Earl and Dale were friends since they were little kids growing up in the hills of Tennessee. Always into something and creating havoc wherever they went. The townspeople called them the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn of Napier Valley. They loved to try and outdo one another with their escapades, but after a series of run ins with the local authorities they outgrew the recklessness of youth.
The two of them did have a penchant for telling tall tales though. Dale would tell a story of some incredible feat (like the record breaking catch that got away) and Earl would have to come back with an even more outlandish story. Earl’s wife would tell him he needed to stop telling these stories for he would surely enter into a place that he did not want to go. “What? Enter where? I’m not lyin’ I’m tellin’ the truth as I see it,” he would always say. “Besides, the Lord and me we’re like this,” he'd say crossing his fingers.
One night after leaving Dale’s house, Earl was headed home down Highway 66. He decided to call his wife and tell her he would be late. He needed to deliver the last load of roofing shingles in his pickup to the roofing company he worked for. He should have delivered them earlier but his buddy Dale had wanted him to stop by for a minute.
Dale wanted Earl to be the first to know that he had given his life to the Lord at the tent revival the night before. He said there was an immediate change in him, he felt different and he was beginning to see things differently. Earl looked closely at his friend but he looked the same to him. “Come on Dale what’s the catch? You been in church all your life. What’s different now?” he asked.
“I don’t rightly know, I can’t put it into words, but I’m changed,” answered Dale.
“Ok, fine, listen man, I’ve got to run, I’ll talk to you later,” Earl said as he backed out the door.
“I understand Earl, but listen, if you ever find yourself in a tight place call on Him, ok?”
“Sure thing,” he replied and he hopped into his truck. Earl was reflecting on that conversation as he walked toward the phone booth. His cell phone was not working so he had stopped at the first pay phone he saw along the road. “I never thought my friend, my best buddy in the world would go off the deep end like that,” he thought.
As he reached for the phone receiver he dug into his jean pocket for some coins. He heard the truck before he saw it, a big eighteen wheeler was coming around the bend much too fast. It would never be able to correct its turn and avoid his pickup parked where it was. The driver of truck started pumping the air brakes when he saw the pickup but it was too late. The bigger truck struck the smaller pickup and it started to come right at Earl.
It seemed to Earl that everything started going in slow motion after that. He cried out “Jesus!” With the phone receiver still in his hand, he heard a voice say, “Yes?”
“Jesus?” asked Earl incredulously into the phone.
“Yes” said the Lord.
“I need you NOW Lord!” Earl said as he remembered what Dale had said about calling on the Lord if he were ever in a tight place. The two trucks were continuing on their destructive path towards the phone booth, when suddenly it was as though a hand pushed the trucks away. The skid marks show just how close the trucks came before abruptly crossing over the median and coming to a stop in the ditch.
No matter how many times Earl told the story after that, only Dale believed it was not with the usual embellishment of “that’s the truth as I saw it.” Earl came with him the next night to the tent revival to give his life to the Lord. But the truth was he was already a changed man since the night on Highway 66.
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