Then...The Wheel Came Off

So we were packing up the kids to go to our nephew's birthday party and everyone's running around.

The twelve year old wants the yellow shirt that's in the washing machine but she couldn't move it into the dryer because the pink load is still in the dryer. (Yeah, we have a pink load. What? We've got four girls.) I tell her she has to pick another shirt because there's no time.

My nine year old wants to know if she can have a catch with someone outside.

What?! We're leaving. Now!!! Bring the mitt and ball with you, we'll have a catch at the party because it's outside.

My seven year old is asking me if after the party we can uhm maybe go skydiving.

Wait, what?

"Damon said a new skydiving place is opening up right near Wal-Mart," he said confidently.

There's an interesting thing that happens with kids. Up until your kids go to school you are the font of all information. All your years of experience pay off big time when you have a child. They ask every question under the book like why magnets stay together ('cause God wants them to), why the sky is blue ('Cause God is the Father and guys like blue), and why the neighbors cat keeps sneaking into our house (because we have air conditioning.)

But suddenly, he goes to school and all of your knowledge might as well be put in storage because some kid in his class has replaced you as the source of all information. And it doesn't matter how messed up the info is, he believes it. I'm telling you now that my son thought it was a real possibility that we were going to be parachuting into the toy aisle at Wal-Mart that afternoon. Why? Because Damon said so.

My ten year old daughter asks, "Uhm. What car are we taking?"

The van, I tell her.


She hates the van. One time two years ago I ran out of gas in the van and we had to walk to get gas and walk back. Ever since then, she monitors the gas gauge as if she's a submarine captain staring at the depth gauge. Whenever the van gurgled or harumphed if I looked in the rearview I saw her eyes wide asking, "What was that?"

I always told her it was nothing. The van was fine. And she gave me her look like she didn't believe me that little girls must practice because they're all very good at it.

So my wife is in the car alone in front of the kids and I because the van had been making a lot of noise lately and we were heading to our nephew's 2nd birthday party 45 minutes away.

We were in the van on a pretty major road - two lanes going each way. All of a sudden I start heading a rumble from the front of the van.

Hmmm. (That hmmm is about the sum total of my car knowledge.)

As it got louder my "hmmm" transmogrified into an equally useless "What in the world?"

And that's when the wheel came off.

Not the tire. The whole freakin' wheel. The van lurched forward and I'm struggling to keep the van on the road as sparks are flying past my window. Out of the corner of my eye I'm watching the wheel rolling in front of us. I struggle to pull the car over to the side of the road and I succeed. Yes! The kids all looked a little panicked and they're all looking at the smoke coming from the metal where the tire used to be so I told them all to hop out and jump up onto the grass. Their car knowledge is limited to cartoons and movies where cars explode like balloons at the slightest provocation.

My ten year old looked at me as she was getting out. "The van's fine, huh?" I sensed a tone of accusation in her tone. (Yup. I speak tone.)

My wife called me a few minutes later when she realized we weren't behind her anymore. "Where are you?" she asked. "What happened?"

"The wheel came off?" I said.

"What, like engine trouble?" she asked.

"No, the wheel came off."

"Do you have a spare?"

"You're not understanding me. The whole entire wheel came off and rolled away. And I'm not speaking metaphorically. It rolled about a hundred yards up the road. I'm looking at it."


I assured her the kids were O.K and she came back around and sat down on the grass with the kids and called the motor club for a tow. I walked up the road to retrieve the wheel while saying a prayer of thanks that nobody was injured. I wheeled it back just as a police officer passed by and pulled up behind us. He got out of his car and walked slowly around the car from the drivers side. I followed him from the other side of the car and we met in front. And that's the first time I noticed the pink boots.

There were two pink boots strewn right in front of my poor badly damaged van. I saw the officer look down at the boots and then he looked up at me and I looked at him.


"The boots were here before I got here," I said. "They were a pre-existing condition."

The officer gave me his "I'm not amused because I secretly think you ran over someone who was wearing pink boots up until a few moments ago" look.(It was a complicated look but fortunately I speak "look" too.)

Without saying a word he plodded around the van. I'm pretty sure he was looking for a crumpled up woman with bad fashion sense and no shoes. I was thankful that the owner of the boots had ambled off because if he'd found her sleeping somewhere I'm pretty sure I would've been tazed pretty quick.

My wife was still on the phone with the motor club, saying, "No the whole tire is gone. Well, it's not gone but it's in the front seat now but we just need a tow."

The officer comes back from his exhaustive search for a woman with no boots and he looked at me and then at all the kids. "These all yours?"

Now normally, when I get that question I say something like four of them are mine and one was just a hitchhiker we picked up but remembering the tazer, I just said, "Yup."

He looked at all of them and back at me and then he walked slowly back to his car. I told my wife to pack four kids in her car and the ten year old and I would go back with the tow truck. As he was getting in the car, the boy told me that Damon said one time a plane landed with no wheels.


When they left, the ten year old and I sat on the grass waiting for the tow. We relived the saga of the wheel and she told me she'd had a funny feeling about the van for a while. I told her I've had a funny feeling about the van for three years ever since the engine light came on, the front passenger window stopped working, and the cd player broke. Never mind that the van would wait about 6-8 seconds before it would actually start moving after I put it into drive. It was like it was saying, "You want me to move NOW?"

I always compared it to the maid on The Jeffersons. Sure, it eventually did the job but it sure gave off a lot of attitude before doing it.

When the tow driver showed up, he looked at the van and at the pink boots. He didn't ask any questions though. I think that actually disturbed me more.

The whole ride home he regaled the ten year old and I with the tale of how and why he beat up his boss at his last job. I stayed silent but my ten year old told him, "You warned him to stay out of your tool box so he knew what to expect?"

The driver seemed to appreciate her more than me so he focused the rest of his story to her and then she told him about a fourth grader who kept throwing the ball at people's heads in dodgeball. And then she stopped talking. Now, he didn't understand that my ten year old loves telling stories but they're not stories in the traditional sense. They're often excellent premises for a story but she doesn't see conclusions, morals, or lessons as crucial parts of the story. She just likes telling stories.

He looked at her and she looked back at him and finally he got the idea that she was done talking so he said, "What happened?"

"Oh, we had to go back in for lunch."

Oh. So he then thought that this conversation needed to conclude in some manner so he added, "Next time that kid throws at someone's head you walk right up to him and throw it at his head. That'll teach him."

"But I'll get in trouble," she said

Yeah. That seemed to stump him so I interjected by telling him where to turn to take us home. He dropped the car in our driveway and we thanked him. As he pulled away my ten year old looked at me and said, "he was funny."

He wasn't. But I was glad she thought so.

We walked in the door and my seven year old was waiting for me to tell me that Mom said we needed a new van and that Damon said Ferrari's were pretty cool cars.

"I've heard Ferrari's are good," I told him. "But I hear they don't have a lot of legroom." He and the four year old promised their willingness to scrunch their legs.

As I inspected the damage to the van, the twelve year old walked outside with her (now dry) yellow shirt on, the ten year old followed her regaling her with the story of the two truck driver who beat up his boss, the nine year old tossed the ball to the twelve year old, and the four and seven year old talked about fast cars while diving head first down the slide in our backyard.

My wife and I looked at the poor van and we both thought about how much money a new van will be and then she said, "We are so blessed. When you think what could've happened and here we all are all fine and happy. We are so blessed."

I thought about how that tire took out the left side of my van rolled across two lanes of traffic, rolled over a median, rolled over two more oncoming lanes of traffic before resting comfortably against a fence about one hundred yards away without hurting anyone or causing an accident. I wondered how something like that could happen. I just don't know how. I guess I'll ask Damon. He probably knows.


  1. That happened to me in a Honda Civic! The whole wheel. On an elevated freeway over San Francisco. You and your kids (and I) are lucky to be alive and that our tires didn't kill anyone!

  2. A savvy ten year old you have there. With this incident, you may have lost the automotive high ground.

    You might want to call Click and Clack for a little advise.

    1-888-CAR-TALK (888-227-8255)

  3. How on earth could the entire wheel have gone off?? The lugs were loose? Anyway, good you are all ok. St Christopher must have been there

  4. We have a pink/red laundry load, too.

  5. Glad you were okay. I had my van break down on the side of the road, overheated. 5 kids. Freezing cold. And I wore no coat, because I wasn't going to get out of the car, only it turns out the tow truck driver can't hear you when 5 kids are in the car. I was a popcicle trying to call for help. $23,000 later we have a newish van, but we're not sure the youngest will make it to the Catholic school because her tuition is driving us around. But we are blessed. So blessed. I feel your pain, and I am glad it ended well because it was hilarious to read about.

    1. The reason we started homeschooling....23 years ago...

  6. Wow. Guardian angles in over-drive.

  7. OK, I don't usually laugh out loud, and I never LOL. But you got me with the policeman. 'Cause I've been pulled over too, and I've soooo seen that look.

  8. My wheel broke off at the axle. The mechanic said there was no way to know it was gonna do that which made me question the other 2 wheels. We just got a new car.

  9. Ooopppss I mean 3 wheels. I can do math!

  10. I had it happen to us with four children in a mountainous place called Bend, Oregon, forty miles back to the town. That was after the bears tried to climb into the front window at Yellowstone and after my son nearly chased a chipmunk down into Crater Lake. Disneyland was rather tame. I have seen it happen on a major highway. I guess flat tires are a blessing. Matthew: You need to write more. You are good and you do not need me to tell you. When is your first book coming out? I know, when abortion is ended. When respect for the human person is reestablished. I will wait.

  11. It's happened to me too... twice. Once was in front of a school just as the busses were leaving full of kids. Some kid on a bus yelled out "nice car!" (with loads of tone), whcih was much to the amusement of the rest of the bus. Maybe it was Damon.

  12. Our white laundry load usually turns pink...eventually. an errant, red shirt finds its way into each "white" load. :)

  13. alone in front of the kids and me
    he regaled the ten year old and me

    "me" is in the objective case and the pronoun is the object of a preposition in the first instance, and of the verb in the second. It's a common hypercorrection based on the need to remember that "I" comes after the other member of an itemized "we".

    I hope I haven't offended you, but I honestly think the world would be a better place if people said things like, "I'm so glad you love the kids and me so much."

  14. An angel in a flying Ferrari surrounded the tire in a force field and teleported it past oncoming objects.

  15. Can't say as I've ever had a wheel fall off my car, but something I get from your story is how great large families are. I grew up in a large family and all I remember is the good times, even when we had bad times. Like when my father accidentally ran over a large rock on a highway out of town and ripped a big hole in the oil pan. While we waited for my mom to come get us, we all had fun exploring the desert off the side of the road. I think it was mostly that we did it as a family. We took the bumps together as well as enjoyed the good times together.

  16. I agree with 1:41 PM. Reminds me of this:

  17. Damon,

    I like your style!

  18. Matthew, I have to say I read this upon first waking up this morning and laughed and laughed so hard! What a talent you have! You should write a book. I would buy it! God bless and thanks for the laughs. (And thanks to your family's guardian angels too -- who were in overdrive that day!)

  19. I loved it, but I have to admit, I was waiting for something from the 4-year-old. I seriously love that kid.

  20. I normally don't like a lot of what you write but this was funny. Good job. And I'm glad everyone's safe.

  21. The same thing happened to me about a year ago with our old clunker van. I was leaving work on a Saturday, going to meet my husband and father-in-law (to, sadly, pick out my mother-in-law's headstone as she'd passed away in early April 2011).

    I heard this weird thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk sound and then the back drivers side of the car just went "THUD!" I, too, managed to pull over and I watched as the tire rolled past the van, across the road, up a hill towards some train tracks & a billboard, then back down the hill, across the road (again!) before coming to rest right behind my car.

    I was in an...interesting neighborhood, to boot. A couple of people pulled over to see if I was okay, including one guy who spoke only Spanish. He looked at the van, the wheel, then me, and he said, "Muy mal...muy mal."

    Another car, with a young couple, asked if I was okay. I had called my husband to come help, so I told them I was fine. They pulled into the parking lot right next to where my crippled van was parked and sat there. Me...naive, innocent little ol' me...thought, "Aw, how sweet, they're waiting for my help to arrive!" A few minutes later another car pulled up and I tried not to watch as a drug deal went down.

    A few months later the van's engine died and it's gone to its final resting place: the salvage yard.

  22. THAT's where I left my boots.

  23. Glad the whole gang is safe! That was soo funny. I really needed that.

  24. JMJ
    Great story. Better because it's true.

    I was ready for a good, long, lean-your-chair-back-against-the-wall tale when I read the first word, "So..."

    Somehow, I just knew it'd be entertaining. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Freakin' is a word which ought not be published in Christian or other civil discourse.

  26. So what did Damon tell you about the wheel coming off?


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