By Carol Stiffler

We live in the most beautiful place.

Even so, something always seems to be out of balance up here. Sometimes it’s an abundance of juicy spiders. Or an absence of bats. Or ticks so plentiful they could wrap around the earth.

This spring, it seems to be mud. The muddiest mud.

Several roads that I depend upon have deteriorated into quick-sand like mud this spring, rich and thick and eager to consume whoever dares to travel there. I’ve had to find alternate paths, a back-up bus stop, and add extra time to normal commutes.

But I cannot change where my loved ones live, and that has meant braving the mud on their road. I knew the dirt road was in bad shape, but you can’t push “pause” on family until the road is easy. We went to visit anyway. The path in was treacherous, and hours later, the path home got the best of us.

We became completely and totally stuck in the mud on a county road. While trying to ease forward or backward, our tires dug so deep down that the front frame of our minivan was resting on the road. There was nowhere to go, and very few people who lived close enough to help. We have AAA, but they could take hours to arrive, and maybe they’d get stuck, too.

I picked up my phone and called the family who lived closest to where we were stuck. I know them lightly, though definitely not well enough to interrupt them at 8 p.m. on a Thursday evening. Desperate, I called anyway. Though they probably didn’t recognize my number, they answered and agreed to help immediately.

Not long after, two pairs of lights approached our anchored minivan. Our rescuers had come in a large John Deere tractor and a four-wheel drive truck, and brought with them a long length of chain.

Our van has no hitch. It has a lot of family conveniences, but nothing sensible to help for a tow. With our front two tires inaccessibly sunk into mud, wrapping a chain around a back tire was the only option left.

With the confidence of a Yooper, our rescuer kneeled in the mud to study the frame of our vehicle. I cringed. Then he laid flat on his back on the revoltingly mushy road to wrap the chain around our tire. I was horrified. That was gross, and difficult. Getting down in the mud is easy; getting up from the mud is not. When he stood, his back and legs were so thickly covered in mud, it looked like someone had applied it on purpose.

Then the man climbed into the cab of his very clean tractor, and sat his filthy, muddy person down onto the seat without hesitating. It was stunning, and knowing our family caused the need for such a scene left me speechless.

Very gently, the man backed his tractor across the mushy road and into the snow-filled ditch, and kept pulling backwards. It felt like our van was floating backwards, gently drifting back until we were on a part of the road that was more stable.

He managed it, and before long, my husband and I got back out of the van in awe. We could hardly believe all of it – that we’d gotten so stuck, that they’d helped so graciously, that they’d gotten so terribly dirty on our behalf. These people had no obligation to us, but helped us as if we were family. They smiled all the way through it. They even gave us cookies, which my kids ate with zeal.

What do you say in this situation? Nothing seems to suffice, though we said thank you at least a dozen times.

We are still so grateful. Thank you, once again, to the lovely couple who rescued us that evening. You did more than rescue us – you were exceptionally kind and gracious. You reminded us of how beautiful humankind can be, and how much better off we are together. And you sure took the sting out of the mud.