Neighborly love and a small misunderstanding
In my estimation the best country kinds of comedies are those that happen in real life. That’s probably because I can easily put myself in the protagonist’s shoes, but at the same time I’m darn glad the incident occurred in their shoes and not mine. That is exactly how I felt when I heard this story about some country folks back in the ’50s or ’60s. This group of country folk lived in the northeast corner of Nebraska, but that’s not to say this sort of thing couldn’t have happened anywhere in rural America. The truck owner in the story is a distant cousin of mine and this story has been handed down in verbal form to all of our relatives – that is until it reached me – who is inclined to write down every good story that makes one laugh or cry. So here’s the story:
Carl needed to transport some cattle to the sale barn on Friday, but he didn’t have a truck. He took his seed corn cap off his head and scratched it – his head that is. Scratches really can be magical because right then, Carl remembered his good neighbor down the road. By golly – that Arland Palmer had a truck! Arland was a good sort of guy too. Why, he and Carl both attended the Stark Valley Methodist Country Church. And just this last Sunday the new young pastor had commended the congregation on their love for their neighbors. Without another thought, Carl headed down the road to talk to Arland.
“Sure Carl, no problem.” Arland nodded toward the truck that sat parked across the farmyard. “Take it. I won’t be needing it for a few days.”
Carl, being a laid back sort of guy, didn’t get around to returning the truck as soon as he probably should have. The weekend had come and the misses had some plans. Then Monday he had to catch up on some things around the place; but he had it on today’s list. As soon as he got home from doing business in town, he would get the truck back to Arland.
Carl was about halfway home when he saw an oncoming truck cresting the hill in front of him. There could be no mistake about it. Arland’s truck was most likely the only green one in this, sparsely populated county and without a doubt, the only one with a bent right fender and a faded red box that swayed to the left. He felt irresponsible that Arland had had to come over to his place to get his own truck. But when Carl got close enough to see into the cab his mouth dropped open, looking very much like you could insert a football into it. Carl’s stomach began tightening in knots when he didn’t recognize the cowboy hat perched on the driver’s head. He knew his neighbors’ hats as well as he knew their vehicles. This was NO neighbor!
“I’m reporting a stolen truck,” Carl bellowed into the receiver at the road side gas station. As he jumped back into his car, a patrol car sped by; lights flashing and the siren screaming.
Excitement like this just didn’t happen every day in Pierce County. It was the type of quiet rural community where people sat on their porches in the evenings and watched the squirrels stealing seed out of the bird feeders. That was about as much crime as there was in these parts.
Carl wasn’t about to miss out on this excitement. After all, he was partially to thank for it. He turned his car around and headed back down the highway he had just come. He was anxious to see this bum apprehended and Arland’s truck returned safe and sound.
Carl was well into adjoining Madison County before he saw the flashing lights on several vehicles up ahead. That was fast thinking on the officer’s part to radio ahead to have a road block set up, Carl figured. He breathed a sigh of relief to see the green truck sitting unscathed at the side of the road. And even better, two officers had the culprit spread eagle against the truck. Carl noticed the one officer kept a tight grip on his pistol while the other did the necessary frisking. More squad cars were pulling up as Carl stepped out of his car. Wow, thought Carl – they’ve called in a bunch of backup! This guy must be considered dangerous! Maybe, I’ve helped apprehend an escapee from the state prison. Or you know, thought Carl – he sort of looks like that poster I saw at the post office today.
As Carl made wide strides toward the officers he heard his name being called. He figured the dispatcher had given the officers his name and they were anxious to question him about the sequence of events so it could all be written up accurately in tomorrow’s newspaper. But the voice sounded agitated – and familiar! Where had he heard that voice before? As he got a little closer to the scene he realized it was the apprehended that was calling his name. The knots in Carl’s stomach had just recovered when they instantly began knotting up again. That voice was the one he heard every Sunday from the pulpit!
“Carl, thank God you are here! Will you clear up this misunderstanding for these officers, pleeeeassse? They don’t believe a word I say. I told them I’m the owner’s pastor and that he told me to help myself to the truck.”
“It’s okay,” Carl said rather sheepishly to the officer that still had his hand on his gun. “I’m afraid there’s been a terrible mistake. I’ve just never seen the Reverend in a cowboy hat,” Carl stammered.
The officers shook their heads, obviously disappointed their picture wouldn’t be on the front page of “The Pierce County Leader” in the morning.
“Gosh Pastor, I’m really sorry about all of this,” Carl said as he walked the young man back to the truck.
“Ah, it all worked out. No harm done.”
“Pastor,” Carl said determinedly, “maybe next time you borrow a vehicle you should wear your Sunday collar.”