A Different Kind of Restoration near Antelope Creek

Antelope Creek flows in the Ishi Wilderness California

Broken down, side of the road and over 30 minutes to the nearest town. What made me wave down the driver? My cell phone showed a weak signal, but I managed to contact road-side assistance to dispatch a tow. Over $200 to get hauled into town for repair.

The white Chevy truck showed "King Construction" on the door with the graphic of a Chinook salmon. Wearing sunglasses, a baseball cap, and dirt on his clothes - he stepped out of the cab and asked me what the problem was. "A pulley broke off and the belt came with it," I said.

He asked me to open the hood again. He took a close look for several minutes and became convinced he would be able to fix it himself eventhough a tensioning pulley had come off as well. But, in the dark depths of the engine compartment he reached down and fished the pulley out. Some bearings fell out from the ring and the pulley would need replacing.

A horse outside a barn in the Ishi Wilderness California

"Cancel that tow," he said as he walked back to his rig. He grabbed two cans of beer out of a small cooler and offered one to me. As we opened the cold beer, he said, "We can fix this." He told me to lock up my truck.

As I drank that cold beer and locked up my truck I shouted, "How about stopping for some lottery tickets." I couldn't believe my luck! Broken down just off a Forest Service logging road that leads down into the Ishi Wilderness, facing a long wait for an expensive tow - a complete stranger, just off work offers to drive me seventy miles, get parts, drive me back, and serves up a cold beer for the ride into town.

Antelope Creek provides critical habitat for Spring run Chinook Salmon in California

I introduced myself. He replied, "My name is Sam." With the truck headed down hill towards the local Napa parts dealer, Sam told me how he was leaving a job on Antelope Creek. Putting in some new culverts for salmon to pass. "Got to watch a female go through. She stopped on the other side and built her a redd."

He mentioned other restoration projects he worked on including two on the Trinity River. "There's good money out there for helping these fish." Thinking about it now, fixing my truck and getting me going became Sam's latest restoration project.

I don't know if people like Sam are the exception to the rule. It's probably way too naive to think his kindness is the rule. For the two plus hours we were together I found a potentially painful and frustrating break down overshadowed by someone who wanted to help (and asked nothing in return). At that moment in time, kindness to strangers - which included sharing your afterwork beers - became the rule in my book.