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In need of a pullout, not a bailout

TOWNER, N.D. -- I'd heard the American auto industry was in trouble, but I didn't know the extent of it until I hit an icy patch of road on the way to town.

TOWNER, N.D. -- I'd heard the American auto industry was in trouble, but I didn't know the extent of it until I hit an icy patch of road on the way to town.

That was when my three-quarter-ton Dodge diesel pickup went down the road sideways before it found a little traction, grabbed hold and headed right down into a ditch chock full of snow.

It didn't much matter that it was a big four-wheel-drive with lots of clearance. The snow we drove into was well beyond the clearance. The headlights were even pushing snow. It was stuck.

Anybody home?

In the old days, I would've pulled down my ear lappers, slipped on my mittens and started walking down the road. In these modern times, I turn up the heat in the vehicle, check for cell signal and start dialing the phone.

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I called one neighbor in close proximity. No answer. I left a message on the machine about my embarrassing mishap. I called a second neighbor. Nobody home, again leaving the story of my subpar driving skills for all to listen to on the answering machine.

Finally, the third neighbor I called was home. I was kind of taken aback by getting a real live voice on the other end of the line. I gathered myself and repeated my story of stuckedness for the third time.

I asked if he could help me out.

"You bet," he said. "I'll go plug in the block heater on a tractor. It might start up in an hour or two."

I was hoping for more immediate assistance, so he said he'd head right down with his pickup.

To the rescue

He came zipping down the road to the scene of my predicament with a little two-wheel-drive Nissan pickup. While the executives of the "Big Three" auto makers were in Washington asking the government for a bailout, I was in a ditch in McHenry County faced with asking Nissan for a pullout.

I didn't know what to do. My dad, who fought in the Asian theater of World War II, probably would've refused the pull by a Japanese pickup, even with a kind and patriotic neighbor behind its wheel.

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I was more pragmatic. I'd gladly take the pull, but I didn't think there was any way on God's snow-white earth he'd get me out.

We hooked up a tow rope. He wound up that Nissan and let her rip. We gained about a foot. Again and again, he wound that little rig up. Sometimes we only gained an inch or two. In between pulls, we'd do a little shoveling around my pickup in the ditch to help it pull a little easier.

Finally, we got some momentum and I started spinning all four of my wheels. I got up and out of that ditch led by a Nissan but gaining on him rapidly as I found traction.

It was a humbling experience for my big American, four-wheel-drive, diesel truck to be saved by a little, fuel-efficient, Japanese pickup. I thanked him for the pull, and as I got back into my Dodge, I realized the extent of the auto industry's troubles.

There on the manufacturers tag inside the driver's door of my American pickup it said "Made in Mexico." I wonder if the Big Three thought about going to the Mexican government to help them get through this tough spot. It couldn't be any more humbling than being pulled out of the ditch by a Nissan.

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