John Tucker died.
Outside of Ratcheds, it’s not news. You didn’t know him, why should you care?
But John Tucker’s life had meaning. As do all lives. The community of Ratcheds loved John Tucker. And it went both ways. John Tucker found us by accident and stayed with us for over thirty years. Before telling John Tucker’s story, a word or two about community as that’s half the story.
As a retired full-time RVer, I am used to being part of a community. A community of RVers, as you can probably figure out, is one of shared experiences. We have a common bond of having the same fun in some of the same places, and having some of the same, sometimes horrific problems. Ratcheds, as a community is just the opposite. Even though we are all at least “one degree off center”, we are all different. Really different. Individuals, yet part of something bigger. A community. We revel in being different, but we accept, and welcome others, and, revel in their differences.
John Tucker didn’t talk about himself, but many people got to know parts of his story. I listened and put together some pieces. A few pieces may be speculation.
John Tucker was raised somewhere in the middle of the country. One of the I states. Maybe an O state. John Tucker was a graduate engineer waiting to start his first job when his country called. Unlike so many richer boys with family connections, John Tucker answered the call. He went “over there”.
Whatever it was, something over there changed him. Damaged him. When his country had squeezed every drop of usefulness from him, it discharged him on the west coast. Dumped him by the side of the road so to speak. John Tucker spent several years wandering from place to place. Not going anywhere. Just going. His wandering found him near Ratcheds when the big E on the gas gauge started getting really insistent. So the beat-up old Ford managed to make it to the Methodist Church parking lot on fumes. Fortunately his meager “Thanks for your service/sorry we damaged you” check was due shortly, so maybe luck would get him a day or two. Reverend Don found him the next morning and invited him for breakfast.
One act of kindness can truly change a life. In this case many lives. (If you remember nothing else, please remember this) .
Luck, that which rules our lives, landed John Tucker in Ratcheds, rather than someplace where they would have considered him a mere vagrant… homeless, a psycho, dangerous, a druggie, stay away, give him five bucks worth of gas and tell him to get the hell out of here.
After that first breakfast, Reverend Don knew that John Tucker would not accept charity, so he mentioned that the church had about a weeks worth of work that needed to be done. Work in exchange for living in the parking lot and access to basic hygienic services. Stuff we all have and never think about.
As much as things change, some things don’t. Over the next thirty or so years we have seen many Reverend Dons. People came. People left. But, Ratcheds, as a community stayed the same. The same differences. The same values. During those years, John Tucker performed handyman work for over half of us. Living in his car. Knowing his value to the community. A big part of it.
Why is this a Thanksgiving story? Well, this is the day, after all, and well over a hundred people are delaying their feast to be here in the Methodist parking lot. We are all waiting for the truck from Eddie Pusser’s Wrecks to tow the old Ford away. See, John Tucker died three weeks ago. But, we kept his home here in the parking lot until today.
As much as John Tucker loved Ratcheds, there was a part of him that couldn’t handle the holidays. Some part of the damage to him probably brought out the loneliness that just overwhelmed him. I guess a lot of people suffer from this, but for John Tucker it made him need to get away. John Tucker never spent the holidays with us. Never could. So we wanted to wait until today so John’s car/home and his spirit could share the day with us at least once.
Author’s note: Some may notice that I went to great lengths to avoid referring to John Tucker as HE. John Tucker was an important person. It was important that you know his name.