Getting Home for Christmas



Six hundred miles from home at Christmas time is a long, long
hill to climb. That is 12 hours of driving, or 14 or 16, but I felt confident
that my old Buick could make the trip. 
My new bride was home with the folks, and that pulled at my heart. But
the commanding office had posted an order, “No furloughs.” 

I used all my persuasive powers but nothing could sway his
decision.  Finally I played my trump
card, “But Sir, she is expecting.” He relented.

Exuberantly I packed the car, filled the gas tank, aired the
tires, and checked the oil gauge. Dawn found me on the road east. I filled the
cab with my gravelly voice singing Christmas carols even including the
Chipmunks’ new song.

I glanced at the instrument panel.  Speed; 55 miles an hour.  Oil pressure; perfect. Gas gauge; full.  Water temperature; pegged on hot! I pulled
off the road and raised the hood…steam enveloped me.  On closer inspection I noted the steam came
from a rusted out freeze plug. A nearby parts house had a fit, and I installed
the errant plug.

Fifty miles on eastward with a song in my heart I heard the
dreaded sound of steam spewing from the engine. 
The heat gage pegged again.  I
pulled into a garage and the man said, “Some of these old cars get hot and need
a new set of spark plugs.”  I bought them
and installed them. I think I noticed a faint smile on his face as I drove

Fifty miles further east and the problem reared its’ ugly
head again. This time I found a station and filled the radiator with water. Fifty
more miles and I had to find water for my huffing beast. I had about driven out
of the valley, and I knew the desert between here and home water was going to
be hard to find. I found the last station, filled the thirsty radiator with
water and bought two five gallon cans. By now I had figured the pattern of my
beast…50 miles and he needed a drink. I filled the cans with water and turned
to crawl over the mountains that separated the valley from the desert.

By now the evening was upon me as the shadows crept longer
and longer. Home seemed to stretch farther and farther away. Out in that bleak
desert I spied a small village. The lights were still on and a garage was
open.  He said, “Some of these old cars
need a new distributor cap as they age.” 
I bought it. He was smiling as I drove away.  Anyway his kids needed a toy for Christmas I
told myself.

As the cool of the evening came on I noticed I could drive 70
miles before needing to water my raging steed. 
But watering holes were becoming fewer and fewer. Somewhere in the inky
night I found another wide place in the road that had a few scattered housed
and one garage…all dark and locked up tight. 
The water cans were empty. A check proved the gas tank was approaching
the same fate.

I napped as best as you can in a crowed car cab. Dawn finally
climbed over the sage brush hills and the station opened. “Gasoline and water
please,” I pleaded.

Some distance on I notice the brush covered hills were now
sporting cedar and live oak trees.  Home
could not be far away.  The last of the
water in my cans proved to pose a problem. A ranch house with a windmill was
visible a few hundred yards off the highway. I took my two empty water cans,
crawled over the fence and came face to face with a growling dog. We had a
conversation. I explained my problem and that my wife and folks were expecting
me home for
Christmas. Could I please have just two cans of water? He relented and I went
on my way.

As dark came I managed to crest the last hill, and drove into
my parents driveway. They were all up and waiting.  We embraced, laughed, and cried. The
Christmas lights on the tree melted away the toil of the last two days.

I never told my commanding office that Alice was just
expecting me home for Christmas.

Comments are closed.