Rita & the Smiths – the cavalry arrives

It was the TX DOT tanker man who got us “unstranded” south of Corrigan, TX two weeks ago today with a solid jolt of gasoline for all four cars in our caravan. We all had received enough gasoline to get to at least the Ft. Worth / Dallas area, but whether or not gasoline could be had was still a question to us. After all, in of our journey thus far from Baytown to Corrigan, we had not seen one drop of gasoline available to the public. We had experienced a near miss when we first arrived in Livingston, but we came away with nothing. That’s a story within itself.

As we entered Livingston, we were fortunate to spy a tanker off-loading into a convenience store. Due to our timing and the kindness of a local who lived across from the store, we were able to pull in as one of the first cars in line. Imagine our surprise when as soon as the tanker had finished unloading, the manager came out and told us all that there had been some sort of malfunction with the pumps and none of the thousands of gallons we saw go into the ground could be brought back out. We had the sort of feeling a dog must have when looking into a butcher shop window – so close and yet so far!

Meanwhile, back on Hwy. 287 coming out of Corrigan, we were driving like we had just stolen our cars. Let me tell ya’, if idling for well over twenty hours and then being stranded out of gas for over a dozen more doesn’t give you “the need for speed,” nothing well! We lit out west on 287 bound for Crockett, determined to put as much distance between us and Rita’s arriving high winds as possible. When we arrived in Crockett, we didn’t search for gasoline, but didn’t see any available at two different stores as we passed through. It was on to Palestine, then. We knew gasoline could become a factor once more, but it wasn’t one right now so we continued to make time, with my car leading our little pack.

Now at this point, you need to know that except for the FM radio, our contact with the outside world had fairly well played out. My daughter was the only one with a cell phone that still had a little juice left in it and she had stayed in contact with her boyfriend throughout the evacuation. He had been fortunate enough the day before to be near the head of the pack when they opened up the southbound lanes of I-45 out of Houston to northbound traffic and so had fairly free sailing all the way to north of Dallas, TX where he bunked up with an aunt and uncle.

Just a few miles short of Palestine, I topped a little rise and looked out on a straight stretch of road. Up in the distance, off on the shoulder of the road, was a pickup with some large items in the bed. Standing out in the road was some guy who almost immediately started waving his arms. I figured, “This must be someone in the same shape we were just in back in Corrigan, only he’s out here alone. I’ll stop. I don’t know what we can do, but we’ll stop.”

As I drive closer though, the guy in the road is beginning to bear a remarkable resemblance to my daughter’s boyfriend. Closer still and I can hardly believe my eyes – it’s Brant! His aunt and uncle are standing off on the shoulder. And what’s in the bed of the pickup? Two 55 gallon drums. Strange. What’s Brant doing in a pickup (he owns a little sports car)?

Now, you may be wondering how Brant recognized our cars almost instantly. Leading the pack I was driving my son’s old car, which happens to be virtually identical to my daughter’s car. As soon as he saw that little Pontiac, he thought it was his girlfriend and he started waving. Oh yes, I’ll never let him forget that he apparently can’t tell the difference between me and my daughter at a distance. 🙂

Well, to cut to the chase, Brant, Bubba and Tammy had come up with two empty drums, 80 gallons of gasoline, all the gear required to transfer gasoline from the drums and enough food for a couple of dozen people. Through cell phone conversations they were able to rendezvous with us, though coming from two-three hours away on the north side of Dallas, and were able to top of all our car’s fuel tanks – as well as our own. We had our own little tailgate party out on the side of 287 southeast of Palestine for a little while! Then they escorted us to the Ft. Worth / Dallas area where we then went our separate ways. And that is how we got what it to took to make it to our intended destination, Oklahoma!

Brant, Bubba, Tammy – there are simply not words adequate to convey our thanks to you. We owe you much. Thank you very, very much.

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