Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Story by Randy Grathen
Laurie and I had been on vacation in Florida and were headed back to Wisconsin with one final stop on our itinerary, to see my sister and her husband in Cary, North Carolina. This was in the mid 70’s. No GPS - we had road maps. No cell phones - you stopped at a phone booth. (coins only, no paper.) No credit cards – it was Traveler’s Checks or pay cash as you go. But we had cruise control, air conditioning and a working radio. What more could you want? Our Oldsmobile Delta 88, otherwise known as a land-yacht, had a 455 cubic inch engine, (that’s a 7.5 L for you youngsters) 390 horsepower, and back then no one cared about miles per gallon because fuel was about $0.40 cents a gallon. Ah, the good old days.
By the way, paper maps never got you lost like a GPS can. You might misread them, but it isn't the map’s fault.
So, we’re in the home stretch somewhere in South Carolina on an interstate when suddenly we get a flat tire. We were just coming into a town, but we were on a limited access highway meaning there were few on/off ramps. I had no choice but to pull over onto the shoulder.
The trunk was full of luggage, and as you know, the spare tire, jack and tire iron are ALWAYS in the bottom of the trunk under everything else.
I had just dug down to the bottom of the trunk when a man’s voice behind me asked “Can I help you with that tire?” I look up expecting to see a highway patrolman or another motorist, but it was just a guy, and no vehicle in sight. He was an older gentleman, scruffily dressed in cowboy boots, jeans, shirt, and cowboy hat. We were stopped between two off-ramps about a mile apart. He hadn’t been hitchhiking, we would have seen him on the side of the road when we pulled over, so where in the world did this guy come from??? By now, I had the tire out of the trunk, the jack under the car, and he’s got the tire iron and started removing the lug nuts. While he’s working on the tire, he asked me “Where you headed son?” He was looking for a ride. Well, Laurie has a purse full of cash, and traveler’s checks, he’s looking for a ride and he’s got my tire iron in his hand. Laurie starting to get nervous. She's afraid he’d whack me over the head with the tire iron and rob us. It’s amazing how quickly our imaginations can get out of hand.
She looked across the highway and spotted a motel on the other side of the highway, so she said “we’ve traveled far enough for one day. I’ll go get us a room at the motel while you finish changing the tire.” While all this was going on the guy had already swapped out the tire and started putting things back in the trunk. I told him we were going to Cary, North Carolina, but we had been driving from Florida and were tired, so my wife went to get us a motel room. He said “Ok, thank you.” and walk off. I’m the one who should have said “thank you.”
If this wasn’t strange enough already, it gets stranger. The trunk was repacked, the guy walked off and I was waving for Laurie to come back over to the car. She yelled “NO!” “Come and get me!” What I hadn’t noticed before was there was a fence running along both sides of the highway to keep critters off the road. She had to climb over it once and wasn’t about to do it again. Well, I took off for the off ramp a ½ mile up ahead. It was then I realize the Cowboy was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t hitchhiking. He couldn’t have climbed the fence, and not a single car had passed us from the time he walked away. No one would have had time to stop and pick him up, and he couldn’t have made it to the off ramp in such a short amount of time. I looked for him along the side of the road the whole time I was driving to the off ramp. He seemed to have just vanished.
When I finally got back around to where Laurie was waiting, she still had to climb back over the fence but at least I was there to help her over. She asked me “What happened with the guy?” I told her I didn’t know, but he wasn’t anywhere along the road when I drove to the off ramp.
Suddenly I remembered when he asked me “Where you headed son?” He actually said, “Where are you headed my son?” He said, “MY son.” That was odd unless...
Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
We will never know if we had had an opportunity to entertain an Angel with a tire iron, but if we did – I blew it!
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