Rescued again

Last Saturday I lead a group of twenty people to hike Guadalupe Peak. This was a regular spring field trip for our Iron Men Group at First Baptist in Midland. We were joined this trip by the Singles Ministry, also from FBC. It was a good day. Of course, being spring in West Texas, it was windy.

But what happened was that we forgot to fuel up during our routine stop at the Flying J in Pecos. We remembered to buy drinks and breakfast, and go to the bathroom, but didn’t remember to put gas in the tank. The gas gauge actually said full, but we should have suspected it was lying and filled up anyway. We will from now on.

Because what happened next was that once the needle started moving toward empty, it moved quickly. When we arrived at the trailhead in Pine Springs, the gas gauge was in the red.. That was very bad news. We were now a two-hour drive from Pecos, the nearest place to buy gasoline on our way home. We would not make it back.

So Mark and I sent the other eighteen hikers up the trail while we went to find gas. We drove north, slowly, coasting the downhills, and almost made it all the way to White’s City, NM, the “gateway to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.” The bus engine began to cut out within sight of a gas station, and we coasted to the side of the highway, about a quarter of a mile from gasoline. Or so we thought.

As Mark and I walked toward the station we debated whether it was active or abandoned. It looked clean, no weeds, no missing hoses; but there were no vehicles anywhere around it. When we got to the station it was locked and the lights were out. We hoped that maybe it was a credit-card-only unmanned station.

We walked down the street to the grocery store hoping to buy a gas can, but the nice lady behind the counter said, “Not only do we not have any gas cans, we don’t have any gas. We had a huge wind storm on Friday and it knocked out the computers at the gas station. The only guy who can get them started again is in Roswell for training.” Bummer.

So we walked back down to the hotel to see if maybe there would be someone inside who could help. The hotel was attached to an RV Park, and maybe they would have some gas cans for emergencies. They didn’t. The nice man behind the desk said he had “no gas and no gas can, and the only guy who could fix the gas station was in Roswell, and his 90-year-old assistant didn’t know how to fix it and he was tired of hearing about the gas pumps.” The hotel man promised to drive us into Carlsbad if we were still around when he got off work at 3:30 PM. He would’ve driven us right then, but the hotel was operating on a skeleton staff, it being Saturday and all. (I would’ve thought Saturday was a big day for a tourist place, but apparently not). He said the owner was in Baltimore getting hotel training, so there was no one else that could help.

So we went back outside and found three National Park employees wearing bright yellow vests. I guess they were preparing for the traffic rush (even though it was only Saturday). One of them was a Park Ranger, and we told him our sad story. He seemed to sympathize, but he had no solutions to offer. Mark seemingly talked him into giving us a ride into Carlsbad (26 miles one way) to buy a gas can and gas. We crawled into the back of his official Tahoe, behind the Plexiglas barrier and behind his array of weapons, and settled in for a half-hour ride to town.

Only we quickly realized he was planning to give us a ride back to our bus, not to Carlsbad. Why did he think that would be helpful? What was he thinking? So we got out and stood around the bus talking until Mark talked him into giving us a ride back to White’s City. It was kind of weird. He dropped us off in front of the restaurant, gave us the phone number of the Eddy County Dispatcher, and returned to traffic directing duty.

In the restaurant, we told our story to the young lady behind the counter, and she felt so sorry for us she called her boyfriend in Carlsbad to ask him if he would bring some gas if he wasn’t doing anything. He was apparently doing something so he said no.

I phoned the Eddy County Dispatcher and told her our story. She asked, “How did you run out of gas?”

I paused a long time, not sure of the best way to answer that question. I finally said, “Well, no one runs out of gas on purpose.”

She said, “I guess you’re right.” She took my name and number and said a deputy would come to help us. But five minutes later she called and gave me the phone number of a car dealership in Carlsbad that had reliable tow trucks. I guess the deputy might’ve come himself had the bus been full of kids.

I called Phil Carrell Chevrolet, and they gave me the phone number of their tow truck driver. I phoned him, and he told me he would bring us some gas. He phoned me back about ten minutes later to tell me he was on his way with five gallons.

He arrived in a white pickup and poured his five gallons into the bus. We paid him what little cash we had with us. He said he was at a T-ball tournament when I called. His son was playing, and he came to help us between games. How ironic that the person who had the best reason for not helping us was the one who actually did.

So Mark and I drove the bus to Carlsbad where we put 29 gallons in the tank. We then drove back to Pine Springs, arriving just in time to eat a late lunch with the first couple of hikers down the mountain, the Clevenger boys.

Maybe it seems a little odd to be telling this long story when the real heroes of the day were the ones who hiked the eight miles round trip to the top of Guadalupe Peak, but they’re going to have to write their own accounts. I can only tell my own story.

Like the story of God saving the Israelites from the Egyptian chariots at the Red Sea, he never rescues us in the way we expect. You might say that this particular case shouldn’t count as a rescue since the problem was due to a situation of our own making (not gassing up). But most rescues are from our own self-made situations. Last Saturday we needed God’s help to get us out of our dilemma, and he helped us, but not before giving us a story to tell.



“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


To learn more about Berry’s newest book, “Running With God:”

Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson … Contact Berry directly:

To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: