‘3%’ will get new nickname

I am a nicknamer.

My wife is “Short Woman.” Georgann is 5 feet tall on her tiptoes.

My youngest granddaughter Rachel is Squeezel.

I could tell you my nickname for my daughter. However, if I did, this would be my last commentary.

“Hey Bud” or “Hi Sweet pea” or simply “Bubba” are likely to come out of my mouth when I greet someone.

With a moniker like Harry, you can guess at my nicknames.

I inherited a unique new handle of late: “3%.” Retired Selma, Calif., teacher and fellow hot rodder Bob Chapman stuck me with it. My ’55 Chevy has digital instruments. They are cool; just not really accurate. A year ago we were late to a car show in Selma. Bob asked me if I had enough gas in my big block Pro Street machine when I swung by his place headed for the event. I did not really know since I had never tested the gas gauge for accuracy. It read that I had plenty. We were late for the event and barreled down the back roads to Selma. When it hit 3%, I coasted to a stop alongside a vineyard east of Fresno. I found 3% digitally means E. I met a nice farmer who offered me gas, but Bob had already headed to town and bought me a new gas can filled with gas.

Chapman made a plaque to remind me of the event:  Harry “3%” Cline. It’s hanging in my garage. That’s okay because I gave him a similar award. It reads Bob ‘Gator Bait’ Chapman in honor of his tangle with a road alligator (truck tire carcass) on Highway 99 near Madera. He went slightly airborne, tore the valance off the front end and bent up his brake lines on his cherry ’32 coupe.

Chapman will go one up on me in the nickname category when he hears about 3%’s latest brainless auto adventure.

I was heading back to Fresno from the University of California West Side Research and Extension Center at Five Points, Calif., and decided to stop beside the road west of Riverdale, Calif., and  shoot open boll cotton footage with my new, little Flip video camera. I have a habit of tossing my keys on the truck’s center console when exiting — so there is no need to lock the vehicle.

When I rolled out of the pickup, I managed to toggle the electric lock switch into the lock position with my forearm. I did not know it until I finished my video shoot. Standing beside my locked truck; cell phone inside next to the keys, I felt dumber than a slug. It was a long walk to town. It was hot. I tried to flag down a couple of cars with no luck. A fellow in a single cab white Ford pickup traveling the opposite direction spotted me; made a U-turn and stopped. He graciously called AAA and headed off to a meeting, apologizing that he could not wait with me. AAA said it would be 30 minutes. I waited and waited and waited. The man in the pickup came back by with a cold bottle of water for me. He said he would check on me again the next time by. I must have looked particularly helpless.

The wait went far longer than the 30 minutes. I spotted a nearby farm house at the intersection of Blythe and Mt. Whitney about 2 miles west of town. It was a short walk. I rang the doorbell and a mother with two young children at her side peered curiously as she cracked the door. When I told her of my plight, she offered me the hand-held home phone. I called AAA and was put on hold. The young mother went back inside and came back with another bottle of water.

I wondered why everyone was being so kind with water for the old-timer. I realized why when I looked into the mirror at home. I was cooked — sunburned as red as a load of over-ripe processing tomatoes. My Samaritans must have believed I was about to keel over.

As I walked back to the pickup, the AAA rescuer commented, “Unusual place for a lock-out?” Yes indeed, some dumb klutz did it on the side of a road next to a cotton field in the middle of almost nowhere.

The AAA wrecker driver quickly got me back on the road to Fresno.

I obviously thanked my two good Samaritans who came to the aid of “3%” who may soon also become known as “Lock-Out.”

I try to look at the good side of people. Some say I am a fool and believe in the Easter Bunny. Maybe. Regardless, there are some nice folks who call Riverdale, Calif., home. I did not ask their names. Should have so I could formally thank them.

My lock-out tale did not restore my faith in mankind or anything that philosophical. I never lost my faith in people. I believe the vast majority of people are good-hearted and want to help their fellow man. My Riverdale roadside adventure confirms my belief.

I will not be the last person in need that my two Samaritans help.

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