Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Big Wheel Story - Again

This little story goes around just before Christmas each and every year.
Is it true ? I know it is, as I knew the girl, the cop, and the owner of the
Big Wheel. Read this story & then be like the fellows at the truck stop.
Make someone happy tomorrow.

In September 1960, I woke up one morning with six hungry babies and just 75
cents in my pocket. Their father was gone. The boys ranged from three months
to seven years; their sister was two. Their Dad had never been much more
than a presence they feared. Whenever they heard his tires crunch on the
gravel driveway they would scramble to hide under their beds. He did manage
to leave $15 a week to buy groceries. Now that he had decided to leave, there
would be no more beatings, but no food either. If there was a welfare system in
effect in southern Indiana at that time, I certainly knew nothing about it. I scrubbed
the kids until they looked brand new and then put on my best homemade dress.
I loaded them into the rusty old 51 Chevy and drove off to find a job. The seven
of us went to every factory, store and restaurant in our small town. No luck. T
he kids stayed crammed into the car and tried to be quiet while I tried to convince
whomever would listen that I was willing to learn or do anything. I had to have a job.
Still no luck. The last place we went to, just a few miles out of town, was an old Root
Beer Barrel drive-in that had been converted to a truck stop. It was called
the Big Wheel. An old lady named Granny owned the place and she peeked out of
the window from time to time at all those kids. She needed someone on the graveyard
shift, 11 at night until seven in the morning. She paid 65 cents an hour and
I could start that night. I raced home and called the teenager down the
street that baby-sat for people. I bargained with her to come and sleep on
my sofa for a dollar a night. She could arrive with her pajamas on and the
kids would already be asleep. This seemed like a good arrangement to her, so
we made a deal. That night when the little ones and I knelt to say our prayers we all
thanked God for finding Mommy a job. And so I started at the Big Wheel.
When I got home in the mornings I woke the baby-sitter up and sent her home
with one dollar of my tip money--fully half of what I averaged every night. As the
weeks went by, heating bills added a strain to my meager wage. The
tires on the old Chevy had the consistency of penny balloons and began to
leak. I had to fill them with air on the way to work and again every morning
before I could go home. One bleak fall morning, I dragged myself to the car to
go home and found four tires in the back seat. New tires! There was no note,
no nothing, just those beautiful brand new tires. Had angels taken up residence
in Indiana? I wondered. I made a deal with the local service station. In exchange
for his mounting the new tires, I would clean up his office. I remember it took me
a lot longer to scrub his floor than it did for him to do the tires. I was now working
six nights instead of five and it still wasn't enough. Christmas was coming and I
knew there would be no money for toys for the kids. I found a can of red paint
and started repairing and painting some oldtoys. Then I hid them in the basement
so there would be something for Santa to deliver on Christmas morning. Clothes
were a worry too. I was sewing patches on top of patches on the boys pants and
soon they would be too far gone to repair. On Christmas Eve the usual customers
were drinking coffee in the Big Wheel.
These were the truckers, Les, Frank, and Jim, and a state trooper named Joe.
A few musicians were hanging around after a gig at the Legion and were
dropping nickels in the pinball machine. The regulars all just sat around
and talked through the wee hours of the morning and then left to get home
before the sun! came up. When it was time for me to go home at seven o'clock on
Christmas morning I hurried to the car. I was hoping the kids wouldn't wake up before
I managed to get home and get the presents from the basement and place them under
the tree. (We had cut down a small cedar tree by the side of the road down by
the dump.) It was still dark and I couldn't see much, but there appeared to be some
dark shadows in the car-or was that just a trick of the night? Something
certainly looked different, but it was hard to tell what. When I reached the car I peered
warily into one of the side windows. Then my jaw dropped in amazement. My old
battered Chevy was filled full to the top with boxes of all shapes and sizes. I quickly
opened the driver's side door, scrambled inside and kneeled in the front facing the
back seat. Reaching back, I pulled off the lid of the top box. Inside was whole case of little
blue jeans, sizes 2-10! I looked inside another box: It was full of shirts
to go with the jeans. Then I peeked inside some of the other boxes: There
was candy and nuts and bananas and bags of groceries. There was an enormous
ham for baking, and canned vegetables and potatoes. There was pudding and
Jell-O and cookies, pie filling and flour. There was a whole bag of laundry
supplies and cleaning items. And there were five toy trucks and one
beautiful little doll. As I drove back through empty streets as the sun slowly rose on most
amazing Christmas Day of my life, I was sobbing with gratitude. And I will never forget the
joy on the faces of my little ones that precious morning. Yes, there were angels in Indiana
that long-ago December. And they all hung out at the Big Wheel truck stop.

Author Unknown

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