Friday, July 16, 2010

No Good Deed.....

No Good Deed…….

The old saying that states that “no good deed goes unpunished” has been around for a long time. My father first introduced it to me when I was very young. He was a helpful man. Seems like he was always trying to do things for people that needed one thing or another. And there was always something. But he insisted that the only way to get along in this world is by helping folks when they needed it. If someone needed to get a cow to the auction barn or chase down the hogs that found a break in the pen or get their old truck out of the mud, Mr. Clint was their man. He was quick to volunteer and never asked for any compensation for his kindness. But more than once I saw how his good deeds turned on him for his efforts. He was well familiar with the “no good deed goes unpunished” philosophy but still, he never hesitated to lend a hand. Like the time he was helping a perfect stranger when their old ‘55 Chevy pick up was hopelessly stuck in the mud. It was loaded down with firewood and was sunk deep into the Louisiana grey muck. Of course Dad was right in the middle of it trying to help. I watched as he used all the resources available, which was not much, to get some kind of traction to the rear tires so the truck could be coaxed out of it’s trap, which seemed to be trying to suck it even deeper into the muddy mess. He was making good progress, had managed to stabilize the truck with an antique jack and blocks of wood, so it would not sink any deeper. But as he attempted to dig the mud from under one of the wheels so he could place a board under it in order to get the needed traction to pull out, the old jack gave way and the entire weight of the truck and it’s load of firewood came smashing down on him, trapping his hand under the tire. It was obvious that he had to be in some serious pain, but amazingly enough he remained calm and told me exactly what to do. I did as he instructed and in a few minutes his hand was free. He never slowed down or complained. He just went back to work until the truck and the man were safely on their way. His hand was swollen and turned different shades of blue and red, but amazingly enough was not broken.
So it was on this day in the Land of Beautiful Horses, Cappadocia, Turkey that I got a reminder about how true the old saying can be. Joy and I were having a wonderful day exploring all the beautiful and historical gifts that this land has to offer. We were up at 3:45 in the morning to join Sancho, our Spanish balloon pilot, and 16 other lucky people for a once in a lifetime hot air balloon ride over the amazing landscape that draws thousands of visitors each year. We met the crew at the hangar and were at the launch site setting up by 5am. The paying passengers showed up a few minutes later in a small van, had tea and cookies, and watched in awe as the 350,000 cubic foot balloon came to life. And by 5:45, all were on board along with Joy and I waving goodbye to the crew as the earth slowly dropped away. The launch area sits in a valley surrounded by fairy chimneys, strange and beautiful vertical rock formations that were created over thousands of years of sculpting by the wind and rain in this high desert region. They stand as silent sentinels guarding the secrets of this sacred land that has been inhabited by humans for over 8,000 years. Some 2,000 years ago, Christianity was born and nourished here where the people literally carved out homes and churches in the soft tuffa rocks that were created by dying volcanoes. These dwellings kept them safe from Persians and others who aimed to do them harm and crush their religion. And now, as the sun began to spread it’s soft light onto the rocks on the far side of the valley, our very own ancient magic carpet, in the form of a not so modern hot air balloon, slowly drifted over and among the rocks below. Sancho is probably the best balloon pilot flying here in Cappadocia. And there are a lot of them. On any given day there are between 40 and 60 balloons taking as many as 1,000 passengers a day for their magical history tour. But Sancho loves to fly and is there to give folks their money’s worth. Some of the balloons will take off and go high and stay there the entire flight. That’s the easy thing to do, but very boring after just a few minutes. With Sancho, the difference is like watching a movie, and being in the movie. We began to drift toward the first set of rock towers. Sancho read the unpredictable winds in the valley perfectly. By adjusting the altitude of the balloon slightly up or down, he found the right river of wind to take us down among the giant rocks. We glided effortlessly past the towers, often looking up to see the tops. We could almost reach out and touch the many cave houses embedded in the rock canyon walls. We brushed the very tops of ancient grape vines on the canyon floor that were loaded with small green fruit, which Sancho was quick to point out, would later be made into wine or champagne. It was amazing. I enjoyed watching the other passengers and Joy as they expressed their reactions in different ways. A young couple from Peru rode quietly, but smiling and holding each other lovingly. A family from France, a man, his wife and two small children, were talking quietly among themselves as they took turns pointing out what they were seeing. A small group of people from Spain were getting the grand tour from Sancho, since they could understand each other. And a group of Japanese tourists that were so excited and taking so many photos that I thought their Fuji’s and Sony’s were going to explode any second.
As we watched in awe while the scenes continuously changed, I noticed a well worn trail cutting through the narrow canyon that was the beginning of Rose Valley. From my bird’s eye view I could see clearly how the trail snaked it’s way around the fairy chimneys, through small vegetable gardens and fruit trees, and finally spilling into the larger valley. I followed the trail back up the canyon and saw where there was a small road leading to the head of the trail. The road took a few turns but eventually came out to the main highway near the Kaya Campground. I took a mental picture, trying to record the map in my mind and mentioned to Joy that we should come back and hike this trail.
Sancho apparently was more interested in visiting with his Spanish friends than flying. He got my attention and motioned for me to take over the controls. I climbed over the tall partition that separated the pilot from the passengers and Sancho climbed out and joined his new friends. After all, Spain had just won the World Cup the night before and there was apparently much to talk about. For those of you who do not keep up with such, the World Cup is the Olympics of football, or soccer as we call it in the U.S. It’s a really big deal. So for the next half hour, Sancho got to celebrate Spain’s victory and I got to fly the very big balloon. In the interest of time and space, I will save those details for another time. In short, I found a suitable landing place and the crew was there waiting to literally catch the giant balloon and set it on the trailer before we deflated.
Following the traditional after flight ceremony with a champagne toast, the happy passengers got on their bus and went on there way to discover more of Cappadocia by some other means. Now they would go visit some of the things they had surveyed from the air. For Joy and I it meant back to the apartment, fix breakfast, download some pics to the computer, and take the all important nap. Got to have the nap. Besides, it’s summer here and too danged hot for anything else. We agreed to stay in until later and then set about trying to find and then explore the little trail we had seen from the air. At a little after 5pm we found ourselves pulling off the main road at the Kaya Campground. I recalled the little mental map in my head that would show the way to the trailhead. We followed the stone wall around the campground on the little dirt road and took the first right hand fork. The road became much more narrow and bumpy and started a marked descent down into the canyon. A left turn and the road became steeper as I down shifted to first gear to keep the little Suzuki Jeep at a slow pace. I could tell Joy was getting a little nervous as the road got steeper and more bumpy She even asked, “are we going to be able to make it back up this road”. Just like a woman, worrying about future details right in the middle of having present fun. Of course I assured her that it would not be a problem. And, also of course, I later got a chance to eat those words, raw and unseasoned. We made it to the bottom and pulled right up to the trailhead and parked, ready and anxious to now explore the canyon we had seen from the air earlier in the day. I had my back pack with all the essentials, water, energy bars, camera, flashlight and long sleeve shirts. We were ready. As we stepped onto the trail, we met a young couple just coming off the trail, each pushing a mountain bike. We exchanged greetings and I asked about the trail. They said it was good, a little rough in spots, and long, explaining they had to walk or carry the bikes in some areas. They looked pretty tired so I offered them water. They had plenty. As we talked I was thinking about where they had to go from here. They had probably rented the bikes in Goerme, which was at least two miles away. That in itself was not bad, but then I remembered the little road. They had to go up on those bikes what we just come down in the jeep. How nice it would be just to take them up the hill and they could ride on into town from there. Would surely save them a lot of grief and sweat and I would get to do my good deed for the day. And I was sure they would be really grateful that I came to the rescue. Did I just say “good deed”? Well you know what comes next.
Anne and Anders are from Denmark and are just what you would expect. Young healthy, blonde, and very likable. So I went ahead and ask if they would like a lift to the top. Anders was all for it, but I could see that Anne was a little hesitant. After all, they had only met me three minutes earlier. But when Anders reminded her that his front tire was flat, she reluctantly agreed. The little jeep only has two front seats and a soft top. I opened the tailgate and put the two bikes inside but could not close the tailgate. No problem, we’ll just leave it open, the handle bars of one of the bikes was keeping it partially closed. Since there was not room for all of us, I suggested to Joy she stay behind and just relax for the five minutes it would take for me to get up the road and back. She agreed. Anders got in the passenger seat and Anne crawled in and sat on his lap. There was not much room and they were pretty cramped, but they didn’t seem to mind. Getting to the top of that steep, dusty, winding road would be worth a little discomfort for a few minutes. I jumped in the drivers seat, waved to Joy and reassured her I would be right back. Then we started up the hill. I guess I pretty much over estimated the power of the little jeep and way under estimated the wickedness of that dirty, dusty, little hill. The jeep began to struggle almost immediately. We made it around the first curve and shifted to first gear to give it all the power we could muster. The road was not only steep, but was full of washouts that were deep making me maneuver this way and that, trying to stay in the middle. To make matters worse, the road was covered in a layer of dust at least 3 or 4 inches thick, making traction even more difficult. Around the next curve and the road became even more steep. I could tell Anne was nervous the way she was gripping the hand hold on the dash with one hand and Anders with the other. But I was determined to help these kids out so on we went. The little jeep was struggling hard now to the point of stalling. We had made it up a fair distance, but had about the same amount yet to climb. And then the jeep just gave up. The engine died. Oh crap! And this thing has a bad habit of not starting after running a while. I slammed on the brake and tried to crank the engine. Nothing. The jeep started to slide backwards down the hill. I pulled up the emergency brake, but the steepness of the hill and the layer of dust created a sled effect and we were on our way down! Backwards! And fast! I tried to keep it straight but the washouts were having their way with the little jeep and we were now just along for the ride with no control. I tried to remain calm, Anders was being cool, and Anne, well she was freaking out. Not screaming or real loud, but some rapid fire questions all directed at me as to what I was going to do. The best response I could utter out of my gritted teeth as we continued to slide down the hill was, “hold on real tight”! One of the tires caught a wash out and drove the jeep toward the side of road where there was build up of dirt. The tires on the left side slammed into the mound causing the jeep to tip to the right, way right. The left front wheel left the ground as we finally came to a stop. Thank God! Well, for stopping anyway. But now the left front tire was in mid air and the jeep was leaning to the right, rocking gently back and forth, just on the edge of tipping over. Now Anne, bless her heart, was pretty much demanding an answer to her familiar and now very urgent question, “what do we do now?” In the calmest voice I could manage, I advised them to do nothing, do not even breathe. Each small movement made the jeep teeter totter in mid air. It was leaning so far to the right, it was impossible to attempt escape from their side. I felt like a tip over was imminent. In the coolest, calmest, Indiana Jones voice I could muster, I instructed them to brace against the right side of the jeep and keep their hands inside! We were at such a steep angle, I was afraid when it did tip over, it would not just fall on it’s side but actually trigger a roll all the way down the hill. It was not a pretty image in my head. Here I was, in Turkey, waiting, not so patiently to fly the very big balloons, and the whole adventure was about to end right here on this dirty dusty little road and just because I wanted to help these folks out. Now I was on the verge of causing them extreme bodily harm or even death. The old proverb rang out in my head loud and clear. What seemed like minutes, I’m sure was only a few seconds. The jeep continued to sway like a leaf in a gentle wind, final destination unknown. I tried to think of options while Anne, now on the verge of tears, continued to asked that nagging question….Anders was trying his best to reassure her. We could wait for help. Nope. That could be a long wait..and too late. I was having to hold on to my side of the jeep to keep my weight from drifting to the right. I asked Anne if she could slowly, very slowly, climb to my side of the jeep, hoping to take some of the leveraged weight from the right side. I managed to open my door as she made the long trip from Anders lap to mine, moving in slow motion to check what effect her movements would have on the balance of the jeep. So far, so good. I instructed her to crawl over me and to the outside of the jeep, but at the same time keeping as much of her weight on the left side of the jeep as possible. Once she got out, I asked Anders to do the same. I figured at least if I could get them out of the vehicle, if it rolled, they would be safe. Anders made the trip just as slowly and deliberately as Anne. With his weight moving now to my side of the jeep, it began a slow movement back to level. Once he was safely outside, I crawled out the door as all three of us kept as much weight on the jeep as we could manage. The little jeep responded by righting itself to the point that all four wheels were now touching solid ground. Well at least, in a mound of dirt and not thin air. We tried to push the jeep back onto the road, but it was no use. The left back tire was wedged. We assessed that I could now get back in and try to drive it out. The back tire just spun in place. Better late I guess than never, I remembered the jeep did have four wheel drive. Duh….if I had thought of that before I started up the hill, we would not be in this mess!…and if a frog had wings..he wouldn’t bump his butt when he jumped! But now with the four wheel drive engaged the little jeep dislodged itself and came to rest back in the middle of the road and pointed straight up the dirty little hill. We all took a collective sigh of relief. With the confidence of the four wheel drive engaged I suggested we all get back in a continue on up the hill. Anne, with wisdom way beyond her years, would have none of it. She was perfectly happy to walk up that dirty little hill, thank you very much. I think she figured she had had enough “help” from me for one day. Anders and I got back in the jeep and slowly crawled up the hill, with Anne keeping a safe distance behind. Shortly we had the worst of it behind us and Anders convinced Anne to get back in for the rest of the trip to the highway. We arrived at the Kaya Campground where we stopped and all got out. We started to unload the bikes, when I suggested that I just go ahead and take them on into town. It was at least another mile, but mostly down hill. With her most polite, and appreciative voice, Anne quickly declined, not giving Anders a chance to vote.
I told them I was so very sorry for scaring them that way. And I admitted that I was so sorry for scaring me that way. But we agreed that it turned out to be quite an adventure. Anne said she would probably even write about it in her dairy, but was not quite sure she would relay the story to her mother. And I mentioned to them I was pretty sure that the adventure would end up in my blog. I was very proud of them. In the face of very real danger, they remained very calm and helpful. I left them on the side of road, no worse for actual physical wear and tear, but I’m sure there will be at the least some emotional scarring.
I made my way back down the hill where Joy was waiting. As I drove I recalled the many times my Dad had gone out of his way to help someone, sometimes in a small way, and sometimes at critical times in their lives. Even though very often he found himself being “punished” for his good deeds, he never stopped offering and never stopped doing… to in some small way try and do the right thing and get along in this ole world by occasionally helping others. And I suppose I will continue to try my best to do the same.
P.S. Joy was waiting patiently at the trail head but did ask if I had any trouble making it up that dirty little hill. “Nope. Just had to put it in four wheel drive”, I replied.

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