In the five years I've had my truck, the Gen. Grant, it's never failed me.
Whether I'm scaling down the side of a snowy mountain or tooling around town, I've never had a breakdown ... until last week when I left work on my lunch hour to grab some eats and load my truck for the weekend.
I parted from the Sun-Star a little after noon and made it to the corner of G Street and Alexander Avenue when the General cut loose with a sputter and gave out, leaving me stranded.
Knowing this could deny me my weekend hunt, I became concerned, but the situation quickly changed from a solitary problem to a true showing of Mercedian good will.
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My first saving grace came from Online Editor Brandon Bowers and reporter Ameera Butt, who came to the rescue and helped me push my steel horse into the closest parking lot we could find.
I popped the hood and studied the engine (mostly pretending to know what I was looking at) and discovered that a battery terminal had rusted out and popped off.
Knowing there wasn't much more they could do, Ameera and Brandon headed back to the Sun-Star, while I hung out with my truck and fiddled with the battery terminal.
It didn't take long before a short, middle-aged Hispanic man -- Javier -- came over to my rig. He looked under the hood, played with a few components, then climbed in the front seat of the General and tried to give it a start. Nothing.
He shrugged his shoulders and I shrugged back.
"Broken," I said, pointing to the battery. The language barrier left us using more sign language than words.
I thanked him for giving it a shot, and waved good-bye as he left the parking lot.
I left, too, returning to the General's side after finishing my day's tasks.
Still clueless as to how I'd fix the problem, I stood in the 100-degree sun staring and pacing back and forth -- missing a hunting weekend is never an option for me.
A few minutes later, Javier reappeared and tried a few of the same techniques we tried before, and the results didn't change.
As he got ready to leave, he said, "You wait, you wait here."
So I waited.
About 30 minutes had passed by the time Javier came back with a big bag of tools and automotive components. After stripping some wires and tightening some bolts, Javier had installed a new, heavy-duty battery terminal on my truck.
The General seemed to approve of the work, and started right up.
I couldn't thank Javier enough, and tried to give him some money for the hours he spent with me in the hot sun trying to get my truck going.
When I pulled out my wallet, he kept repeating the word "favor" and brushed off the idea of me giving him any money.
I asked him to at least allow me to pay for the part, and, with reluctance, he finally accepted the $10 bill I put in his palm.
Before we shook hands and said good-bye, he mentioned that he's a janitor and gave me a card, saying next time I need my carpets cleaned, give him a call.
It didn't take long before I was tearing down Pacheco Pass and climbing the hills up to my hunting grounds.
I would've liked to end this story with me shooting a big buck thanks to Javier's repair, but I can't.
I did, however, see the first legal buck of the season over the weekend -- a respectable forked horn that I passed up in anticipation of a bigger one in the coming weeks.
And the rest of the weekend certainly didn't disappoint.
My hunting partners and I managed to wrangle up a mighty-big rattle snake that we skinned and deep-fried that night.
So thank you, Javier, for the chance at a nice buck and the rattler hors d'oeuvres I was able to enjoy because of your generous handiwork.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.