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Glad it got us here

The morning was thick with some of that Texas humidity that gets so viscous it condenses and drips down screen doors. As I stumbled along the creaky porch to the kitchen I could barely see the trucks parked outside the yard fence through the chilly winter fog.. Dad had been up early, as usual, and handed me a cup of his favorite coffee. A little weak for me and so the warming brew was little more than a daily formality instead of something that might wake me up. I had been up late, as usual.

Dad and I had spent the evening at the farm house and he was going to show me some of the latest improvements and spend some time catching up. A few days earlier Aurora and I had arrived in Houston from a long cross country drive from California. During the marathon road trip we noticed the brakes were getting a little shaky. The early rise was planned so I could follow him to a brake shop which was run by one of his Aggie buddies.

I downed the last of the warm coffee and we sloshed through the wet grass to our vehicles. Damn, it was colder than I thought it would be and as we started down the dirt road towards the highway I remember how stiff I felt with my light San Francisco jacket. I turned up the heater, cranked up full. Dad led the way to the gate and I followed him. On down the gravel road, over to the quiet Farm to Market road, and then over to the highway. I followed close behind Dad in his tan Suburban with his classic cowboy hat profile framed by the gray fog. We drove onward.

Before I knew it, I was warming up with the heater blowing full steam and my head was starting to feel a little clearer. Time for a little music, so I glanced down to the radio and dialed for a little local polka. Nothing doing, but through the sqaucks and crackling static, I found an oldies station and felt some nostalgic rush of my youth. The sensation reminded me of when I’d be roped into some project of Dad’s that I had absolutely no interest in at all. I drifted. When I looked up, Dad was passing some slow dawdling farmer type so I gunned the engine and passed as well.

About this time I noticed that it was nearly seven o’clock and Dad had said we should be there by then. He was a prompt kind of guy, but I figured we were running a little late because he had let me sleep in a bit. Onward we drove.

Finally he pulled over and took an exit ramp off the freeway. The road looped around and went under the freeway and then straightened out in an easterly direction. Left onto a Farm to Market, then right onto a smaller paved road, right again. Dad knew exactly where he was going. Soon he was on a dirt road in a really isolated area and I was starting to think that, wherever this shop was, it just wasn’t going to have the equipment needed to do a brake job. Who was this buddy anyway? What kind of arrangement had Dad made with this person? What about parts?

We were late. I was pounding on the steering wheel and then he pulled into a drive way that was so seldom used that it was grown over with grass. After going down about a hundred yards on this grassy path through thick brush, we turned into a clearing with a large industrial looking metal barn.

Well I’ll be damned, here it is, I thought. I felt relieved as I pulled up next to Dad’s truck and reached around for my baseball hat before getting out of my van. As I emerged into the chilly air, I noticed an unfamiliar fellow with a cowboy hat approaching me from in front of Dad’s car? He was a tall thin man somewhere in his 60’s with a cautious smile and he held out his hand and said warily, "Glad I got you here".

I was stunned. My thoughts reeled. I couldn’t make sense of what was happening. Where was Dad? Wasn’t this his truck? It was like a bait and switch.

"Excuse me sir, but I think I’ve been led down the wrong path. I thought you were my Dad and I followed you here", I said in as regretful a voice as I could muster. I backed up and jumped back into the van. With a foolish grin and a howdy do goodbye, I backed out and tore down the road as fast as I could. By this time it was almost 7:30 and I was trying to imagine that Dad was probably at the shop wondering what had happened to me. What happened to me? What happened to him?

Retracing the maze I had followed, I hurried back to where I might have been half an hour before. By the time I got to my best guess as to where I lost Dad, the fog had lifted and sure enough there was the brake shop right by the highway. I pulled up and haltingly walked over to a mechanic next to a car. With an enduring Brenham bred accent, he said, "I bet you’re Jeff Jefferies' lost son, aren’t you"

About a week later while at Big Bend, I told this story to Ben Rice and he paraphrased "Glad I got you here" into "Glad it got us here" to make a statement about the forces, whatever they may be, that bring us together. Now! As you read this, I am indeed glad it got us here to this point in time… and glad that I’m not dead and buried next to some old metal barn in Texas.


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Chris Jefferies
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"Guesses based on what each set of time and change is touching."
Joni Mitchell, from the song Sweet Bird on her album The Hissing of Summer Lawns.
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