Going from bad to worse when something goes wrong isn’t always the case. Sometimes things do turn out more pleasantly than they might have. A good example is when a rainbow suddenly appears as dark clouds part, signaling the end of a rainstorm.

I faced a situation the other day that seemed bleak, quickly started getting worse, then suddenly took an upward turn that replaced frowns of dismay with smiles of delight.
No, I didn’t find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow; actually, I didn’t even see one. What I saw, however, quickly turned an anxious situation into a pleasant experience.

What it was, was a large color portrait of the late Dale Earnhardt. There was his autograph in large script in the upper right-hand corner. Across the bottom of the frame were four of his collector’s cards and a black No. 3 Intimidator patch. I spotted the picture before seeing either of the two women behind the counter or a man in an office visible through a large window.

“Who is the race fan? Let’s talk about my friend,” I said.

Both women stepped forward and the man came out of his office. I knew immediately I was in friendly company and had come to the right place, and no one had yet mentioned the problem that had caused me to wind up there.

It started when I returned to my car after lunch and it wouldn’t start. Dead battery? I phoned for road service and was told someone would be there to jump me off — or tow me in — in about four hours. I had settled down for the long wait when Lance Reaves, a nice young guy driving a pickup, spotted me and attempted a jump start. No luck.

“It’s your starter, not your battery,” he said. “I know the people at a garage just down the road. I’ll phone them.”

“No charge,” he said when I tried to pay him, and he drove off smiling. I went inside to arrange for repairs and immediately spotted the picture of Earnhardt. Finally, I was with someone familiar, if only in a picture.

It was the beginning of a most pleasant experience. And when I spotted a large portrait of a guy wearing a houndstooth hat on the adjoining wall, it reminded me of that day long ago in Knoxville, Tennessee, when Coach Paul Bryant stepped out on Shields-Watkins Field, torrential rains suddenly stopped, the dark clouds parted and a ray of sunshine hit the man some called “Bear” like a spotlight from on high.

“My sister, drew that picture of Coach Bryant when she was 16 years old,” Jenny Ramsey informed me. “She drew several others later and sold them.”

The business was D&D Supercenter. A smiling Jenny said, “I run things,” although it was owned by her stepfather and mother, Dennis and Donna George. All three claimed to be both NASCAR and football fans.

There was a souvenir football from Alabama’s 2012 national championship team on a desk behind the counter. It had the score, Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14, and it a lot of logos and stuff painted on it. Looked like a real football, until Dennis handed it to me. It was made of wood.

“A convict in prison carved it from a piece of cedar, using a razor blade,” Dennis said.

There were a couple of red and white deco mesh Crimson Tide wreaths that Jenny makes and sells to customers hanging on a wall next to a right-rear racing tire off Jeff Gordon’s car. Two of Gordon’s No. 24 miniature cars were on a shelf in the corner, among other items, including a No. 29 Goodwrench miniature with Kevin Harvick’s name on it.

Dennis once sponsored a Pony car driven by Mike Overby at Green Valley Raceway some 25 years ago. Dennis had become a huge NASCAR fan after Alabama International Motor Speedway — now Talladega Superspeedway — opened, and wanted to get involved in racing locally.
“I have a copy of the race program from the first race down there,” Dennis said. “I keep it locked up in my safe, with one of the limited Jebco Clocks from NASCAR’s 50th anniversary and a commemorative flip coin from Super Bowl XXXIV.”

He liked a lot of the old drivers who became legends in NASCAR, but said, “I always thought Davey Allison was the most talented; he was my man.”

Dennis never met Earnhardt, but was a big fan. He also has a picture of the driver imposed against the New York City night skyline from his seventh championship banquet in the Big Apple.

Although they started out as race fans, today Dennis and Donna are more attuned to football, pulling for both Alabama and Auburn except when they play each other. Then they and their girls are all for Alabama.

The décor isn’t limited to NASCAR and football. As I waited for my car to be repaired, time passed quickly as I noticed a copy of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and read copies of old posters, such as a Pepsi-Cola sign when the soft drink was a nickel and a 6-bottle carton was 25 cents. Another had a picture of Babe Ruth endorsing Red Rock Cola, saying, “It’s the finest cola drink I ever tasted.” It also sold for 5 cents a bottle.

And still another: “When he wears ’em, Shoeless Joe Jackson wears Selz Shoes, (they) Make Your Feet Glad.”

Before I knew it, an hour had passed, and Dennis or one of the women was telling me my car was parked just outside and I was ready to roll. The car started like new and I drove home, happy and with a smile on my face.

I glanced at my watch, realizing I still could be sitting in the parking lot at the restaurant waiting for the repair truck to arrive. By then, whatever auto dealership they took it to would be closing for the day and I’d have been stuck all night without my car.

Instead, things had rapidly switched from bad to good, and I met some nice people to boot. Guess my guardian angel was looking after me.
Jimmy Smothers is sports editor emeritus at the Gadsden Times in Alabama. He has won numerous writing awards through the years, including the Sports Writer of the Year for 1999 by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.