You Reap What You S(n)ow

Friday, December 14, 2012

John Alfred Hunter had two jobs he worked daily in New Madrid.

He was the owner and operator of Hunter's Service Station at the corner of Main and Virginia Streets. You could usually find him working in one of the two large service bays fixing a flat or working under a pickup truck or car raised high in the air on the lift in the right side bay.

Beasley's Auto Detail now has a business there.

Back when it was a station, if you pulled up to the pump a bell would ring. Out of the garage John Alfred would come, wiping the grease from his hands on a red rag that always hung from one of his pant pockets. This was a "service" station; he would pump your fuel, check the oil, wash off the windshield, and check your tire pressure.

The 1940s heavy snow storm pictured on Scott Street in New Madrid is the same type as the one that stranded John Alfred Hunter on his mail route. (Author's collection)

John Alfred also served on the City Council for many years. Often customers would discuss local happenings and problems with him while the tank was filling up.

That was his morning job.

In the afternoon he would drive to the U. S. Post Office a block away and pick up the mail to deliver on his rural postal route.

The snow began to fall one December day. By the time John Alfred started on his appointed rounds with the mail, the snow was getting deep. The big flakes swirled into his pickup each time he lowered his window to put mail in a box. Late in the afternoon when he turned down a side lane with just a few houses on it, the snow line ran from fence row to fence row.

"You couldn't see the road or the ditches," he said.

"I aimed my pickup down what looked like the middle and drove slowly. About a half mile or so down, my right front wheel dropped off into the ditch."

He was stuck, and the snow was still falling heavily. So he waited.

A pickup appeared in his rear view mirror and came to a stop beside him. Out jumped a young man.

"He told me there was a farm down the road and he would come back with a tractor to pull me out."

In a short time the tractor appeared out of the storm with the man bundled up on the open air seat. Soon enough John Alfred's pickup was free of the ditch.

John Alfred asked the young man what he owed him. "Let me pay you," he told him.

The man looked back at him and said, "Mr. Hunter, you don't remember me, but when I was about 12 years old I came down to your station with a flat tire on my bicycle. I didn't have any money; you fixed my flat for free. I've been waiting to repay you ever since. You don't owe me anything."

The young man mounted the tractor and drove it back up the road, disappearing into the snow storm.

"I didn't remember him," John Alfred said, "but I fixed a lot of flat bicycle tires."

John Alfred said he sat in his truck for a while and enjoyed the moment before finishing his route.

He never saw the young man again.

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