Creamed by a dairy truck
wish you could meet Jim and Jean Southworth. They’re my kind of people.
No one understands better than the Southworths that no matter how tough
things get there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Even if it’s
coming from the headlights of a truck.
At 5:30 one morning, Jim, Jean and their three children were sound asleep inside their home on a peaceful residential street in Salem, Oregon. Their eldest son had just poured himself a drink in the kitchen and headed back to bed.
a nearby hillside, the Curly’s Dairy guy rolled his van to a stop for a
routine delivery. But when he returned, his mouth dropped open in horror
as the van took a turn for the worse. Down the hill it went, backwards and
gathering speed. The van jumped a few curbs and took out a maple tree. It
flattened some shrubs and toppled a picket fence. Finally, it leveled the
Southworths’ front porch and crashed to a halt in their darkened
was like a bomb went off,” recalls Jim, a dentist. When his wife Jean
saw the mess, she did what any homemaker would do: She cried over a spilt
milk truck. But when she saw the slogan on the van staring out at her from
the ruins of her kitchen, the tears vanished. “Here Comes Curly,” it
said. And Jean started to laugh.
the dust settled, Jim talked Curly’s out of three gallons of ice cream,
though he said he would have preferred a year’s worth of milk. Jean
wasn’t so sure she wanted Curly’s delivering anything to her house
ever again. After all, the front porch was totalled. The eating nook was
toast. And the front door? Well...no one quite knew where it was.
covered the $15,000 damage, and Jim and Jean decided the time was right to
do a little renovation. “Our remodeler said we saved on demolition
costs,” laughs Jean, “although they don’t normally use Curly’s for
that. We’re wondering about the poor driver. He’s probably in therapy.
We hear that Salem customers cower in mock terror at approaching dairy
the renovations were complete, Jim and Jean decided to throw a party to
celebrate the closing of an open house. First they convinced Curly’s
Dairy to park a truck out front. A hand-made sign instructed the driver
where to park: “Please park IN FRONT of the house not INSIDE the
house.” In the flower beds, another sign read, “Danger. Runaway truck
zone.” Through the truck window a Curly’s manager served up 8 flavors
of ice cream. And in the kitchen 67 guests gathered to browse through the
we first heard the crash and saw the crumpled walls of our house that
morning,” says Jean, “we thought this was the end for all of us. But
once we realized we’d only been smashed into by a delivery truck, we
calmed down. Our entryway and kitchen nook were destroyed, but our kids
were okay. That’s what matters. Besides, what good would getting upset
they consider a lawsuit? “Never,” says Jean. “But we were surprised
at how many wanted us to. It was fun seeing our story on the front page of
the newspaper, but we were left wondering why our reaction was considered
so unusual as to be newsworthy at all. That’s the way it’s supposed to
be, isn’t it? After all, we’re Christians. We’re supposed to
practice love and forgiveness.”
people in Salem call Jean “the ice cream lady,” but she doesn’t
mind. “Pulitzer prize winners know what the first line will be in their
obituaries,” she smiles. “At my funeral I’m sure somebody will say
something about the day we got creamed by a dairy truck.”
the Southworths, life is a looking glass. Frown into it and it will
frown back at you. Laugh with it and you will find it a kindly companion.
They believe that when we live life with thanksgiving, people
outside—and inside—the church will notice.
matter what happens to us there’s always something to be thankful
for,” says Jean. “In our case, God protected us. The Curly’s truck
could have easily come into our
bedroom instead of the kitchen that
morning. Besides,” she laughs, “My husband is a dentist, He’s used
to filling cavities.”
To read more amazing stories of people who have persevered in tough times, request Phil's bestseller, Laughing Matters.