Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Tales from the Trail
by Father Mark Pautler, for the Inland Register
(From the April 21, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)
With the arrival of spring, my spirit is uplifted. Cycling season has returned. Here is a “Tale from the Trail” from a ride last year.
“Could I borrow your pump?” I had just arrived at the end of a bike ride where another cyclist was in need of assistance. The utility pump mounted on my bike frame is one of those one
precautions “just in case.” I was happy to lend it to Justin. He vigorously worked the piston, but it became obvious that the leak was too severe. “Do you have a little more time so I can patch the
tube?” Working quickly, he removed the tube. It didn’t take much time to locate the leak. He then fashioned a patch using a piece of plastic from a garbage sack and rubber cement. I guess he had done
this before. In the meantime, I noticed that the inner rim of the wheel lacked the insulating band that protects the tube from the heads of the spokes. “Give me a few minutes,” I told him. “My car is
nearby and I have a few things that will help us out.” I carry the universal repair kit: WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. (If you remember the movie Gran Torino, you will understand
this reference and, by the way, “Get off my lawn.”) Working together, we wrapped two rounds of tape on the inner rim, and Justin had another go at the patch. Inflating the tire was considerably easier
this time because I also carry a small compressor in the trunk. Nonetheless, the tire was not going to hold air. At this point it was obvious that Justin needed a new tube. He needed a new tire. In
fact, a new bike wouldn’t be a bad idea. Justin’s bike had seen better days. The fact is, I had never seen anything like it. It appeared to have been cobbled together from parts from two or more
bicycles. There probably is a street name for this bicycle version of a “chopper,” but I don’t know it. “It’s a little difficult to ride, not very stable,” he told me. Well, with no air in the front
tire, there wouldn’t be any riding at all. Furthermore, Justin was carrying a sizable backpack. Now it was time for the questions you don’t ask because you may not want to hear the answers. “Are you
headed somewhere, or staying in Spokane?” “I have an apartment not too far from here.” “Then let me give you a ride.” We mounted our bikes on the rack and headed to his apartment. The drive involved a
considerable uphill grade. That would not have been much fun on a one speed bike, and even less fun with a backpack weighing 30 pounds or more.
Our conversation during the short drive was benign. I got his name and asked where he was from (Milwaukee), and took a cue from his minimal responses that he was not interested in volunteering
more information. I let him know that I had a nephew, Justin, so it wouldn’t be much of a problem remembering his name. By the way, my nephew is also a cycling enthusiast.
The apartment where I left Justin suggested a few things about his circumstances. He did have a roof over his head. He had a means of transportation, such as it was. Whether it was a shared
apartment I could not say. He carries most of his worldly possessions with him, because he might not have any possessions at the end of the day if he left them in the apartment.
And so I left him at his door. He asked for no financial help. The $5 I carry on my rides was safe. My good deed for the day was fulfilled. So far as I know, I haven’t been punished, yet. All
things considered, it was “the least I could do.” Sometimes the least you can do may be the most you can do. But sometimes I can do more; I need to do more.
(Father Pautler is Judicial Vicar and Chancellor of the Spokane Diocese.)
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