My grandpa liked to tell stories about his life, and I’ve often cited him as a direct inspiration. And to say he exaggerated sometimes is an understatement. But once in a while, especially when trying to convey a message he thought was important, his voice would take a certain tone, and you knew the understated tale was as true as the rising sun.
The story that ends up in Stage Fright began when Grandpa and his brother-in-law, Herman, were driving back home after delivering a load of cattle to the Iowa stockyards. It was early evening, and with a few hours of two-lane blacktop ahead of them, they stopped at the truck stop for supper.
After splitting a piece of pie with Herman and getting his coffee jug filled for the road, Grandpa told me how he walked out to the parking lot. Near his truck he saw a young girl in the front seat of a luxury car with an older man. And something nagged at him.
I have a friend in law-enforcement who talks about those JDLRs. Situations when things “Just Don’t Look Right.”
Keeping his eye on the old guy and the girl, Grandpa told Herman to go to the truck and bring back something from behind the seat. Not exactly a gung-ho trooper, Herman was reluctant, but,”said Grandpa, “when I nodded at the couple, he got the picture.
But Grandpa couldn’t wait.
Before Herman could return, the guy behind the wheel of the car forced himself on the girl who desperately flailed and screamed.
Grandpa walked over and kicked the driver’s door, which got the man’s attention.
“What’dya want?” the guy said, rolling the window down part way.
“I looked right past him and addressed the young lady,” Grandpa told me. “I asked her one question.”
Do you want to be with him?
The girl shook her head. “Help me?” she said.
By this time, Herman was standing beside the passenger door with a tire iron. Grandpa nodded at him. Herman opened the door, the girl climbed out with what Grandpa called ”the biggest smile Herman ever got from a gal.”
“Made the poor fella blush,” he added.
“She’s bought and paid for,” the man said. “You can’t get away with this.”
Grandpa just grinned as they watched the girl collect herself and run back into the truck stop. “We already did,” he said. “Now you need to get the hell out of here.”
The man gave Herman and the tire iron one quick glance, then squealed out of the place.
Bought and paid for.
The two farmers hung around another twenty minutes or so, drinking more coffee, sharing another piece of pie, and making sure the girl was safe with friends inside the building.
If in fact they saved her from a fate worse than death, as Grandpa often suggested, then you’ll see one more reason he was an inspiration to me.
Unfortunately, road crimes and human trafficking at truck stops hasnâ€™t gone away in the passing decades.
If anything, such incidents are more common than ever.
The good news is that you don’t need a tire iron to help.
According to the FBI.gov web site, human trafficking is believed to be the third-largest criminal activity in the world. It includes forced labor, domestic servitude, forced marriages, and commercial sex trafficking and affects people of both genders, all ages, and every socio-economic status.
If you believe you know someone who is a victim of human trafficking or have information to share, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org.