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Grayback to Klickitat

It was a clear October Saturday on Grayback Mountain in rural Klickitat County, an area of timber and rangelands in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. I was hunting deer—alone except for my thoughts.

My hunting prospects were good. Grayback was home to some big bucks. I spotted few does, and lots of big tracks, but no bucks. I wasn’t disappointed. I still had all day tomorrow to hunt before I had to head home for work.

The sun was setting as I hunted my way back to camp. I use the word camp loosely. I had an air mattress and sleeping bag in the back of my old Chevy Suburban, a camp stove, lantern and not much else. The night was clear and cold as I heated a can of chili for supper and admired the full moon on the rise.

I was preparing to bed down when I was struck by the feeling that I needed to get home to my wife and two young sons. I looked forward to hunting the next day. But suddenly, I felt a strong urge to go to church with them in the morning.

Quickly, I loaded my gear and started out to Vancouver, Washington, over a hundred miles away. It would be a long night. As it turned out, much longer than I expected.

I turned onto the paved road and headed toward the small hamlet of Klickitat. Suddenly, a red light on the Suburban’s instrument panel caught my eye. The headlights dimmed. Frustrated, I pulled over. If my fan belt was broken, the engine would overheat, and I’d be stuck all night. I popped the hood and peered inside with a flashlight. The fan belt was intact. I surmised that the alternator had failed. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about overheating.

I knew that the truck’s battery could energize the spark plugs and continued driving toward Klickitat. About five minutes down the hill, my engine died. Instinctively, I turned the headlights off, and the engine roared to life. The full moon would light my way.

The road was narrow, mostly downhill, and mostly two lanes. But a few stretches had only one lane, with turnouts so that oncoming traffic could pull over and allow others to pass. If a driver saw an approaching car, they would look for a turnout. If none existed, they would keep going in the hope that the other driver would pull into a turnout and wait for them. The problem was that, with my lights off, no one could see me to pull over. I had to turn them on. As soon as I did that, my engine died again.

I coasted with the headlights on, then turned them off when I needed the engine to run. “Please help me God. I’m just trying to make it to church with my family,” I prayed.

The lights were getting dimmer and dimmer, and I turned them off for good. Soon my engine died even with the lights off. Thankfully, by that time, I was very near Klickitat. I coasted into town and pulled to a stop, double parking next to a Suburban that looked a lot like mine.

The only business open in Klickitat was a tavern. When I walked in, the locals turned to stare. The barkeep asked. “Can I help you?”

I explained my predicament and told him I needed an auto parts store so I could purchase an alternator.

He said, “You’ll have to go to The Dalles for that. But they’re closed by now.”

By this time, the bar patrons had crowded around, offering suggestions, none of which were useful.

“What year is your truck?” asked Bill, a big guy about twenty-five or thirty years old.

I told him it was a 1988 model.

“I’ve got an alternator for my ’87 Suburban, parked right outside. If we can make it work, you can have it.”

Jimmy, his diminutive sidekick, offered to help and the three of us pushed my old Suburban into a shacky garage in an alley a few blocks from the tavern. I was shocked when I found out that the alternator he was offering me was brand new.

It didn’t quite fit, so with a hacksaw and a hammer, we modified the bracket. Soon we had the truck running good as new. I thanked them and offered a few dollars for their trouble.

As I was climbing into the Suburban to head for home, Jimmy said, “You could sleep in the back of this thing and head home in the morning. What’s the big rush?”

I explained to him that I didn’t want to miss church and he chuckled. “Well, say a prayer for me while you’re at it.”

“Oh, I will, Jimmy,” I said. “I will.”


Oct 30, 2023

LOVE it!!! Thank you for sharing!!!!


Oct 28, 2023

That was great! I was captivated. Now awaiting the sequel!


Oct 28, 2023

That is a good story!!

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