By Jeff Jefcoat, F118344, National President
In early January we made our way across the country in our motorhome to attend the Western Area Rally in Indio, California. Somewhere along the way, our motorhome developed a leak that caused the air bag pressure to drop dramatically when the engine was turned off.
We stopped at a truck refueling station in Deming, New Mexico. I asked the gentleman on duty where I might get my motorhome checked for an air leak. He made a phone call, said a few words in Spanish, and handed me the phone. I was a bit nervous since I do not speak Spanish and did not know what to expect. I said, “Hello,” and the man on the other end of the line said, “Hello, how can I help you?” Relieved that we would be able to communicate, I explained the air leak problem. The man said, “Would you prefer that I come to you or could you drive to my place?” I told him that I was still mobile and would do whichever he preferred. He gave me directions, and we easily found his place on the Silver City Highway, about 2 miles away.
When we arrived, we were met by two young men, a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old. They asked me if I was the one who called about the air leak, and I replied that I was. They said the owner would be back soon. He had gone to the hardware store to get some bolts and nuts.
I knew those young ears could hear a lot better than mine, so I asked them to walk around the coach to try to detect the sound of escaping air. “I hear it,” the younger one replied. “It’s here, near this rear wheel.” About that time the owner came back. We introduced ourselves, and I complimented him on the courtesy and efficiency of his helpers, who he said were his sons. I told him that they had already found the problem and that all he had to do was fix it. He smiled broadly.
His efficiency and speed at repairing the leak were very impressive, so I asked him whether he could service the generator also.
While working on the motorhome, he relayed to me this story. He told me he is of Mexican descent and had grown up in California. He started to work in a truck repair shop at age 12 and had been doing this type of work all his life. He had gotten custody of his sons when they were ages 3 and 5. He became dissatisfied with the area where he was living and decided there must be a better place to raise his boys.
He and the children headed east on Interstate 10, looking for a new opportunity. They first settled in El Paso, Texas. They also stayed for a while in Las Cruces, New Mexico, but he felt that property there was too expensive. He had saved $15,000 and was hoping to find a business investment.
He then went to Deming and got a job that he liked and enjoyed. There was just one problem. He still wanted to own and run his own business. Each day as he drove to and from work, he passed a run-down piece of property that had a “For Sale” sign posted. He kept thinking how he could clean the place up and establish his business on that site. It was a good location on the busy Silver City Highway, and he could do a great deal with that 10 acres.
One day he got up the nerve to inquire about the property, only to find that it was listed for $135,000 and required a 25 percent down payment. That would not work for him. Several months later, while continuing to dream about owning the land, he saw a new sign that stated the price had been reduced. He called the real estate agent and learned the property now was being offered for $105,000. He told the agent that he would like to buy the property, but he could not afford that much. She asked him to make his offer and said she would submit it to the seller for consideration. He said, “I have $15,000. If you can get the property for $70,000 and arrange a bank loan for $55,000, I’ll buy the property. This is all the money I have and I cannot accept a counteroffer. This is my first and final offer.” She said, “Bring me your offer and an earnest deposit.” The property became his.
Approximately one year later, he received his share from the sale of his home in California: $63,000. He immediately went to the bank and paid off the loan.
Today he has approximately $100,000 in tire inventory, plus another $25,000 in parts and an excellent credit rating with the parts stores. He owns three service trucks: one for tire repairs, one for towing, and one for welding. His next dream is to establish a truck stop and service center on the property.
He is very proud of his business, but most of all he is proud of his sons. He watches them catch the school bus each morning in front of the business, and he sees them return in the afternoon. They both know how to work with their hands when called upon. The boys have a basketball net nearby and are both good at repeatedly hitting it. Their other pastime is wrestling. They have a blast.
The younger boy has prepared the paperwork and customer statements for the business since he was 8 years old. When he presented me with my bill, $106.87 including tax, I wanted to ask his dad if it was correct, for it seemed pretty low. But I realized that would be insulting to the young man. So, I paid him, then handed him a $20 bill. “Take your dad and your brother out tonight and buy them some hamburgers,” I told him. We will remember the broad smile on his mischievous face for a long time.
Is the American dream alive? Indeed it is for those who are willing to work for it. Are not you and I enjoying the American dream as we travel freely around this great and beautiful land in our motorhomes?