Wineka column: Vandals hit a down-on-his-luck veteran pretty hard
SPENCER — Almost nine years ago, Gary Webb lost his voicebox to cancer. He blames welding and smoking for that.
To talk, he relies on one of those machines making him sound like a robot. He’s difficult to understand at times, especially over the telephone, so it’s better to speak with him face-to-face.
Webb, 55, lives in a one-room (not counting his bathroom) cottage at Melba Court and receives $710 month disability. He says his legs are prone to blood clots and hurt him all the time.
Drinking caused him to lose his driver’s license 20-plus years ago, so he has depended on rides and his painful legs to get where he’s going. Planning to qualify for his license again, Webb bought a used 1987 Mazda B2000 truck Aug. 24 and paid $2,000 for it.
He hoped the truck, driven by him or someone else, would be able to get him to places such as the grocery store and the Hefner VA Medical Center for his appointments.
The truck already needed a new starter when Webb walked out of his cottage Sunday morning and discovered all four of the truck’s tires were flat.
He hoped someone had just played with the valve stems and allowed air to escape, but a Spencer police officer confirmed the worst.
The tires had been slashed.
Webb doesn’t want sympathy or handouts, but doggone it, this is just plain wrong.
“I wouldn’t do nobody like that,” he says.
Now Webb expects he’ll have to find used tires somewhere. If and when he can afford that, he’ll also need help in changing all four of the tires and someone to install the starter, which he already has.
“It’ll run then,” he promises. “It runs good.”
Webb spent four years in the Army and five years in the Reserve. He worked for Salisbury Welding and also is experienced in heating and air-conditioning.
Webb apologizes for his cramped living quarters at Melba Court, but all of his worldly possessions, except for the truck, are in this one room. He depends on a small window air-conditioner, hardly humming in the corner. He has a short bed, recliner, chest of drawers, television, cell phone, microwave and coffee maker and enough room for paths to the front door and bathroom.
“Believe it or not, I know where everything is,” he says.
His walls are filled with plenty of sports clippings. He’s a big fan of the Miami Dolphins, mourns the death of the late NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr. and now roots most weekends for Dale Jr.
Webb has lived here three years. If he ever faces eviction, he says he’ll sleep in the woods, or maybe the truck, though he wonders now whether he made a mistake in buying the pickup.
“I took a chance by doing it,” he says. “It’s good on gas — that’s one reason I got it.”
Now his first priority with the truck will have to be finding some tires. He has put a lock on his hood to prevent any vandals from messing with the truck’s engine.
“That’s pathetic,” he says of the need for the lock. “I can’t believe they would do me that way.”
Those words are easy to understand.
Gary Webb can be reached at 704-762-6545. Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or firstname.lastname@example.org.