Tire in Spinachville
by John Troesser
July afternoon a few years back, I was driving back from Eagle Pass with Doyle
"Prairie Dog" Phillips riding shotgun. This was before Mr.Phillip's voluntary
political exile to Mexico. We were headed due east across a bleak terrain. How
bleak was it? Is making the dark side of the moon look like Times Square bleak?
It was one of those warm brush-country days when the temperature was
so hot nobody would believe it, so they didn't bother to phone it in. The asphalt
on FM 191 had the viscosity of Turkish taffy put in a microwave set on high for
20 minutes. We were cruising at 95 mph. Anything below that and the road would
pull you to a stop and swallow you. I had checked the air in my tires the previous
November so I knew we were in good shape.
We sailed in to Crystal
City which is one of those South Texas towns split in half by the railroad.
A trully democratic place; there is no "wrong side of the tracks" in Crystal City.
After photographing the foundations of former Japanese POW housing and reading
the strongly-worded memorial plaque erected by the descendants of internees, we
drove to the city hall to see Crystal City's other sight - the famous statue of
Festival Office in Crystal City.
didn't want to see it - but I felt a need to prove that there was such a thing
- if only to myself. After gazing in awe and then shaking our heads, as we returned
to the car Doyle pointed to our right front tire which was flat. Not flat like
the proverbial pancake (because of the large mass of rubber and the metal rim),
but it was flat nonetheless.
I recalled seeing a spare in the distant
past and found it within minutes. On its side it gave all appearances of being
inflated, but when I bounced it, it gave a sickening thud. The kind of thud only
a tire that you were counting on for your salvation can make. Like 30 pounds of
pizza dough hitting a dirty cement floor.
I now regretted having thrown
my cell phone into the Brazos River two weeks before, but what did it matter?
Whom would I call? The nearest tire shop was in San Antonio or so I thought. Doyle
looked at the setting sun and said "It's 4:47." (Don't ask. He's from Big Spring
and they can all do that in West Texas.)
Since the Crystal City Hall
was about 20 feet behind Popeye, we went in to ask to use their phone and directory.
To be funny I would say that there was one yellow page, but that would be lying
for a cheap laugh. There were four. We found a tire shop and called. The man who
answered asked for an address. We told them city hall and he asked "Where?" The
secretary politely took the phone from me and said something like "Bobby? Do you
know where the Popeye Statue is?" "Well, we're right behind Popeye." She smiled
at us and then waved through the window accross the railroad tracks. "Do you see
me waving?" she spoke into the phone. Across the tracks Bobby stepped from his
office and waved back.
They arrived in less time than it takes to eat one of those 620-ounce steaks in
Amarillo. The crew was pretty cheery considering that it was now after quitting
time. As he approached us, the driver smiled and asked "Which tire is it?" The
humor was lost on me - since I was worried about the ice that would soon be forming
on the road once the sun went down. Frozen mirages are nothing to laugh at.
I said "the flat one" without a smile. Doyle, scout that he, advised me (under
his breath) that "that kind of attitude won't help."
Since we had two
flats, they took them (and us) the hundred yards or so back to the shop. As they
fixed us up with a new tire and a good used spare (one with air), we talked with
a lean and muscular senior Crystal Citizen who told us he was 74. He was holding
a small cardboard box that was dripping blood. I figured it might be the key to
his good health, but I wasn't that curious. Doyle caught my eye, glanced down
at the blood (that was now being licked up by a large black dog) and back at me.
It was scout language for "this guy is holding a box that is dripping blood."
The box turned out to be some steaks that he had ordered and had picked
up on his way home. He told us he was a native of the area and that in his youth
he could pick __ boxes of spinach in a single day - a record that remains unbroken.
Judging by their lack of interest, the shop helpers had heard the story before
- but I bet if I called them right now they could tell me how many boxes the man
Just don't ask them where city hall is.
paying and getting all five tires sprayed with asphalt-be-gone, we were on our
way with a warm feeling for the friendly and helpful people of Crystal City who
took time to help standed strangers - even if it meant working after five o'clock.