Sampson Independent

What you need when you need it

Okay, it wasn’t an angel. It was just a well tattooed guy at an auto parts store. And it wasn’t manna from heaven, it was Gorilla Tape. But last weekend, it was hard for Terri and me to tell the difference. The only thing we knew was that they were both answers to prayer.

Last Saturday afternoon, we were heading home from spending the night at the Billy Graham Training Center, which is called The Cove, near Asheville. We had attended a concert, along with Terri’s daughter, Emily, and her husband, Ben. The concert was great and we enjoyed spending time together. Saturday, Ben and Emily went on to see some stuff around Asheville, while Terri and I headed back home.

The traffic on I-40 was very heavy, and if you were driving the seventy mile an hour speed limit, you were holding up traffic. We were in the midst of all of that traffic near Hickory when we heard a sudden noise from underneath our car. At first, I thought we had hit something and blown a tire. So I eased off the interstate to the side of the highway to check it out. It wasn’t a flat tire. The bolts that hold the motor underpinning cover had broken and now the underpinning cover was dragging the ground.

So there I was on I-40, in ninety degree heat, lying on the ground trying to stick the cover back on underneath the car, with cars zooming by a few feet away. (Yes, it was scary.) With the pins broke, the cover wouldn’t stay up. Then Terri found a bungee cord in the back of the car. I hooked the cord from the cover to the front grill. I then used a strip of plastic I found in the ditch to finish getting the cover off the ground enough so that we could get down the road and off the interstate.

We made it to the Hickory exit a couple of miles away by driving slowly, around forty miles an hour, with the warning flashers going. (Remember, all the other drivers on I-40 were going eighty miles an hour. Yes, it was scary.) We got off at the Hickory exit and began to look for help. We stopped at a NAPA Auto Parts store and parked underneath a shady tree. The situation was finally starting to improve, but we were still five hours from home.

I went into the store and started to look for something, maybe some more bungee cords, to keep that cover held up enough so we could make it home. I explained my situation to the employee working behind the counter at the store. (Yes, he’s the guy with tattoos covering both arms.) He said, “Let me go look at it.” So he went outside and got down on the ground and checked it out.

When we got back into the store he said, “I’ve got just what you need, Gorilla Tape.” I had heard of Gorilla Glue, not Gorilla Tape. He said, “Yeah, it’s the same stuff that they use to stick back bumpers and fenders on the cars at NASCAR races.” If it works for them, why not?

My well-tattooed new friend rang up my purchase of a roll of Gorilla Tape, and even brought a large piece of cardboard from the back of the store so I could lay on while making my repairs. So I went to work, taping the underpinning cover to the front bumper of our car. Terri cut strips of the Gorilla Tape and I did the taping while lying on the cardboard. Wanting to make it as secure as possible, we used almost a whole roll of the tape. (The body shop guys might not be that excited about that when they go to repair it next week.)

So we had the car all taped up and ready to head home. Deciding to stay away from the interstate and high speeds, we took US 70, US 64 and US 421 back home to Clinton. It turned out to be a very enjoyable trip, driving through towns and the countryside. It didn’t really take that much longer than it would have fighting the traffic on the interstate. And the Gorilla Tape did its job.

Monday, I phoned the manager of the NAPA Auto Parts store in Hickory and told him how much I appreciated the help that Saturday. The manager told me the person who helped me was Louis. (The tattoos gave it away.) I once heard God’s grace defined as, “What you need, when you need it.” Sometime you don’t need an angel or manna. You just need a helpful, well-tattooed auto parts employee, like Louis. Oh yeah, and some Gorilla Tape.

Mac McPhail McPhail

By Mac McPhail

Contributing columnist

Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at