May 21, 2022

Botu Linum

The Car & Automotive Devotees

Stallard: Change of direction was sent from above | Opinion

3 min read

U.S. 259 — The last thing I wanted to do Thursday was change a flat tire on the side of a busy highway as the temperature dropped and the cold wind blew harder by the minute.

Especially when it wasn’t even my tire.

But, there I was, in my nice work clothes, trying to explain to the old man and woman in the small car I could have the tire changed in 15 minutes and it would be warmer — and safer — if they stayed in my truck.

The old man insisted on his wife staying in my truck, but no way was he going to let me change that tire by myself.

I’m glad. Brute force is my specialty, so I did the work, but only after the old man figured out how to get the spare tire, fancy tire tool and jack out of the trunk.

I had the tire changed and had them on their way in about 20 minutes, and by some miracle I did so without getting a smudge of dirt or grease on my nice work clothes.

Before you think I’m trying to make myself out to be some sort of nice guy for doing a simple act of kindness for an elderly couple, I’ll be honest with you. I initially drove right by them.

About a mile down the road, however, I got a tap on the shoulder, tug at my heart and a small voice in my head telling me to turn around.

I have no doubt who was doing the tapping, tugging and whispering. It was my big brother, Randy.

I’ve written about Randy in this space a couple of times, once when he retired in July after 28 years of service with the Lufkin Police Department and again in November when COVID-19 took him away from us.

I called Randy my hero in those columns, and on Thursday my hero wouldn’t let me drive past a couple of strangers on the side of the road without at least trying to help in some way.

Talk about timing.

I was in Lufkin visiting with my brother Gary and my sister-in-law Lory — Randy’s widow — and taking care of some legal issues regarding Randy’s estate. I hadn’t been back to Lufkin since Randy’s memorial service, and the closer I got to town the more my eyes began to water and my heart began to ache.

Randy was almost always on duty when I drove to or through Lufkin in the past. Our visits were usually short, but I could always at least meet him somewhere and give him one of those bear hugs he always swore displaced a couple of his ribs.

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that Thursday, and I don’t have the words to describe how much that hurt.

When I left, I said a little prayer. I told Randy how much I missed him, and said, “Man, I just wish I had a sign you were still around and looking out for us.”

About 45 minutes later, between Mount Enterprise and Henderson, I got that sign when someone told me to go back and check on that elderly gentleman and his wife.

After I finished changing the tire and the old man packed away the tire tool and jack, he pulled out his billfold and tried to hand me some money.

I refused and told him I was happy to help in honor of my brother — my hero — who would have done the same thing and wouldn’t have needed a nudge from above first.

The old man asked me my name and my brother’s name so he could pray for us, and he said he’s sure my brother was a good man and was proud of me.

As I sat in my truck trying to warm my hands up enough to drive, I said a prayer of my own asking the Man upstairs to give my brother a big bear hug from me.

“And,” I added. “Tell Randy next time he sends me a sign, maybe do it when it’s a little warmer.”