Man without a country

Michael McGuire

Have you ever been stranded?

It’s happened to me a few times.

Once was in rural Tennessee after taking a “short cut.” My friends and I were stuck in traffic for 18 hours with an over-heated RV – surrounded by moonshine, bongo-blasting hippies and a couple thousand prized Holsteins. All three tasted horrific. But in a pinch they complimented each other nicely.

The second time was in Colorado. I had walked nearly five miles down a nasty mountain road (after offending several native Arkansians and being kicked out of their car for telling a foul joke about hogs and breakfast food), only to find an eerie but well lit 7/11 being manned by 6 Senegalese nationals. After haggling with them for 15 minutes over the purchase of a pre-paid phone card, it became clear to me that these gas station attendants – in the middle of the Rocky Mountains – only spoke French. That is until I walked out the door and one of them laughed and yelled, “Hey chunk, you told the ‘DINER? YOU BROUGHT HER!’ joke again, didn’t you?” After they broke into hysterics, I knew that it was a long walk of shame I had made before.

My most recent experience was much more pleasant. I was trapped in Greene during Thursday’s rain storm. Not that being stuck overnight 25 miles from home in flash flooding is fun, but not having to eat anybody, or tell bad jokes in French to good people from Arkansas (?), is like finding $20 in somebody else’s gym bag…or it’s like (last) Christmas…whatever.

I was hold-up at the Greene Firehouse, and everyone there was great. They let us use their phones, eat their food, watch their TV, hang-out in their garage and slide down the greased pole. OK that last part was a lie…Greene’s pole is not greased. But now I do wish that I had been. Hindsight is 20/20.

It was amazing to watch those guys work. The second they got back from a call, they would head right back out to another. And they never appeared to be scared or nervous. They just did what they had to do, no questions asked. And when they weren’t out helping people, they were in the station helping us. I give them a lot of credit.

Assistant Fire Chief Scott Hubbard was nice enough to let me ride with him, and we drove around flood damaged Greene for about a half-hour. We looked at cars buried under water over at the Raymond Corporation, and assessed possible flooding at the river. When we got back I listened to the firefighters talk about what they saw, and most of them acknowledged how unexpected, and how quickly the weather had gotten out of control. One gentlemen described a creek that became diverted by debris, and routed itself through someone’s house. Many other similar stories made their way back to the garage.

The rain took a long break from about 7:30 p.m. until about 10:30 p.m., and by that time I was bushed. Things slowed down at the station too. I was welcomed to sleep there, but the white fold-out tables acted a bit sheepish when I administered the “suck-in and slide-on” tactical maneuver. So I decided I’d just sleep in my car parked out on the street.

Not quite ready to suffer some bed-time KIX 94 in the car, I took a walk around Greene. It was pretty, and even though I was alone, cold, and wearing a huge yellow trench coat (because of which I was mistakenly reported over the scanner as a school bus full of children that was caught in a mudslide) I never once felt alone, or like a man without a country (or a phone card). Which is unlike all the other times I’ve been stranded. Thanks Greene Fire Department.