Down, but not out |

Down, but not out

I glance at the fuel gauge in my Jeep. I have just enough gas to get to Gardnerville. When you live in the “boonies” (Smith Valley), you sometimes cut corners. Today is my bi-monthly shopping trip out of the Valley.

When I crest Jack Wright Pass, I slip into neutral, and coast. Over by Ray May Way, on Highway 395, I coast again. The gauge needle is now in the red. Just a few more miles, and I’ll be at Walmart. I’ve got a list a mile long. We’re out of everything.

I glide triumphantly into the parking lot. Sometimes you have to trust your instincts. I get out of the Jeep, and aim for the store’s front door, eager to start shopping. I reach in my pocket, for my wallet. It isn’t there. I try my hip pocket. I freeze. I’ve left my wallet at home. What am I going to do now? My mind draws a blank. It’s 35 miles back to Smith Valley, my whole day will have to be reorganized. I can’t do anything without money, or credit cards.

I keep walking. I look over at the other people walking into the store. They have money. I don’t. I’m stranded, and the gas tank in the Jeep is bone dry.

A plan emerges. I’ll borrow $20, buy enough gas to get me moving, and ask Orllyene to meet me part way, with my wallet. But who is going to lend me $20? I’m just like those forlorn people who stand by a traffic signal, holding a sign that reads, “Will work to buy gas.”

I walk through the double doors, and see all the overflowing shopping carts. I don’t dare stop walking. The only person I know here is Norma. Several times Norma has graciously coached me through the camera to hardcopy process of making pictures. A miracle occurs; Norma is directly up the aisle from me. I go through the whole rigmarole, about forgetting my wallet with her. “Ron, I don’t have $20 with me,” she says. Ugh. “If they only had a Red Cross center here,” I say to myself, and realize I’m getting marginally delusional.

I scan the store, and at the “20 items or less” register, I see Veda. Veda had an office supply store in the days when I used a typewriter. She’s in the process of closing her register. I walk over, and tell her my tragic story, and with a look that only angels can come up with, says, “let me see.” She pulls out her wallet, finds a debit card, walks over to a cashier, buys a doughnut, and gets $20 cash back and hands it to me.

Isn’t that a wonderful story? Life is about friendship and trust. I only hope I am as trusting as Veda was when someone comes to me with their hand out. And in case you’re wondering, later that day, I paid Veda her $20 back, and gave her some homemade cookies to boot.

Ron Walker can be reached at