As the welding truck drove toward us I could see that the driver was rolling down his window to talk with me.
"Your front tire is really low," said the mustached man as he leaned out of his vehicle looking down at the right left tire of the SUV I was driving in the direction of Wellington. "I think you need to pull over and change it before that tire gets ruined."
Problem was, I couldn't change it, because I didn't have a second spare.
I leaned out of the window and looked at the tire.
"We lost one back tire up Cottonwood Canyon and I used the spare to replace that," I said in a groaning manner as I saw the flattened letters of the brand of tire it was laying near the ground. "Do you have a compressor on board your truck so I can blow it up and maybe it will get us to Wellington?"
"Sorry, I don't have anything at all," said the man as he pulled away. Another truck that was obviously with him also pulled by headed up toward Cottonwood. I decided to forge onward until the tire was so flat that I feared damaging it, so I did.
Within just a few minutes however we found ourselves parked in front of the old Nutter Ranch where I had hoped someone was around. No one was. Now the tire looked worse than those dollar pancakes you buy at a cheap "family" restaurant.
"What do we do now?" asked my wife, as the light rain that had fallen in the area all day began to put much larger and more frequent drops on the windshield.
"Well we will just have to wait for someone to come by," I said looking around at the fading daylight and in my rearview mirror at the Duchesne/Nine Mile junction a half a mile behind us. I watched as gas field truck after gas field truck turned to go over Gate Canyon instead of heading toward Carbon County. It was then that I realized exactly what I had been hearing from many county officials was true. Most of the people working in the gas fields in Carbon County near Nine Mile live in Duchesne and Uintah County.
"The way it looks we could be here all night with as late as it is," said our friend who was seated in vehicle on the passengers side. The SUV was hers, and we had taken it to tour the area so we could see it for the upteenth time and she could view it for the first time.
Being modern people we all reached for our cell phones at the same time, although I knew this was a feeble gesture at trying to make ourselves feel good because I knew there would be no service.
The rain was now beating down very hard on the vehicle and I got out to look around at our surroundings. The Nutter Ranch was deserted and of course there was nothing to aide us with our plight. A cargo and hay trailer, a few outbuildings, two ranch houses and a bunkhouse, but nothing there that would be helpful. I started to think about Tom McCourt's book Split Sky as I stood there and realized that we were on the ranch where he had worked when he was 16 and this was the very place where that tale of growing up was centered.
I got back in the vehicle and as we discussed our situation in the fading light my wife suggested that possibly I could walk back to the junction to see if I could find someone who could at least bring a compressor over and blow up the tire.
The owner of the SUV pointed out that she had a rain poncho to go over my sweatshirt so I wouldn't get too wet. She took it out of its pack. It was a bright robins egg blue; pretty I thought, but not exactly what I would want to wear when encountering big, burley gas field guys. I got out of the car and immediately the rain pounded down on my head; the blue plastic suddenly looked better.
I put it on and walked for a few minutes as the rain splattered on my face. Just as I neared the intersection another welding truck came driving up and was about to turn toward Duchesne when I flagged it down. The young man on the passenger side rolled down his window and I told him of our plight.
"We don't have anything like a compressor with us," he said as he peered at me, probably trying not to laugh at my nose poking out of a blue background that could have blinded the sun. Then he must have seen the desperation in my eyes. "Yeah loosing a couple of tires in this canyon is a big deal. There is no help up here."
But as we talked he suddenly got a gleam of light in his eyes.
"I have an idea," he said as he and the driver dug behind the seat of the truck. They found a hose and some air fittings. But what to do about air.
"See that dump truck over there," he said as I looked up and saw another guy standing by a ten wheeler near the intersection. "We were going to pick him up to go home but that has air brakes. I think we can rig something up. It'll just take a few minutes."
I headed back to give the women the good news, however unsure it was. By the time I reached the SUV the dump truck and welding truck were right behind me. They had rigged up the hose and began to fill the tire which responded nicely. By this time it had stopped raining and I had torn off the poncho. My wife looked at me.
"You looked pretty funny walking down the road in that," she said with a smile on her face. I grimaced. "You know though I thought about it and we had two umbrellas in the car too. You could have taken one of them instead."
Yeah. I could have seen myself taking a stroll down that road with a pink umbrella. I'll stick to robin egg blue any day.
When they were done filling the tire I asked them to call my son and let him know about our problems when they got to the point they had service at the top of Gate Canyon. They agreed to do that after I thanked them profusely. I didn't know if the tire would hold up the 30 miles to Walkers in Wellington, because I had no idea when it had started to leak originally, but I had hopes because as far as I could remember on the way up the canyon that morning every other place along the way looked as peopleless as the Nutter Ranch.
As we pulled away I had visions of Tom hauling hay as a kid in the dimly lit fields around the ranch. It made me wonder about all the other stories that could be told if there was someone to tell them about this little corner of the world. It actually made me a little nostalgic about my childhood growing up on a farm and hauling hay, tending to irrigation water and taking care of cows.
"Gee, I have to say I was kind of thinking staying at the Nutter overnight, even in a car would have been kind of an adventure," I said as we traveled down the road and turned a curve so I could no longer see the ranch buildings in my mirror. "I almost wished we couldn't have gotten help until the morning."
I didn't look at the faces of the two women with me as I said it, but I am sure they were rolling their eyes at me.