Better 'n a Gold Card!
Settummanque, the blackeagle (waltoml@WKUVX1.WKU.EDU)
Thu, 12 May 1994 12:06:01 EDT
(In the past here on this list, or in speeches, or on other forums,
I've explained that being an Eagle Scout is a lifelong goal that
Eagles try to acheive daily. Some of us forget what being an Eagle is
all about. This story, first told to Jessiann two weeks ago Friday
and then to the members of Fairborn, Ohio Troop 57 on last Thursday,
brings it home to me more than any other...this was clearly yet
another time whereby we Eagles try our best to live up to the
obligation of being an Eagle. The ONLY thing I've cleaned up was the
language which was stated...but you can get the gist of the
It didn't work here, either, and I'm really scared.
I had returned from doing military work in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
It's basically a "milk run", driving south from Bowling Green to
Nashville, taking the Briley Parkway past Opryland and the airport to
Interstate 24, and then taking the Interstate into Chattanooga and off
the fourth ramp to the Reserve Center.
I've done it so many times: in my half-sleep, as I leave the house to
be in Chattanooga by 7am every third Saturday morning; with Jessiann
at my side, keeping me awake and at the same time irratating me with
"don't drive so close to the wall", "slow down", "speed up", " you do
have your lights on, don't you" and the infamous "what's wrong now?
Did the light come on this time?"
See, the car we use to travel in, the Chevy Citation with the Military
Reserve plate on the back (my idea), is an old car. It took us to the
Jamboree and back, to Iowa twice and back, to Atlanta, to Ohio and
everywhere in Kentucky-- but not without it's price. We've managed to
scrape together enough money to do a overhaul of this precious car
and still...it has a bad axle and "could go any day, but you just keep
on driving it into the ground".
Did I tell you that it was Jessiann's car before mine?
So this time, I had to go by myself and do some work at the Reserve
center. With the last 40 dollars we had, Jessiann kissed me goodbye
on Thursday morning at 1:30am and I started yet another trip
southward, with only the radio to keep me company. I had no problems,
the car was fine, and work was "so-so". So, I put the last of the
money into the tank, got my mug of coffee filled, and started back
home Friday afternoon.
It was on the way back, when I had the problem. I first noticed that
the red light (I call it the "Jessi light", because she gets so upset
whenever it flickers) came on a couple of times. That's okay, because
it was a warm day and the engine's cooling system gets hot before the
small therostat would open, letting in the air cooled water into the
system. So, the light comes on and stays on for a minute or so.
Then it goes off.
But then, I started observing something else. The engine was starting
to make some really strange noises when I took the Briley Parkway exit
and started my way up a series of hills. I never heard THAT sound
before. So, I stopped at a gas station, popped the hood and checked
all of the fluids.
I was low on automatic transmission fluid.
"No problem", I thought to myself, as I took the keys to raise the
"boot" (the rear trunk/storage area) of the car and looked into the
milkcrate I had placed in there, full of various emergency-type items:
A first aid kit, a bottle of water, a quart of oil, two bottles of
power steering fluid (we have a leak in the well), rags, a set of
jumper cables, extra windshield wiper blades, tape......
but NO transmission fluid.
I looked then into my wallet to see if by chance I've stuffed a dollar
or something in there. Nope. Clean as a whistle. Then I remembered
seeing a "MacGyver" where they ran out of some kind of fluid and they
used power steering fluid instead. So, I put the whole bottle of
fluid in the well, checked it and it was STILL low.
I closed everything and drove really slowly, remembering that the
Opryland Hotel had a instant teller machine. Yeah! The old instant
teller machine! I remembered that I read about our banks's movement
from one "instant group" to another larger one, and "I could use my
card anywhere in Tennessee displaying the MAC sign." I was confident
that I could get there, get five dollars out, and get the
berry-colored fluid the car needed to make it the rest of the way
I got to the exit, and saw a "Tammy" machine. I drove to the machine,
got out, and looked at the shiny metal machine. On the left side were
all of the different "groups" that Tammy would read and understand
before spitting out tens and twenties. MAC wasn't one of them. Nor
was "Quest", the folks that we've dealt with before. My heart sank,
as I pushed the car out from the parking place (I forgot to tell
you...we don't have reverse gear in that car....it's been that way for
well over a year!), got in, and drove to the Hotel.
Once there, I parked right beside a Cadillac which was being serviced
by one of those "free, roadside assistance services". You know, the
ones that say "no matter where, no matter what, we'll get your car
going or we'll give you a loaner car" or something like that.
I walked over and asked Frank (the mechanic) if he had some
transmission fluid that I may please put in my car. "Sorry, buddy.
Can't help you...we don't carry that in the truck." I then asked
where I could get some, and he looked around before answering "Don't
know. I have to stay here with these folks until the tow truck comes,
or else I could get you a little bit." I thanked him, telling him
that I needed more than a little bit.
I went in the hotel, and made my first of several calls back to
Jessiann telling her that "I'm late, as usual, but I'm here needing
transmission fluid. I'll call back if I need you to get me from here."
I really didn't know why I said that. Jessiann's old car can't even go
faster than 40 miles per hour without everyone inside having to act
like Mexican jumping beans.
Then I sought the machine. I saw it there before, so I KNOW that they
had one there. They did, and Mr. Teller had stickers from
practically every group there was.
"There's GOT to be a MAC bank somewhere around here", I spoke to the
machine, as if it could tell me where it was. I then walked around to
the welcome center and asked where the nearest First American bank
was. First American is the bank through which our cards go through.
Three miles back the way I came, into the part of town called "East
Nashville". There have been five shootings in that part of town in
the past five days...and that's where a teenage girl was shot when she
attempted to use a ITM machine. I had no choice. I took the exit,
and a mile afterwards, started to see the familiar blue and white
signage. "Great", I said to myself, driving up to the place to put my
card into the machine.
"Sorry", the screen read, "This terminal is closed. Please try our
other terminals" and listed all of the other locations. I sighed
heavily, and then turned and looked as there was another bank
displaying the MAC symbol only a short walk away.
On the way back to my car, a truck pulled up and a large black man
hopped out. "Alright! He'll have fluid!", I said to myself. I asked
him if he had any extra. "Nah man, sorry." He then went toward the
machine and I yelled "the machine's not working but the one next to it
We both drove over to the next machine and I pulled my car sideways in
the parking lot because if I parked it the way I was supposed to, it
would take me, the big black guy AND someone else to push it back up
and out of the steep parking place. Remember, no reverse have I!
I got out of the car and started to reach for my wallet, when this
large, old Oldsmobile charged around the lot. The occupant rolled
down his window and looked at me.
"Hey", he said, before taking a drink of something in a paper bag.
"You need a jump?"
I replied "No, but I could sure use some automatic transmission fluid.
You have some?" I can tell that this guy was REALLY gone. He looked
like he didn't comb his hair this day or in the past three or four.
His clothes were dirty, his car was dirty and...
"No, but I can go and get some (explicit deleted) fluid if that's what
you need...", he stated as soberly as I guess he could. "There's a
store right around the corner here and I know the owners..."
I wondered if he was going to steal it or buy it or what. "I can't pay
for it, I'm trying to get some money out of the machine now." The man
got out of his car, came toward me and said "No...don't worry about
it. I'll get it. For a Chevy...that Dextron (deleted), right?"
I was surprised that he even knew there was a difference. "Yeah. I
really appreciate this...", I said. I could smell that he had been on
a drinking binge this evening. I got back in my car and followed this
man's big large car around the corner to a grocery store. He got out
and told me to "open the hood and find a funnel, if you got one!" as
he went into the store. Sure enough, he went through the cashier,
pulled out two one dollar bills and paid for the fluid. I also saw
him wave to someone in the above-the-floor office area as he hit the
I opened the hood again and got my funnel out of the boot of the car
as I waited for him to come back.
"I could have went to (deleted) Autozone and got this (deleted)
cheaper than this!", he said, handing the plastic container to me.
"Can I get your name and address or something?", I said, as I looked
at the bottle to make sure it was Dextron. If you put the wrong stuff
in the car, it locks the transmission up. It was.
The man then pulled out a pack of cigarettes, got out out by his
mouth, and lit it with a book of matches he had inside the cellophane
wrapper. He then took the bottle from me and said "hold the
flashlight. I'll put this (deleted) in there for ya." He then
proceeded to do just that.
"Maybe he's a mechanic during the day", I thought.
He then gave me the empty bottle and took out the funnel.
I took both from him and placed them in the boot of the car. After
shutting the trunk, I then got out my binder and found a blank page.
"Look, I really want to pay you back. Give me some way to get this
money back to you."
The man looked at me, and then pulling his wallet out, said, "Boy, you
just git in your car and go on home. This ain't a place for ya. And
besides", he said, pulling out a blackend card from his wallet, "I'd
been waitin' twenty (explicit deleted) years to use this and you're
NOT gonna cheat me outta of this, no matter who you are!"
He showed me the card.
The card looked just like the Eagle Scout card I carry! I found a
Eagle Scout...or he found me. "See, I may be out of this (deleted)
for a long time, but when someone needs help --and you needed it or
you wouldn't driving around in this neighborhood-- I'm supposed to
help. Ya know what I'm sayin'?" I nodded.
"And like I said, I've tried to use this and every time, people shove
money down my shirt. No, you get in your car and go wherever you
started out going to, and let me worry about the money for the
(deleted) transmission fluid. Had to go in there and take a whizz
anyways." I couln't help but to smile at the drunk man, whom looked
at the card and then put it back in his oversized wallet and then
placing it all in the back seat pocket.
I got back in the car, and started it up. It sounded like it normally
sounded. I once again thanked him for his help. I don't know why I
didn't mention that I too, am a Eagle Scout.
I drove to a gas station and checked the fluid level. It was perfect.
I then called Jessiann, told her that I would be home in about a hour
and apologized for not being there for dinner and the houseguests (we
were babysitting our friends' daughters that weekend).
On the way home, I just thought about that man. Nobody tells us
Eagles that we have to wait to be of service...but yet, he felt that
way. I wondered how many more of those "hidden Eagles" are out there,
waiting for that one chance to help someone. Then, I remembered a
Scouts-L discussion and drinking and Scouting. They don't mix, I
remembered writing, and the BSA says no. But yet, this man, whom I am
sure has a drinking problem, has a presence of mind to know that no
matter what, he is supposed to "help others at all times".
I could have been a policeman. Or someone whom was bent on "making a
few bucks" by robbing him. Somehow, none of that mattered to that
He just wanted to use his card. He did, and I am very much in debt to
him, whomever he is.
If there's a moral to this story, I guess it's "Scouts come in all
packages, all colors, all sizes and shapes. We don't have a "certain"
look about us that makes us Scouts. Anyone can put on a uniform,
memorize the words to our ideals, and even get the badges.
Scouts and Scouters, though, we can tell from their actions. "
Settummanque, the blackeagle... (MAJ) Mike L. Walton (
(h) 502-782-7992 (f) 502-781-7279 (w) 502-782-7467 |-=-|]
3201-D Cave Springs Avenue -- Greenwood, KY 42104-4439 -=====-
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