I looked forward to meeting her. I loaded my worldly goods into my old truck, and my little mare into the trailer, and we set off westbound on I-40. Smooth driving — till we came to that big climb just east of Asheville.
On the way up the mountain, something went horribly wrong. The truck failed to shift down and quickly lost power. Even when I shifted manually down to second gear, it barely limped along. The “Check Engine” light went on. We climbed the entire grade on the shoulder at 20 mph, and once we reached the crest, I could smell something nasty from the front of the truck. Then I lost my power steering.
As I wrestled the rig onto the exit ramp at Swannanoa, I heard a loud clunk under the hood. Great. Have I blown a piston? I crept into the BP station at the corner of Highway 70, threw the truck into Park, checked on the horse (who seemed unfazed) and threw the hood up. Hmmm. The serpentine belt was missing. All I could see was a bunch of naked pulleys. That must have been the clunk.
OK. So I have something similar to AAA that’s for people who haul horse trailers. I called the 800 number and found, to my dismay, that my membership renewal hadn’t been processed, and no, I couldn’t talk to the office because it was a Sunday.
So I called Connie, who, at this point, I had still never met face to face. And whose only question was: what size tow ball do I need? My trailer takes a 2-inch, I told her. I’ll call you right back, she said.
A few minutes later, Connie was on the phone again. She’d found a 2-inch tow ball. I’ll be there in 40 minutes, she said.
And so she was.
First we had to get Lady off the trailer (you can’t leave a horse on an unhitched trailer). Lady (remarkably and uncharacteristically calm through all this) backed off the trailer, and Connie walked her around between the gas pumps while customers looked on in bemusement and I cranked the jack, unhooked the chains and managed to persuade the wounded old Silverado to move a few yards forward, leaving room for Connie’s Tahoe to back up to the trailer.
Then it was my turn to hold on to the horse while Connie backed the Tahoe up. At which point we discovered — hallelujah! — that she even had the right socket for my trailer’s electrical plug. It was dark by now. We’d have lights!
And so — trailer hitched up, horse reloaded, and having secured permission to leave the crippled Silverado overnight at the gas station — we headed west, to Connie’s barn, where another set of folks I’d never met had a stall ready for Lady.
On Monday I got things straightened out with the road service folks, and the truck found its way to Walker’s Service, where they fixed in it a couple of hours, and I found myself feeling strangely at home in a place I’d lived a total of 24 hours.
It says something about a place, this kindness to newcomers. Thanks, Haywood County.
Connie wouldn’t even let me pay for her gas.