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One Sunday in Wellington and Childress
Having grown up in Wellington and graduated from WHS, I have many fond memories of Wellington but none better than the following.
I have family buried in Memorial Gardens – my parents Sandown and Morie Barnes Smith, my son Lanny Quinn Ketchum (3-11-07), my sister Nell Walker and the father of my children, Wayne L. Ketchum. It has been my custom to attend the graves with some regularity, but life and broken limbs got in the way so I’d been somewhat neglectful of them.
However, on a recent Sunday before churches began to reopen, I filled up with gas the day before, made sure I had cash in my purse, packed a bag with water, snacks and CDs, loaded the bag in my car and departed my home in Wichita Falls at 10:50 a.m.
The drive was easy with very little traffic and I made good time pulling up at what I knew as Roberson’s (now Three Rivers) at 1 p.m., just in time to lunch on their delicious chicken strips.
I reached over to pick up my purse only to realize I had brought a bag, but no purse and only had $3 in my console. I would be fine. I’d just go out to the cemetery, take care of the graves, eat my snacks on the way home and hope I didn’t get pulled over for anything as I didn’t even have my driver’s license.
I drove to the cemetery, chopped a few weeds and began to put out the flowers I’d brought for my parent’s graves. When I walked around to the other side of the car my attention was immediately drawn to my back tire – it was flat!
I’m 130 miles from home, I have no money and I’m in a cemetery with a flat tire on a 2006 Lincoln Towncar. I did have my cell phone and remembered that I had made some phone calls to Wellington earlier in the week.
I called the first number I found with an 806 area code. Nobody answered the first two. On the third call, an older gentleman answered the phone and when I explained my predicament, he said that he’d like to come change it, but that he was in an assisted living facility.
“Is this John Carson?” I asked. My family had been close friends with he and Jo for many years. As I tried to think what to do, I asked him if he could give me the phone number for the Sheriff’s Office and he happily did.
Answered immediately, I was told that he would get someone out right away. In almost no time at all, James Gray was at the cemetery and went to work changing the flat tire for the “donut” in my trunk.
As he worked and I worried, another gentleman drove up in a pickup loaded with all sorts of work equipment. His name is Tino Salinas. Accompanied by his young son, he got out of his truck volunteering to help.
Mr. Gray was struggling with my half-pint jack but Tino got his big jack, checked the air in the spare and in almost no time, James and Tino had me ready to roll.
Tino simply came to help because he saw us as he drove by the cemetery.
Mr. Gray suggested that Walmart in Childress might fix it my tire, and I thanked James and Tino and went to the other grave sites.
At the last one, the ground was terribly hard and as I struggled to get the flowers in the ground. A person working on a nearby grave came over and offered to help me. She had trouble also but ended up borrowing a shovel full of dirt from where they were working to get the flowers secured.
I thanked her and returned to the car where my phone was ringing. It was Mr. Gray who was calling to make sure I had enough gas to get back home. I did have plenty but before I could get on the road, another Sheriff’s Office employee, Mark (Myrick), showed up and offered to loan me money. I refused the offer but did so appreciate the gesture.
On the way back to Wichita Falls going through Childress, I called my neighbor and asked her to go to my house, locate my credit card number and call me back which she did.
Three men attended the tire department. I explained my predicament, but that I did have my credit card number. They all kindly shook their heads that “no they had to have the card.” I asked for the store manager whom they promptly brought to my aid, but she also said, “no, we have to have the card.”
Very quickly though, one of the tire department employees named Jim responded with, “I’ll pay for it.” He took his own card and paid for the repair while the others went to work on it.
While I’m waiting for the job to be completed, I began to visit with a lady who was there purchasing a new tire for her granddaughter. I explained that I had come from Wellington and she said, “I have an uncle in Wellington. His name is John Carson.”
I then told her that I’d spoken to him earlier that same day and that he and his family were long time friends of my family!
After returning home, I couldn’t wait to tell this story to my neighbors, Bart and Debbie Sherrill who had lived for some time in
Wellington and Childress. And, yes, would you believe it, Debbie responded with, “James Gray is my brother-in-law!”
And, yes, there still are a lot of very good people – especially in Wellington and Childress!
Sandra Smith Ketchum