Kind gestures, big and small
New Year’s Day could have been even more of a nightmare for Staci Hurley, Spring Hill, than a several-hour delay in Iola.
With two of her children in tow, Hurley was driving to Oklahoma when a tire blew on her Jeep Cherokee at the east entrance to Iola. She had no spare and just $80. Outside, temperatures hovered at 22 degrees.
But thanks to the help of an Allen County Sheriff’s deputy, Hurley received much more than roadside assistance.
She and her children learned the good that comes from strangers helping each other. Her daughter witnessed the warm and fuzzy side of law enforcement officers. And her son got a crash course in how to change a tire.
The family had already been through a lot by the time their tire blew. Hurley’s father had died that morning from complications from choking on food on Christmas Eve.
Hurley, who is three months pregnant, gathered her two older children, son Reid, 15, and Raylynn, 12, to travel to Oklahoma, leaving her five-month-old at home with her husband. The family had recently moved, so she had removed the spare tire and jack from the vehicle to make space.
When the tire blew, she limped the car to a nearby parking lot. Her insurance company’s roadside assistance program wasn’t available. And because it was New Year’s, most local businesses were closed. Not knowing where to turn, Hurley called emergency dispatchers. Raylynn, who has had negative experiences with law enforcement, was scared and didn’t want her to call the cops.
Allen County Sheriff’s Deputy Travis Buck soon arrived to help.
“We frequently help people change a tire, but when you don’t have a jack or a spare, that kind of throws a wrench into things,” Buck said.
Buck had a jack, but his lug wrench didn’t fit her Jeep’s wheel. He recruited help from TJ’s Towing. With the tire removed, Buck took Hurley to the Walmart Tire Center, the only tire shop open on New Year’s. A new tire cost $125; Hurley, who teaches kindergarten, had just $80. An employee covered the rest.
Meanwhile, Hurley’s children called from the car. Buck heard them tell her they were hungry. Knowing Hurley had spent the last of her money on the tire, Buck gave her $30 for food.
“I was an absolute wreck,” Hurley said. “But they still treated me like I was not a crazy person.”
When they got back to the car, Hurley asked Buck if he would show her son the basics of changing a tire. On the verge of driving, Reid lacked that skill. Despite the cold weather, the deputy showed Reid where to place the jack and a quick lesson.
Equipped with a new tire, and valuable lessons, the family said goodbye to Deputy Buck. “He was amazing, he really was,” Hurley said. “He gave me a hug when I left and it gave me the power to drive on.”
Days later, Hurley’s father-in-law came to Iola in an effort to reimburse Buck for the money he’d given Hurley. The deputy refused.
Officers help with a variety of emergencies, large and small, Allen County Sheriff Bryan Murphy said. Every officer across the country probably has a story similar to this one, Murphy said.
“There are a lot of positive things out there that go unnoticed,” he said. “My guys do that on a regular basis and I’m really proud of them.”
“It’s part of the job description,” Buck said when explaining why he went to such lengths to help the family. “All of us got into this job because we want to help people.”
Hurley said she shared the story to help others realize the good that law enforcement officers do. She’s also glad the experience helped Raylynn see officers in a more positive context.
“They don’t always come when things are bad,” Hurley said. “I’m so glad my kids got to see that they’re here to help us, and to realize you do stuff for people even when you don’t know who they are and when you are not going to get anything out of it.”