Dec. 20

The Big Wheel ~ A Story of Inspiration*

“The Big Wheel “
Sub­mit­ted by Gerry Cof­fey — 21 Aug 2005


In Sep­tem­ber 1960, I woke up one morn­ing with six hun­gry babies and just 75 cents in my pocket. Their father was gone. The boys ranged from three months to seven years; their sis­ter was two. Their Dad had never been much more than a pres­ence they feared. When­ever they heard his tires crunch on the gravel dri­ve­way they would scram­ble to hide under their beds.

He did man­age to leave $15 a week to buy gro­ceries. Now that he had decided to leave, there would be no more beat­ings, but no food either.

If there was a wel­fare sys­tem in effect in south­ern Indi­ana at that time, I cer­tainly knew noth­ing about it. I scrubbed the kids until they looked brand new and then put on my best home­made dress. loaded them into the rusty old 51 Chevy and drove off to find a job. The seven of us went to every fac­tory, store and restau­rant in our small town. No luck.

The kids stayed crammed into the car and tried to be quiet while I tried to con­vince whomever would lis­ten that I was will­ing to learn or do anything.

I had to have a job. Still no luck. The last place we went to, just a few miles out of town, was an old Root Beer Bar­rel drive-in that had been con­verted to a truck stop. It was called the Big Wheel.

An old lady named Granny owned the place and she peeked out of the win­dow from time to time at all those kids. She needed some­one on the grave­yard shift, 11 at night until seven in the morn­ing. She paid 65 cents an hour and I could start that night. I raced home and called the teenager down the street that baby-sat for peo­ple. I bar­gained with her to come and sleep on my sofa for a dol­lar a night. She could arrive with her paja­mas on and the kids would already be asleep. This seemed like a good arrange­ment to her, so we made a deal.

That night when the lit­tle ones and I knelt to say our prayers, we all thanked God for find­ing Mommy a job. And so I started at the Big Wheel. When I got home in the morn­ings I woke the baby-sitter up and sent her home with one dol­lar of my tip money–fully half of what I aver­aged every night. As the weeks went by, heat­ing bills added a strain to my mea­ger wage. The tires on the old Chevy had the con­sis­tency of penny bal­loons and began to leak. I had to fill them with air on the way to work and again every morn­ing before I could go home.

One bleak fall morn­ing, I dragged myself to the car to go home and found four tires in the back seat. New tires! There was no note, no noth­ing, just those beau­ti­ful brand new tires. Had angels taken up res­i­dence in Indi­ana? I wondered.

I made a deal with the local ser­vice sta­tion. In exchange for his mount­ing the new tires, I would clean up his office. I remem­ber it took me a lot longer to scrub his floor than it did for him to do the tires.

I was now work­ing six nights instead of five and it still wasn’t enough. Christ­mas was com­ing and I knew there would be no money for toys for the kids. I found a can of red paint and started repair­ing and paint­ing some old toys. Then I hid them in the base­ment so there would be some­thing for Santa to deliver on Christ­mas morn­ing. Clothes were a worry too. I was

sewing patches on top of patches on the boys’ pants and soon they would be too far gone to repair.

On Christ­mas Eve the usual cus­tomers were drink­ing cof­fee in the Big Wheel. These were the truck­ers, Les, Frank, and Jim, and a state trooper named Joe.

A few musi­cians were hang­ing around after a gig at the Legion and were drop­ping nick­els in the pin­ball machine. The reg­u­lars all just sat around and talked through the wee hours of the morn­ing and then left to get home before the sun came up.

When it was time for me to go home at seven o’clock on Christ­mas morn­ing I hur­ried to the car. I was hop­ing the kids wouldn’t wake up before I man­aged to get home and get the presents from the base­ment and place them under the tree. (We had cut down a small cedar tree by the side of the road down by the dump.) It was still dark and I couldn’t see much, but there appeared to be some dark shad­ows in the car-or was that just a trick of the night? Some­thing cer­tainly looked dif­fer­ent, but it was hard to tell what. When I reached the car I peered war­ily into one of the side win­dows. Then my jaw dropped in amaze­ment. My old bat­tered Chevy was filled full to the top with boxes of all shapes and sizes. I quickly opened the driver’s side door, crum­bled inside and kneeled in the front fac­ing the back seat.

Reach­ing back, I pulled off the lid of the top box. Inside was whole case of lit­tle blue jeans, sizes 2–10! I looked inside another box: It was full of shirts to go with the jeans. Then I peeked inside some of the other boxes. There was candy and nuts and bananas and bags of gro­ceries. There was every­thing for our hol­i­day din­ner, and canned veg­eta­bles and pota­toes. There were desserts and cook­ies, pie fill­ing and flour. There was whole bag of laun­dry sup­plies and clean­ing items. And there were five toy trucks and one beau­ti­ful lit­tle doll.

As I drove back through empty streets as the sun slowly rose on the most amaz­ing Christ­mas Day of my life, I was sob­bing with grat­i­tude. And I will never for­get the joy on the faces of my lit­tle ones that pre­cious morning.

Yes, there were angels in Indi­ana that long-ago Decem­ber. And they all hung out at the Big Wheel truck stop.…

THE POWER OF PRAYER — I believe that God only gives three answers to prayer:

1. “Yes!”

2. “Not yet.”

3. “I have some­thing bet­ter in mind.”

God still sits on the throne, the devil is a liar. You maybe going through a tough time right now but God is get­ting ready to bless you in a way that you can­not imagine.


This was posted on the inter­net here, and it is truly inspi­ra­tional to me! I wanted to share this with you all dur­ing this Christ­mas Sea­son, 2009.


» 3 Responses to “The Big Wheel ~ A Story of Inspiration*”

  1. Randy Pena
    December 20th, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Where did you get your blog lay­out from? I’d like to get one like it for my blog.

  2. 2
  3. Tanis
    December 20th, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    What a great story — a new one for me and I get a lot of e-mail for­wards. Very touch­ing, thank you for sharing!!

  4. 3
  5. Jonathan Jack Demaree
    December 21st, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    This is a true story, I new the girl and the owner. The Big Wheel was located just East of Ver­sailles, In.