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Kindness from strangers


My son, Josh, 14 then, and I were lizard collecting in northern Arizona. It was unseasonably cold and we saw few lizards. We were off in some very remote mountains and when I stupidly tried to go where no 4 wheel drive would make it, I immediately blew out a tire on my car, an old 1988 Mazda 626. Always prepared, I discovered our jack was rusted closed, and that the spare tire was flat.
We had seen no one on this deserted dirt road and started to hike. It was going to be a very long hike. After about an hour a pickup truck with several cowboys came down the road. They were looking for some wayward horses of theirs. They were suntanned, rangy and tough looking, spoke very little, and wore 45 revolvers on their hips, but they quickly drove us back to our car. They took the spare tire and said they’d be back.
An hour later they showed up, spare tire fixed, and with their own huge jack, quickly fixed us up.
We carefully drove back to town, Kingman, Arizona, several hours away. It was almost dark but we found an open tire place and bought a new tire. We usually go cheap and sleep outside and eat camp grub, but this time we decided to splurge. I asked the auto guys where there was a restaurant that you could get a good meal. They said the steak house just across the street.
So we lived it up and went to the steak house. It was a neat place, wooden walls, sawdust on the floor, big portions of food, and lots of customers. We had a wonderful meal, talking mostly about how lucky we were to have made it out so unscratched and how generous those silent cowboys had been. When I’d tried to give them 20 bucks for all their troubles, they’d flatly refused.
At last, full and feeling much better, we got up to leave. When I went to pay, the lady told us, “Your bill has already been paid.”
I asked her who had paid it and she said that an older couple sitting near us, who had already left, had paid it. “They said they really liked the way you two related to each other,” the waitress told us.
It’s been almost ten years now, but that still remains one of my all time favorite restaurant meals. Great to see that kindness to strangers is still alive and well in Arizona.

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Thomas Ogren is the author of Allergy-Free Gardening, Ten Speed Press. Tom does consulting the Canadian and American Lung Associations. He has appeared on HGTV and The Discovery Channel. His book, Safe Sex in the Garden, was published in 2003. In 2004 Time Warner Books, What the Experts May NOT Tell You About: Growing the Perfect Lawn. His website:
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