A sense of dread washed over Arvis Stubbs as she stared at her trailer’s runaway tire lying shredded along the edge of a small-town Minnesota road on a recent morning.
How would the 65-year-old St. Cloud entrepreneur get her flea market goods to her destination another 150 miles to Sioux Falls in time for display the next morning?
But she wasn’t on the roadside for long in Raymond, Minn., when she saw approaching a good Samaritan in a burgundy T-shirt and denim jeans held up by suspenders.
“Stop!” he ordered her, Stubbs said. “Don’t touch that! That tire’s hot. You’re going to burn your hand.”
Stubbs, a Black woman who was the target of an ethnic slur years before in Raymond, said, “I froze and put my hands up. I was in a strange town, and they must have thought I was stealing something. That’s why my hands went up. I had a craft show there before, and there is no one there who looks like me.”
But Stubbs soon realized this stop in Raymond would be nothing like her previous visit. Instead, 75-year-old retiree Will Ammermann was about to express a small dose of humanity. For the next four hours, Ammermann figured out what needed fixing, got it fixed, and found time to treat Stubbs to lunch before she set off again with her inventory of medicinal hot and cold packs in tow.
“Mr. Will,” as Stubbs came to call Ammermann, followed up his hot tire warning with a warm embrace and cool reassurance.
“I drove over to where Arvis was squatting over the tire,” said Ammermann, who encountered Stubbs while taking photos of some trees in their full autumn glory. “It was chewed to nothing, and she was just sitting there looking at it. I could see the panic on her face like, ‘What do I do now?’
“When I saw her sitting over her tire looking forlorn, I said, ‘It appears you need a hug,’ and she burst into tears.”
Ammermann pitched the tattered tire into his pickup bed and drove Stubbs 20 miles to Willmar to collect the parts he needed to get the wheel back in place. They stopped for a quick lunch at McDonald’s. She recalled saying, “‘Here’s the deal. I’m paying for the meal.’” But thinking back, she realized that her Mr. Will got the bill, just as he would for everything needed to replace the wheel.
He then took Stubbs to his house to meet his wife, Jolene.
“I come in their house, and it smells like Grandma’s house,” Stubbs said. “She must have been baking all night and cooking. She must have had 10 loaves of bread in the kitchen.”
Over coffee, Stubbs and Jolene Ammermann sat side by side on the couch, swapped stories and shared photos of their grandkids while Will Ammermann gathered the right tools.
The time came for Stubbs to leave her newfound friends and head back to Raymond, where the new tire was firmly attached.
Stubbs went on to Sioux Falls with her tire fixed, her lunch tab covered and a loaf of banana bread at her side.
“There is a world of humanity out there,” Jolene Ammermann said. “It really doesn’t take much to take the time to talk with people and see people for who they are, and not look past them.”
Said Mr. Will, of Stubbs: “We need to help people in need, no matter what color they are and no matter what creed they are. She told me her whole life story in the course of the whole experience. … It felt good afterwards. She’s a neat gal.”