Back many years ago, when a lot of Richmond County residents worked in various mills and sewing rooms, it was a given fact that those employees would have the week of the Fourth of July off because those facilities would be closed that whole week. Places to stay at the beach would always be packed out during that week since so many people had no choice but to use that week as their one and only vacation of the year.
The first year after our marriage, my husband and I were invited to spend that week of July 4th with some friends at the beach. Our friends had relatives who had a place at Holden Beach, and there was plenty of room for us — along with other family members — to all stay together. It sounded like it would be a lot of fun, so we decided to go.
The night we planned to leave, my husband and I were at our friend’s house at 11 p.m. when he got off of work. We were all packed up and raring to go spend a week at the beach. We had swimming gear, fishing gear, clothes and even some groceries because we were planning on cooking up some fish, shrimp, and whatever else we decided we wanted to eat while we were there.
By the time our friend, Mike, got home, ate, showered and got dressed, it was nearly midnight. The men packed up Mike’s car and then the four of us loaded into the car and headed out towards the beach. We were just outside of Bolton when Mike noticed the car was pulling to the left. He stopped the car and pulled it onto the grass at the side of the road. The guys got out to check and see what was going on. It didn’t take them long to see that we had a flat tire on the front of the car.
When Mike’s wife (Collette) and I got out of the car, the mosquitoes were so bad we thought they were going to pick us up and carry us home with them so they could eat us! I kid you not. I have never seen such big, black mosquitoes before or since. They were so loud, they sounded like airplanes coming in for a landing.
The men tried to get to the tire (which was up under all of that luggage), but soon saw they were going to have unload everything to get to it. Collette and I stood around swatting mosquitoes and wondering where all of that stuff came from that was sitting on the ground all around us.
The men finally got to the tire and then started to take off the flat tire so they could replace it with the spare. About that time, I heard Mike say, “Hand me the lug wrench.” I saw my husband looking all around in that trunk and then I heard him say, “I don’t see a lug wrench.” Mike walked back over to the trunk of the car and they both looked and looked and looked again, but they could not find a lug wrench. Oops! What were we going to do without a lug wrench? There we were — in the middle of nowhere with no help in sight.
Collette and I went and sat back down in the car so we wouldn’t be standing out in the open with those blood-sucking mosquitoes. The guys just stood around talking about what to do next since there were no service stations anywhere in sight and this was way before the day of AAA roadside assistance.
It seemed like hours — but was probably only an hour or so — before the men spotted headlights coming our way. It seemed like we could see those lights forever as they came down that long, straight stretch of highway. When those lights got a little closer, Mike stepped out onto the edge of the road and waved his arms in front of that truck, which was pulling a boat. The driver pulled off the road and stopped right behind that great big car that had all that stuff sitting around it. A man stumbled out of the truck and another man got out on the passenger side. Collette and I just sat in the car but we could hear everything that was said since we had the windows rolled part of the way down.
Of course, the men all introduced themselves and Mike told the new arrivals that we had a flat tire and didn’t have a lug wrench. The driver said: “You don’t have a lug wrench? What crazy fool would come off from home without a lug wrench? I’ll get mine and me and my buddy will even change that tire for you.” He stumbled over to his truck (I truly mean stumbled because he had definitely had way too much to drink) and opened up his tool box. He and his passenger looked and looked but he couldn’t find a lug wrench either. The look on that man’s face was priceless when he realized he was a crazy fool, too! That man didn’t say another word. He just jumped back in that truck and drove off down that long, lonesome highway.
We finally got a lug wrench when another truck came by a long time later. Needless to say, we got to the beach a lot later than we intended to, but we did have a great week after we finally arrived.
By the way, we did see those two crazy fools again when we visited the shop at the marina at Holden Beach. They acted like they had never seen us before and actually might not even have remembered that they had already met us along a swampy, mosquito-infected stretch of road right outside of Bolton, when we were all searching for a lug wrench!
Azalea R. Bolton is a resident of Richmond County, member of the Story Spinners of Laurinburg, and member of the Richmond and Anson County Historical Societies.