Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 17, 2013

Marta Hepler Drahos: Hero on way to post office


— He’s on his way to the post office to mail valentine packages to our exchange daughters when my husband comes across an unlikely scene.

A Jeep parked outside the grocery seems to be on fire. Its hood is up, its cargo and driver-side doors open and pouring out smoke. Flames from the dashboard are licking up past the windshield and melting the plastic speedometer, odometer and other -ometers and gauges.

In an urban environment, such a sight might go unnoticed by drivers along busy thoroughfares. But in a rural village like ours, one of those you’d miss if you blinked, a car on fire is an event. Especially when it’s on fire outside one of only four businesses anchoring the only intersection in town, controlled by a single caution light.

As it turns out, our tiny “downtown” with its narrow county roads, which can inspire jokes by city slickers, is in the bewildered driver’s favor. Because, after parking at the post office, my husband has only to run a few yards across the street to the grocery to see if there’s a fire extinguisher handy. When the clerk seems uncertain, he runs a few yards across the opposite street to the gas station, where he’s spotted an extinguisher on a post near the pumps.

After he douses the dashboard twice, my husband is satisfied that the immediate danger is over. He leaves the extinguisher with the car’s owner to await the volunteer fire department while he retraces his steps to the post office. By the time he finishes his errand, firefighters have arrived and are prying apart the dashboard.

They give the area one more squirt with the extinguisher for good measure and call a tow truck to pick up the car.

A few miles from home, my husband passes the small satellite of the grocery he just left, and sees a wrecker hunting fruitlessly for the disabled car. He rolls down his window and sets the driver straight, then continues on home to take a shower and wash his jacket, now thick with the acrid smell of smoke.

And to text me with the silly message: “Yours truly was a hero today.”

And he is. My hero.

Reach staff writer Marta Hepler Drahos at