Biff America: Love in a junkyard |

Biff America: Love in a junkyard

The 15th wedding celebration is called the scrap metal anniversary, or at least that’s what it turned out to be. While most of our other 27 yearly nuptial observances have blurred, the 15th remains fresh and unique.

As most always is the case during fall, we were traveling in our RV. I had planned a post bike ride romantic jubilee. Since our relationship bloomed in the mountains of Utah, we hoped to return to the exact place where we first fell in love and see if the tundra had grown back.

Earlier in the day, we had parked the truck to take a ride at a place called ‘Hell’s Backbone,’ which coincidentally was an apt term to describe the mattress in our camper. Once finished, we put the bikes away and got ready to leave the trailhead and drive to someplace romantic.

The truck refused to start.

After exhausting my inventory of automotive skills by screaming at the engine, we called AAA. A tow truck arrived, picked us up and deposited us in a junkyard in a small Utah town that would be our home until the truck was fixed.

The diagnosis was we needed new fuel injectors. Unfortunately, due to the weekend and remoteness of our location, we were told it would be three days before parts would arrive.

Only if my wife and I broke down on Venus could we have found anywhere more removed from our resort home. Where our town is upscale, slightly hedonistic and growing, that town was modest, Mormon and barely maintaining its population.

The tow-truck driver was named Roger. He owned and operated his repair and towing business with his wife and sons. His fine grammar and keen interest in world affairs contrasted with his dirty hands and stained clothing.

Roger’s town was clean and safe, but I would say “aloof.” It wasn’t that the residents were unfriendly, they were just private and quiet. We saw no one who looked to be idle or recreating, which are both skills Ellie and I excel at. It is not until we spend time in the real world and see how the other half lives that our lifestyle of relative idleness and immediate gratification sometimes seems shallow. When this happens, we usually resort to finger pointing and name calling.

When in Utah, Mormons are an easy target.

And why not? They work like mules, reproduce like Catholics and, to add insult to injury, don’t drink alcohol or coffee. What’s even more bizarre, they seemed happy.

The happy part intrigued me. Now granted, we have many friends who have and love their children, and we even know a few who like to work, but it is my observation that they would not be able to do so without the benefits of caffeine and an occasional beer. But the citizens of that small hamlet seemed fulfilled and content. I think this has to do with an agreed upon sense of place and purpose.

There seemed to be a church or God imposed structure and work ethic that the citizens lived by. They were doing what was expected — gladly. The men worked hard and ruled the household. The women worked hard and ran the family. The children were like children anywhere, but they were better mannered and concealed their tattoos. Though it is entirely possible that a hidden dissatisfaction lurked under the orderly surface, from the perspective of a stranded traveler, their contentment was enviable.

To be clear, that lifestyle would not work for my mate and me. She would never agree to me ruling the household — not even the garage.

We were awoken Monday morning by a knock on our camper door. Roger was sporting a worried look.

“I dreamt about your motor last night. I woke up troubled that I was wrong about your injectors.” He had gotten out of bed, gone down to his garage to wait for the delivery of our part and wanted to install it early to determine if his diagnosis was correct. “If that isn’t the problem, I’ve got some other ideas we can try. I promise I’ll get you up and running before I sleep tonight.”

Ellen and I watched as he towed our truck from the impound lot toward his garage. We were both amazed that with all he had on his plate — family, business, church, and obligations — that he would be so concerned about the plight of two infidels living in his junkyard that it would interrupt his sleep.

As we stood in the junk yard full of old cars, trucks and farm equipment, Ellie asked, “What type of guy would lose sleep over a fuel injector?”

“A good guy.” I answered.

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