I.3: Of Books and Covers (Marcella Krupa)

“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”

William Penn

It was the end of May in 2001 after a seemingly endless winter when my husband Mike, my eighty-three-year-old father and I set out on a fishing holiday. It was not only the prospect of good fishing that lured us to the Great Outdoors at Pine Lodge on Nimpo Lake but the need of for tranquility and rest in beautiful, unspoiled surroundings. Our destination lay between Williams Lake and Bella Coola in central B.C., heart of the Chilcotin country.

Though our trip to Nimpo had become an annual event, my two men were eager as boys on their first fishing trip. Fishing, for me, is only a sometime thing. My great pleasure comes from sitting at the lakeshore with coffee and a good book, watching the loons, herons and a great variety of wildlife. Having a break from my busy office schedule also adds considerably to the pleasure.

We left Vancouver on a fine Saturday morning, stopping in Williams Lake for lunch and some last-minute shopping. Our Ford Aerostar was packed to the roof with food and fishing gear.

We had driven perhaps five kilometers beyond Williams Lake when trouble started. Steam was emanating from under the hood accompanied by a loud hissing sound. Mike pulled on to the shoulder. When he raised the hood we saw greenish cooling fluid dripping from the engine.

There was only one option – to locate a tow truck and have it towed in for repairs. We had seen a well-known auto supply store and repair shop in Williams Lake, so I went to the opposite side of the road hoping to hitch a ride into town. Luckily, a nice young lady soon stopped and gave me a lift to a pay phone where I was able summon a tow truck. The same young lady was even kind enough to drive me back to our disabled vehicle.

I found Mike looking helplessly under the hood with father worried that our fishing trip would be cancelled. To allay my nervousness, I started walking up and down the road to kill the half hour in which the tow truck operator promised to arrive. I found myself on a hill out of sight of our van and my family when from the west I could see a vehicle approaching. It turned out to be a rusty old van and I was quite surprised when it stopped. Two young men in their early twenties stepped out. This was in a desolate area and their appearance gave me some cause for alarm as they walked across the road towards me. They wore old T-shirts, ripped jeans, long unkempt hair and had obviously not shaved for days. I was scared and my heart was pounding. My first impulse was to run from these frightening characters.

But another part of my brain told me not to panic. They approached me, asking if we were having car trouble. I told them of our predicament as best I could and that a tow truck was on its way. As we talked we started walking down the hill to our vehicle. The bigger man said his name was John and his companion introduced himself as Tom. I slowly lost my fear of them, realizing that these two young men were friendly, polite and seemed very knowledgeable about car repairs.

After further introduction to the menfolk, we learned they were working at a Nimpo Lake logging camp and regularly had to do a lot of work on their van in order to keep it running. Peering under the hood of our still-steaming vehicle, they quickly diagnosed the problem.

“Aha!” John exclaimed. “Your heating cord has given up the ghost. If they have the part at the garage, it shouldn’t take them too long to set things right.”

Mike looked at me and shrugged. Until that moment, we had both thought a ‘heating cord’ was something one plugged in to the block heater, not something that could immobilize an engine. Live and learn.

In a short while the tow truck arrived. Since the operator could only accommodate two passengers in his cab, I volunteered to ride into town with our new-found acquaintances. We followed the tow truck to the service centre parking lot where we hoped to have the necessary repairs made. For some reason the two young loggers with the battered van chose to make sure we would get assistance. The garage manager was anything but helpful, saying they were very busy and that we should come back on Monday.

I tried to explain to him that we were on our way to Nimpo Lake and that my aged father was with us and that he had difficulty walking. The manager’s reply: “Didn’t you hear me say that we were busy?” He thereupon turned away to another customer.

At this point John and Tom took over. They asked the manager if they could at least buy the necessary parts. Fortunately, the parts were available and those two “creepy guys’ of whom I had been so afraid started effecting the necessary repairs right there in the shop parking lot. Their old van held all the tools they needed. While Tom did the actual work, John, his partner acted as helper, passing the tools as required. To watch them, one would think they had done nothing else in their lives but change heating cords on Aerostars.

In less than an hour the work was completed and it was only at our insistence that they accepted a small honorarium for their efforts. Soon we were on the road again with myself taking over the driving as the men enjoyed a well-deserved siesta.

In the lonely 200 kilometer stretch from Williams Lake to Nimpo, we did not meet a single other vehicle. A thought kept running through my mind. It’s a miracle! I thought. A miracle! What would we have done had our breakdown occurred after we had passed Tom and John, those two Good Samaritans, on the road? I also felt a twinge of guilt for pre-judging them based on their appearance and my initial fear. How lucky we were to have those two rough-hewn but kindly young men stop to help us.

I also thought of the old proverb: “Never judge a book by its cover.”