold-colored 1977 Oldsmobile LS. It was 1992 and I was in a small town called Sierra Vista, about 100 miles east of El Paso, Texas. Looking up at the beautiful blue sky scant with white clouds, sweating from the June heat, I wondered what I’d done to deserve being stranded at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, 600 miles from my home in Austin. This fine specimen of a car had broken down from multiple problems ranging from a stuck thermostat to a sick engine and my friend Bill, a mechanic in addition to being a great drummer, was doing his best to fix the unfixable. I heard him curse as one of the engine bolts broke on the vehicle we had nicknamed “The Deathmobile.”

Looking up to the sky in utter hopelessness, I thought to myself “Okay, God, I can see you’re trying to get my attention…”

I was a 22-year old electric bass guitarist recently divorced from a four-person rock and blues band called the “Killer Tomatahs.” Having gotten the opportunity of a “make or break” gig in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, we had decidedly broke – and this had broken the band, too. The actual break up happened in a border town called Fabens, Texas, at a little orphanage where Bill had grown up. The generosity of strangers had landed us a vehicle home but no guarantee that said-vehicle would actually survive the trip! One hour into our triumphant voyage home proved that to be the case.

Young and determined to defy the source of engine overheating, Bill and I decided to outwit and outlast the car’s problems…yeah, right! We would drive one mile, the engine would begin to overheat and we would have to turn off the car and wait an hour for it to be drivable again. That became very nerve-wracking after 9 hours, realizing we could have probably walked further in that amount of time. But with hundreds of miles to go and all our band equipment and clothes in the car, walking was not an option.

The generosity of another stranger helped get us to Sierra Vista. A retiree named “Gibby” used his RV to literally push the Oldsmobile 18 miles into that next town. Tired and frustrated as we were, a push was a welcome relief and we were immensely grateful for Gibby’s help. Pleased to be of service, the senior citizen drove his RV onward down Interstate 10. We called him our “guardian angel.”

It was mid-morning on a Saturday. Bill felt confident that he could go to a parts store a block away and pick up a gasket for the thermostat. He felt he could get us up and running in no time. Of course, he didn’t count on the whole town shutting down for a rodeo parade. Two hours later, Bill obtained the magic gasket and placed it where it was needed – until something else broke.

Suddenly, our guardian angel reappeared! Gibby had only left to go buy some tools for us to repair the car. For a brief while, hope soared...until that engine bolt broke. Nearing our level of frustration, Gibby had to move on. He had done all he could. We graciously thanked him for all his help and watched the RV drive off again. If even our angel couldn’t help us, we knew we were in trouble.

Bill called the Fabens orphanage to update them on our predicament and ask for help. More help was coming but it was 100 miles away. So we waited. (To Be Continued)

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