When a young man is about to propose marriage to his lady, it is important that the lady’s family is in agreement. That was the situation in which I found myself in 1956 at age twenty. I was attending Baylor University in Waco, Texas, but my love lived a four-hour drive away in Hemphill, Texas. Every other weekend I drove my 1950 Chevrolet to East Texas to be with Clara, my future wife. I certainly wanted her family, all of it, to approve of my being grafted into their family by marriage.
A situation arose in which Clara’s grandmother, Mrs. Thorp, found herself in Waco and needed a ride to Hemphill on the Friday afternoon that I was going to see her granddaughter. Here was a chance to gain the approval of another member of her family. I agreed to her riding with me.
Washing my Chevrolet made it look nice, and eased some of my nervousness. I picked up Mrs. Thorp mid afternoon and we began what I hoped would be an uneventful journey to East Texas. The fickle finger of fate, or Murphy’s Law, either, or both, decided that the trip would not be uneventful.
About one hour into our trip a tire blew out. How could this happen, I thought to myself as I struggled to replace the blown tire with the spare. My spare did not get much attention, and I was surprised that it still had enough air in it to support my car. Finally, we were back on the road again, my clothes a bit dirty. I stopped at the first service station I saw and aired the spare fully. I breathed easier now, and resumed the trip. My passenger seemed unruffled about this event.
Still, I was not in the clear in trying to do my good deed. About an hour later in our drive, another tire blew out suddenly. This time there was no spare to bail me out of my predicament. I was left to my own initiative to handle this crisis. How I handled it would leave a permanent impression on Mrs. Thorp as to my abilities to care for her granddaughter. Could I pass this test?
We were within a few miles of a small farm town so I decided to drive on the flat, slowly, until I found a tire store or service station. The first business I saw was a Humble service station, so I limped onto the apron. “Do you have any new or used tires in stock?” I pleaded. After checking his stock, the attendant announced, “Well, don’t have any used ones, but I have a new one that will fit your car. You want it?” I really did not want it, but I had to have it.
Now, the big question – how to pay for a new tire. I checked my wallet to find around twenty-five dollars, not nearly enough. I began to feel panicky. Then I spotted a Humble credit card that my dad had let me borrow, just in case of an emergency. Well, I felt this situation would certainly qualify as an emergency.
Back on the road again, this time with a new tire on the front. Mrs. Thorp appeared to be taking all this in stride. She will never ride with me anywhere again, I thought. What an impression I must be making on her. How could anyone be unlucky enough to have two, count them, two blowouts on the same trip?
Then it came to me, the answer to my question. A few months earlier I had seen a tire shop in Nacogdoches that specialized in recapping tires. For around twelve dollars one could take in an old, bald tire, and get a like-new retread. I could not afford four new tires, so had all of them recapped. They were supposed to be as good as new ones, I was told. It never occurred to me that all those pieces of tires you see on the road came from recapped truck tires. That should have been a clue. Well, live and learn as they say.
The trip to Hemphill ended without further problems. Mrs. Thorp was as happy to see her family as I was to see my young lady. This unfortunate incident was never mentioned again, even at our wedding. So, I assume that I passed the silent family test in spite of Murphy’s Law and the fickle finger of fate.
“DRIVING MRS. THORP”
BY: NEAL MURPHY
107 HEMLOCK STREET
P O BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEXAS 75972