Two weeks ago, while driving around Meeker and back and forth between the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials and a few other photos that needed to be taken, the warning light on my car’s dashboard lit up, indicating that my car was overheating.
It had happened before when driving really slowly, something I had been doing between the sheepdog trials and driving my mother-in-law and brother-in-law around town, showing them various homes and deer running around the downtown area in late afternoon.
I returned to home before the car got real hot and simply forgot about it because my car doesn’t heat up between home and work.
Without a thought of the fact that the car had overheated recently, I headed north out of town on Sunday and just barely got past Meeker Airport and was starting up Nine-Mile Hill when the warning light lit up again. I noticed the heat was high again and immediately pulled over along the roadside.
My wife and I looked all through the car and and found what had been a half gallon of antifreeze that had apparently leaked dry in my trunk and about two 12-ounce bottles of water.
That wasn’t going to work.
My first thought was to call AAA because we were far enough out of town that I wasn’t going to walk back about nine miles, but there wasn’t enough liquid in the car to get back to Meeker without stopping about four or five times and risking damage to the car.
Then I realized we didn’t have a cell signal in the first place, so my wife and I just stood there looking stupidly at each other.
We weren’t along the side of the road for five minutes when a Meekerite stopped to ask if we needed his help. I told him I needed water or antifreeze, which he said he didn’t have, but he volunteered to go back to Meeker and get some of both.
Before he could leave, an off-road vehicle appeared out of nowhere. The driver said he had water and antifreeze and that he lived just up the road about 100 feet.
I thanked the Meekerite when another driver coming from Craig and headed to Grand Junction stopped and offered assistance. I thanked him profusely but told him help was on the way and sent him on his way.
Meanwhile, the guy on the ORV went to get the antifreeze.
I lifted the hood right after I had pulled over, and with a jacket wrapped around my hand and arm loosened the top on the antifreeze container and let a lot of the steam out so it would cool off.
The gent on the four-wheeler was gone about five minutes when he returned. He jumped off his OHV, checked the heat on the vent and started filling the antifreeze container since the car had cooled off enough.
Needless to say, Rocky Pappas was our savior.
We filled up the container with antifreeze, which Rocky had mixed with water back at the ranch house, and we went on our way to Craig and back without any problems whatsoever.
I was really impressed.
I had this same type of thing happen to me a couple of times over the course of the 19 years I lived in Wyoming. But Wyoming is one of those places in the mountain west where people need to be able to count on each other because it is often freezing and there are a lot of miles between towns.
Wyomingites are caring, helpful people because they know how dangerous and even deadly it can be to get stuck in some areas of that state – particularly those without cell coverage – in the winter.
Well, here we were in Colorado.
When I grew up in Colorado Springs and Boulder through my teen years, I can’t say I developed any fond memories of strangers helping out in a few touchy cases.
But here, three vehicles stopped within five minutes and I was back on my way within 15 minutes. Three really concerned individuals went out of their way to stop and ask if any help was needed. That felt really good. No, that felt really great.
It is truly a comforting feeling that I have found a community where people do care and do watch out for each other.
When you had trouble with your car or something else on the Front Range, it didn’t seem so urgent, I guess, to lend help because of the mindset there that with so many people, someone will stop and help the individual eventually, or some highway patrolman or deputy will help them whenever they run across the folks in trouble.
But I now enter my first winter here in Rio Blanco County with a full feeling of confidence that if I need some roadside assistance, it won’t be long in coming.
The mindset here is similar to that in Wyoming, where common sense dictates that if someone is in need of help, it is a good thing to lend a hand because the next person needing help could be you!
A big thank you to Rocky Pappas and the other two drivers who stopped. I also take off my hat to those drivers who do help others in distress when it would be much easier to drive on and let “the next guy” help out — or not.
A few weeks ago, I raised a question in this column regarding why it was that gasoline prices — which have remained a steady $3.89 in Meeker since before I moved here in March while all of Colorado has been seeing the price rise and drop to what it is now – around the state are considerably lower than Meeker.
When I was in Rangely three weeks ago for Septemberfest, two of the gas stations there sold regular for $3.79, a full 10 cents cheaper that anywhere in Meeker, while the Conoco station in Rangely was $3.89 a gallon.
I would point out that on this past Friday, the low prices in the Denver metropolitan area ranged from $3.34 per gallon to $3.47, depending on the area.
While on Sunday’s jaunt to Craig, we found gasoline there priced from $3.79 to $3.82 to a high of $3.87 at the stations there. The prices were different almost everywhere, but they were all cheaper than Meeker’s stations.
Years ago, in the early 1980s, a strangely similar story arose in Laramie, Wyo. All the stations there were the same price for months on end, and, if one outlet would change up or down, they would all be changed before noon the same day.
The Casper Star-Tribune and the Laramie Boomerang newspapers started talking to each other and they agreed that the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office might also find it an interesting coincidence since price fixing is a major trade felony.
To make a very long story short, the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office investigated deeply enough to find that the gasoline outlets in Laramie had their own little cartel going on, agreeing that everyone would charge the same price, which was higher than the surrounding towns, including Cheyenne and Rawlins and south into Fort Collins.
To shorten the story even more, the gas station owners in Laramie had to pay federal fines in the five figures; I believe between $15,000 and $25,000 each.
Now with that knowledge of what the consequences could be, I can’t imagine that any gas outlets in this area would really want to do anything like fixing the price of gasoline for high profits and low competition. That wouldn’t be a very neighborly thing.
It must all be a coincidence.