The Remarkable Rescue of Moby Truck

Stories of unusual circumstances, help received, and miracles witnessed are important parts of your memoir or family history. We love to share our memories of these events and marvel at the outcomes. These tales often begin the discussion, “Do you believe in coincidence?” Entire books have been written devoted to describing events somewhere on the out-of-the-ordinary scale. Here’s one of mine to inspire you to write your own or record those that have been passed down in your own family history.
 

God has come through with amazing goodness in my life

so many times in my five-plus decades on the planet.


And these are just the events I’m aware of! Since my writing and editing sandbox is memoir and family history, I’ll share a personal memory my family still likes to talk about. Come along on the journey with me. 

One beautiful New Mexico fall day my husband and I took our three children, all under six, up to our favorite mountain canyon a few hours away for a day trip picnic. We drove an enormous white aging crew cab truck the kids had nicknamed “The Big White Bumpy Truck”. I called it Moby, in a nod to a literary favorite. Yes, I do laugh at my own jokes! 

Our much-loved routine was to let the kids unbuckle their seatbelts once we turned off onto the slow-going dirt road that led through the scattered junipers dotting the mesa. We drove with the windows down, enjoying the sharp clean smell of the juniper trees. The kids loved standing in the back seat, riding the bumps and swerves with the old truck’s suspension as their dad carefully navigated the last miles. There’s nothing quite like the screeches and giggles of delighted children.
 

Down in the depths of the canyon, at the bottom of

yet another rutted, steep dirt road…


we played in the creek, ran around, chased each other, and had loads of fun for several hours. This is how you wear out young kids, right? When it came time to hop back in Moby and head home late that afternoon, the engine wouldn’t turn over. Hubby tried all the tricks in his book to get it to start. We looked at each other as only privately panicking parents can, while the kids played with the dog and ate the picnic leftovers. 

Moby’s starter had gone out in a big way and we weren’t going anywhere.  Did I mention it gets really cold at night at this elevation in these NM mountains? The nearest town was two hours away. Picnic food reduced to crumbs, only marshmallows and hot chocolate packets left, kids tired and happily grubby, we thought about what to do and prayed.  

Hubby started the long hike down the valley to the rocky road back out of the canyon in hopes of hitching a ride and getting help. Not too far down the single track road, he was met by a father and son out bear hunting. Yes, you heard it right. There are bears in these mountains. And mountain lions. And rattlesnakes. They voluntarily cut short their hunt that day and offered to drive him out to Silver City two hours away. He gratefully accepted.

The kids and I bundled up in our coats as the sun moved lower behind the towering pines, and I determined to make this something of an adventure. My parents had instilled this important concept and life skill in my brother and me during many a long summer road trip full of detours and unexpected challenges when we were kids. It has stood me well and helped to create good memories even in the middle of inevitable travel “adventures”.
 

So, I made more hot chocolate over the fire and we roasted more marshmallows. The rest of the s’more fixings had been gobbled up hours ago.


And I prayed. Boy, did I pray! I learned later that Hubby was praying the whole time too on his parts sourcing mission. Intensely uncomfortable at the necessity of leaving his wife and kids down in the canyon bottom with night closing in, he had no choice but to get a new starter as soon as possible and return to put it in. No tow trucks in that part of the country. No AAA, no phones, nearest house miles away. We’d spent most of our lives camping and backpacking so he held onto that thought.

While cleaning marshmallow residue and dirt off my youngest’s face as the sun dropped behind the ridge I thought, Hmmm, I’m going to try one more time to get this thing started.
 

“Kids, everybody get back in the car.”


“Dear Lord please just let it start…” I turned the key, nothing. Turned it again, afraid of draining the battery. Nothing. Thought about bears. Prayed again and turned the key one more time, splutter, cough, grind…Glory be, it turned over! I was ecstatic! And was amped up with way too much adrenaline to focus on how terrified I am to drive the narrow dirt roads hanging over these mountain valleys. 

I put out the campfire, buckled the kids in and ordered them to sit tight, and began a white-knuckled creep in the one-ton behemoth up the road, straddling ruts, avoiding axle killing large rocks, trying to hug the inside edge of the road. And lovingly commanded,
 

“Don’t talk to Mommy right now.”


All the while praying no one would come driving toward us from the other direction. There’s no room to turn around, barely enough room to pass, and let’s just say that my backing up skills leave much to be desired. When I gunned the gas and topped that last rise to the mesa I was shaking. I reassured the kids, told them I loved them and could talk again, and just eased the truck across the flats toward the setting sun. We sang a few silly songs and reached the county road on the other side, old Moby still chugging along without any hitch in its get-along.

Heading down the backroad highway toward home I parked in front of a tiny pie and coffee café catering to area ranchers. I left the truck running and prayed the kids would sit still while I ran in, letting the old screen door slam, and begged use of the vintage phone hanging on the wall. My parting words to the kids, “Nobody move from your seat! Don’t touch anything. Mommy will be right back.” I couldn’t shut the truck off or it probably wouldn’t start again. Somehow, I reached my husband who had made it home for parts and help (no cell phones in those days). I told him we were fine, were just going to drive home, and I wasn’t going to stop for anything. Thank you, Jesus! 

End of the story, Hubby replaced the worn-out starter that week and we were reminded of the many strings God pulls to take care of us. We ate beans and tortillas for a month to pay for the unexpected expense. I also learned that in spite of fear, I can do more than I think I can by the grace of God. I remain a big chicken when it comes to driving twisty mountain roads but I can do it. Our grown kids still love hearing this story retold and it reminds us of the many adventures we’ve shared.
 

Want another marshmallow anybody?


What’s your story? I’d love to hear about one of your family adventures!
Karen 

#familyhistory #memoirwriting #lifestory #journalprompts #familylife

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How to Write About Your “WHEN”

Remember when…?

Do your stories often start out, “When I was little…” or “When I traveled to X that summer…” or maybe “When we lived on the ranch…”? Master outdoor humor writer Patrick McManus wrote many books set during the WHEN of his growing up years with his best friend Crazy Eddie. If you haven’t sampled his stories try this one, The Grasshopper Trap.

Your WHEN, like the other memoir keys, will overlap with the other  aspects of your story. However, this one serves as the large, solid master key in jump starting your memoir. You get to decide when to focus your story. Spend time reflecting on the times that have stayed fresh in your memory, what stands out? When does your mind like to travel back to? If you’re not sure, talk it over with friends or family and try to narrow down your story to an impactful time frame. Often when we talk our story out with others or ask them what stories they hear us tell the most, we will find our WHEN. You may be surprised at the feedback  others give you about the stories and events they find most intriguing  in your life.  Remember, the decision is yours but don’t be afraid to explore a bit before you settle on your WHEN.

Memoirs can be narrowly focused on a short time period and be as short as a personal essay or book length. They can also cover an entire life…the choice is up to you. What stands out most to you as you think back over your life and times? Think about where the story lies, what grabs your heart, mind and soul?

Photos are great tool for narrowing down your WHEN. Go through your collection and set aside a few extra photos that illustrate this well for you. It’s good to have choices and your memories will be prompted by different images, see where they take you.

If you’re working on someone else’s story what memories tend to come up repeatedly when you’re talking with them? The answer to this question will help you focus your WHEN. Your chosen time might be dependent upon a memorable historical event or season. For example, the novel The Grapes of Wrath focuses on one family during the Great Depression. The Journals of Lewis and Clark cover one massive exploration event. The Diary of Anne Frank is constrained not only in its “when” but its location.

Look for the key moments and pay attention to what else was going on in the world at that time. This will often help shape the other sections of your memoir, especially the WHY.  Explore  the nature of your story’s WHEN, one story at a time. If you’re working with a grandparent or other elder, or perhaps even someone who’s no longer alive, this technique works well. Good questions to ask might be related to technological advancements like a lunar landing, world shaking events like wars and  natural disasters, or the rise or fall of a world leader. Just as we’re sharing stories of our experiences during this worldwide pandemic, others did the same thing during the 1918 flu epidemic. These are universal human experiences full of story.

If your WHEN covers childhood, mine the events of that time for relevant material, they are some of our favorite recollections. There are countless television shows, movies, and books written about childhood memories. Remember the much-loved Wonder Years television series? Or  The Waltons? These story lines did an amazing job of tying in larger societal events in the context of their impact on the characters. Memoirs work the same way. Your impressions and reactions to the events you witnessed at that specific point in time are unique to you but will resonate with others in the universal human language of emotion.

Perhaps your story will center around  coming-of-age or a season of loving a favorite pet.  The book Rascal, by Sterling North tells the delightful story of one young boy’s pet racoon. Fiction uses the same technique, think about the narrow time setting in To Kill a Mockingbird.

The stories we tell around the family dinner table or at holiday gatherings often start with the phrase “Remember when…?” Revisit these conversations in your mind and as you review your photographs, it will help you define the time setting of your story. Think both broad and narrow; your WHEN might involve personal or family life events that charted the course of your own days. Or historical events you witnessed may call you to share your perspective. You were there, you lived it, share your memories. Brainstorm what you felt, saw and heard. You get the idea, free write everything you can think of.

Remember your first love? That first car or job or when you first moved out on your own? Your wedding day or the birth of your children?  Take your pick, there’s a wealth of memories lying behind the door your WHEN key will unlock. Involve your senses as you take notes and prep for working on this part of your story. What did the flowers look and smell like? How about the food that was served? Maybe the smell of fresh tilled fields always takes you back to that childhood summer on the farm. Do you remember the first time you went to the fair; the smell of corndogs and cotton candy mixed with the livestock barns? Unforgettable! Remember…the smell of a summer rainstorm, walking a favorite dog and hugging his soft side, the taste of Grandma’s fresh chocolate chip cookies, the smell of your great uncle’s pipe tobacco, the stories heard while spending time with a loved grandparent.

Pay attention to what stands out as you write down or record your memories, note the emotions and thoughts that rise up repeatedly. This is most often where your story lies – its the WHEN key under the mat, the sign post for your memoir. Give the future a gift of memories, personal and world history from your perspective.

Spend some time choosing your WHEN, you’ll be glad you did. This key will unlock doors and the stories will come tumbling out.

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New Mexico Spring–a Tale of Kites, Dirt and Snow

New Mexico is many beautiful things. One thing it is never is boring! The past few days—mind you, just before spring officially began–brought an incredible variety of weather. San Augustin Pass, our route over the scenic Organ Mountains, was closed due to wind and hit a 104 mph gust. That is comparable to a Category 2 hurricane people! Then it closed again due to a snowstorm. The plows were dusted off, literally, and sent up the mountain to scoop away the white stuff.

Spring winds here are normal and remind me of the fun my brother and I used to have building kites out of newspaper and bamboo. My dad used to egg us on with stories of the six foot kite he built that really did tug him off the ground. Fired up by the lure of flight, we’d trek to the drainage ditch to cut down long dry bamboo poles. After dragging them home across plowed fields, we’d collect newspaper, glue, rags and string from Mom, then turn the living room floor into a kite factory.

A couple of hours later we’d ease our creations out the door and head to the pasture or the dirt lot behind the house to see if we could achieve flight. Oh, sweet anticipation! We’d yell with the thrill of feeling the wind pull and snap those ragged homemade kites up like sails. Feeling the string yank the tethers on our scrawny wrists, we were sure that with the next gust we would fly.

We never did but we sure got close a few times!

May your spring be joyful and tug at your soul,

Karen

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    Karen Ray

    Address: 2877 Willow Creek Lane, Las Cruces, NM, 88007

    Phone: 575-323-1048


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