A Christmas Memory: Our Good Samaritan

By Neil & Connie Krohse


Christmas 1986 was our first as a family: our son Sean had been born seven months before so we spent Christmas Eve with Connie’s parents and family in Waseca, Minnesota, three hours away. After lunch on Christmas Day, we loaded the car for the three of us to make the return trip to Sioux Falls, planning to spend Christmas evening with my parents in Sioux Falls.


Westbound on Interstate 90, an hour into our trip, our plans changed as the engine suddenly died at highway speed.  Since Connie’s beloved 1979 Camaro had a manual transmission, I put the car in neutral as we coasted and tried to restart with the starter, and then by “popping” the clutch to no avail.  We coasted to a halt on the shoulder about eight miles east of Blue Earth, Minnesota. I got out and opened the hood and started to troubleshoot the problem in the 10-degree windchill when we met our Good Samaritan.


There was very little traffic that afternoon and I hadn’t noticed the blue pickup that had been traveling in the opposite direction make the U-turn and pull up behind us.  He came up and while chatting we quickly determined that getting the car to Blue Earth was the best option. He had just come from Blue Earth and knew the BP gas station was open, but that it could be some time before a wrecker might make it there. As farmers often do, he had a tow strap in his pickup, so we hooked our car to his truck and slowly made our way down the shoulder.


When we made it to Blue Earth, the BP was indeed still open, and in 1986 it was still the kind of gas station that had service bays, rather than a convenience store.  The employee was a man about my age and while Connie and our baby settled into the “office” area, the three of us pushed our car into the bay. It was fortunate at that time a person could still work on cars and it quickly became evident that the fuel pump on our car had failed and would need to be replaced.


Our problem was two-fold: we were stranded in Blue Earth, and Connie HAD to be back for work the next day.  She was working in retail then, and as a manager at a store in the mall, December 26th was a must-work day.  If we couldn’t fix the car, we discussed having my father borrow a car trailer and making the two-hour trip and trailering it home, or having him come pick up Connie and Sean and I would stay behind with the car.


Our Good Samaritan had a different idea.  Since it was Christmas Day and everything else was closed where we were, he picked up the phone and called his friend who happened to be the manager of the local NAPA parts store who was in the middle of his Christmas dinner. I heard him say, “Look, there’s a young couple from South Dakota here with a baby and they’re trying to get home for Christmas. Open up the store so we can get a fuel pump”.  I remember thinking that we sounded more desperate than I thought we were. Ten minutes later he drove me to the store where the manager opened the store just for us and had the fuel pump we needed.


When we returned to the gas station we parted company.  That farmer from Frost, MN shook my hand, refused any payment and simply said “help someone else out some day”. It took the employee and I about an hour to remove and replace my fuel pump and we were on our way. We didn’t get home in time to celebrate Christmas that evening but we did make it home safe.


I vividly remember where our car came to a halt and every time pass that very spot on I-90 (and in the 37 years since then I’ve passed it MANY times) I think of the kindness of that Good Samaritan and have tried to do the same for others as often as I can.