Hamburger Helper

At 7:30 I called Ann as the Friends of the Library authors’ event was winding down. “I’ll be home in an hour, I told her” as I made my last round of thank yous and goodbyes.

But as I tried to make my way from the Pulaski Library back onto Highway 99 that was my only known way back to the interstate, my heart sank.

Guess what–the Christmas Parade was well underway–on 99. I fumbled my way onto what I hoped was a collateral, and sure enough, arrived 1/2 mile down 99, blocked by a police car with flashing blue lights, the parade in full swing. As far as I could see ahead, parade. Two-foot tall kindergarten elves plodded behind crepe-papered riding lawnmowers ad nauseum.

It was one of those classic “this can’t be happening” moments. I turned off the engine right there, several dozen idling cars behind the cops, and called Ann. “Update: I’ll be home, hopefully, in two or three hours.”

After ten minutes when it got good and cold, I decided I’d rather be warm, lost and moving than cold in a known location stuck for another hour of tractor-floats. I struck out. I got lost. I found my way back, another half mile up 99. Parade.

I admitted defeat and pulled into a MacDonalds for a pit stop first, then an hour nap. As I pulled open the glass door by the drive-up window, I was the Black Hole of Christmas Cheer.

“Hey Fred, what are you doing here?” came a familiar voice from the car-full of kids waiting for Happy Meals.

I’m far from home. I’m hopelessly stuck in an unfamiliar town. I’m exhausted and ill-tempered. And then an angel appeared.

I followed her tail lights through the same residential neighborhood where I’d given up and turned around. She blinkered me left onto an unfamiliar road and gave me the thumbs-up. I was home by 8:30. Thank you lord for Susan, my hamburger helper.

Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

Articles: 3013


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Ya never know what you’ll find around the next turn. Santa’s little helpers are every where. God puts angels where you need them even in Pulaski. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Sometimes it pays to be known by lots of people. But why didn’t you get out when you were sitting for the first 10 mins and go ask the cop who was blocking the way?

    Glad you make it home without too much delay, being stuck like that can be maddening.

  3. Glad to have been of assistance! I guess all those years of riding my bicycle through the streets of Pulaski as a kid pays off sometimes!

  4. Coming home from Roundrock last weekend, Libby and I got sidetracked by a small town parade too. I think the one we encountered was smaller than yours. We parked nearby and got out to watch the display go by. After about an hour, it was all done and we were on our way again.