I recently told the tale of how T arranged for the whole neighborhood to come set up his new barn for free. It has been requested that I impart the truth about how he and I got it out of that rental truck in the first place.
TRIGGER WARNING: Neither liberals nor conservatives will find this story at all heartwarming. So suck it up, weenies, and click the link if you’ve got the stones.
T knew we were in trouble before we ever loaded the truck. I’ve presented him as an unflappable boulder of optimism, and he could be that. He could also melt down like a little girl at the worst time. As that big beautiful barn became big intimidating stacks of stuff, the simple physical impossibility of what he’d set us up for warred with the equally simple fact that we were in it now and there was no way out. It’s been a long time but as I remember it, both Landlady and Ian spent quite some effort getting him peeled off the walls and back on track.
The problem wasn’t the effort. We were putting out maximum effort and we would continue to do so; we knew that. The problem was that it absolutely wouldn’t be enough – we had a time crunch and we were not going to make it. The rental truck had to be driven up home, unloaded and returned to the renter by Monday afternoon or we would pay an obscene penalty that was simply out of the question. It was now Sunday afternoon and the truck wasn’t even loaded. There was nobody on the other end to help us unload it. The two of us weren’t strong enough to do the job in a few hours.
Around sundown Sunday we finished packing the truck and cleaning up the site. T and I were to leave immediately in our two vehicles, the yellow Jeep and the rental truck. I drove the truck, not because I’m a big hairy truck driver but because we decided it was least likely to be randomly pulled over by highway cops and I have no driver’s license.
We planned to stop briefly at the place where we’d crashed for the weekend to pick up our stuff, then immediately hit the road and drive through the night. Disaster struck before we even set out in the form of a brake warning light. Hey, I’ve driven overloaded rental trucks on long road trips before. Call me timid, but I consider brakes very important. There’s a whole mountain range and a major (a really major) canyon between here and there. Ain’t doing it until I know why that light is on. Sorry.
So kissing our already absurd schedule goodbye, we called the rental company. Which eventually, clearly feeling no urgency, dispatched a mechanic. It turned out to be some minor sensor, as I recall, but we didn’t actually leave until early the next morning. We were so screwed.
The revised plan was forced on us. Emptying the truck ourselves was previously unlikely; it was now simply impossible. Remember that this was before the time when there was anything remotely like a ‘neighborhood.’ There was no one to call who was going to show up out of any sense of friendship. I had a single card I could play, and if it didn’t work it didn’t.
In those days I had a townie job. Not coincidentally, Ian had had it before I did. We worked for a guy who ran a little shop that fixed chainsaws and generators and such. This guy is a long story in himself. He was a redneck’s redneck. To hear him tell it he’d hunted everything that could be hunted, been married far too many times, mined gold, bootlegged firewood from government land. He was an amazing lump of profane, racist stereotypes – and contradictions. He’s hard to explain. But what he definitely was, was a nexus of the local old-boy network. If something could be done locally, he knew how to get it done.
T and I conferred by cell phone. Before we passed through town on the way home, I pulled over at the shop. I burst in, cornered my boss, and said, “Mike, (let’s call him Mike) I’m in deep. I need a minivan full of Mexicans, and I need it right frickin’ now.”
See, in every small southwestern town no matter how improbably remote or obscure, there is a subcommunity of hungry people from somewhere in Central or South America. I don’t know why – there just is. We’re talking about people with no ties to the location. People who, no doubt by following some very bad advice, ended up wherever they are looking for work so they could make money to send somewhere else. Most of these people don’t speak English at all. It’s just barely possible that some sets of paper might not be completely in order. I don’t know – I didn’t ask. I was in a hurry and it slipped my mind.
Anyway, in each of these places, attached to each of these subcommunities, there’s a guy whom they refer to as “Jeffe.” Yes, I know it’s a cliché. You need to know the Jeffe. At that time, I just knew of him. The Jeffe is the guy who knows the people who supply the work that makes the money. He has power. In my admittedly limited experience, he mostly uses it benevolently. Practices the art of doing well by doing good, you might say. I’m absolutely certain in my heart that he is scrupulous to a fault on all matters pertaining to employment eligibility. And tax reporting.
T, I add parenthetically, was a fantastic cook. He did have this one peculiarity that he couldn’t make food in small quantities. He used to joke – I swear I have no idea why – that he only knew how to make food in quantities enough to feed entire cell blocks. He also knew that there are two paths to the heart of a worker from south of the border. Well – three, counting a knife. The other two are peppers and cerveza. We were extremely cash-poor – the aforementioned minivan contents were not in the budget, or anywhere near the budget. While of course these new people had to be paid, if they went away singing our praises it wouldn’t be because of how much money they were paid. So the least we could do was arrange for a pleasant working environment. While I went off to clean out my pitiful bank account, he loaded up on food and beer. “Mike” made a single phone call, and an actual minivan overloaded with people who might have come from Mexico showed up in surprisingly short order.
They were dubious, to say the least, about the prospect of being trundled off into the desert by two pistol-packing white guys they’d never seen before. But they did follow along. And then they put in two killing hours in the hot sun unloading that truck. With enough people to form an assembly line, that’s all the time it took.
After all the urgency, we found ourselves abruptly back on schedule. We fed and beered our suddenly very happy visitors and sent them on their way with a few bucks and a six-pack apiece, swept out the truck and got it back to its owners in plenty of time.
And that’s all there is to that tale.