Behind the wheel, I’d been putting miles between us and our cameos in that timeless bittersweet holiday love story; the laughter and tears of parents and children. We’d had the joy of loving those in need and receiving their blessings in return. Needed warmth in the oft-desolate wasteland of the heart. Suddenly, I am shaken from my journey in the land of existential (“dust storms may exist”; “zero visibility possible”*). Deep in the heart of Texas,** the temperature gauge spiked. Oh, shit! Was our good luck running thin? Ahead the two-lane road came to a rise. We pulled off the road feeling small and alone amidst the vast sparse plains and endless blue sky. Prickly pair cactus for miles around and a little Armadillo road kill on the side. Nearby, a hawk perched hungrily watching a meadowlark dart across the road. Mockingbirds and ravens settled on the mesquite trees as if taking their seats for the show. Feeling a little like the wilderness comic, I bowed to the audience and lifted the hood dreading the voice of doom. Somewhere in the midst of that fine German engineering the car sizzled. I knew then we wouldn’t be sleeping that night in New Mexico. Under my breath I hummed the Grateful Dead lyrics “Casey Jones you better watch your speed…trouble ahead, trouble behind.”
The miles of country behind – cotton fields, pecan trees, goats, and the occasional steer – had been punctuated with cell towers. We might feel a bit lost out here in the desert, but we could be found; GPS and handhelds with bars serving as a strong substitute for a bright guiding star. Seconds later Google maps located the nearest VW dealer some 150 miles northwest. Plan B began to take shape. Later that night in an Abilene Best Western, that had room for us, we mused about our best-laid plans and what a roll of the dice can bring. Our luck never really ran thin. It was quite the opposite. Bearing gifts they came to us one following the other. John, our Abilene VW service manager, although miles away inspired confidence as we collaborated via cell phone to diagnose the problem and how to resolve it; Mrs. Wise, a local rancher, stopped and offered comfort making sure we had water and a way forward; and Sergeant-Major, twenty-year career soldier and medic, gave us command over the problem all the while laughing and sharing stories of his life in the army as he towed us west towards the stable, excuse me, garage managed by Donna (where they affectionately called her Ma). We will never forget the Texas magi and their gifts.
* Actual road signs in New Mexico, Land of Enchantment
** In 1923, Brady, Texas was officially designated as the “heart of Texas.”