The family gathering the day after Christmas in Bogalusa was awesome. When we left late that afternoon, I could not imagine anything greater than what we had experienced already. And as lagniappe, my pickup was loaded with firewood donated by my kind brother-in-law and sister. Life could not be finer!

But a final lesson of the day was yet to be learned.

The lesson started early that morning when we met our traveling companions, son Zach and his family in Crowley. I was surprised that Zach and family were traveling in his pickup rather than the SUV. “Surely,” thought I, “the SUV would be more comfortable.” But that decision was their business, so well enough. He and his little family followed us all the way to Bogalusa.

As we readied to leave Bogalusa at the end of the day, Zach mentioned his need to buy gas before he got on I-12. To myself, I mused, “Why should I wait on him? I have enough fuel to go home!” I felt at that point that we should part ways.

But I couldn’t separate us from our children (and grandchild!), nor would Sarah let me, so again we stuck together.

We got on the interstate at Covington after tanking up, and after a few miles, my phone rang. Zach, trailing behind us, told me urgently, “Pull over. NOW! Your tire is on fire.”

I pulled over alongside the Interstate. Turns out it was not the tire but the brake or some internal part of the wheel. White smoke billowed from the rim for several moments as I watched alongside I-12, the post-Christmas traffic whizzing by 70 mph in both lanes less than 15 feet from me.

After the wheel cooled off a little, just short of dialing 911, I decided we’d try it again. Three or four miles down the road, more white smoke from the wheel. I pulled over again.

This time, I suggested to Zach, “Let’s offload as much of this wood as we can from my truck to yours.” I was grasping at straws, perhaps more desperate than rational.  But right there, along the shoulder of the Interstate, we a little over half of the load.

And wouldn’t you know?  A hundred twenty or so miles after lightening the load, and several stops to check the wheel which by now was behaving fine, we made it home!

Why did my son’s family travel in the pickup?  Why did we stick together on the way home after I wanted to split up?

What can I offer but, “Grace rules!”  And family really does matter!

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