The text was terse: “My windshield shattered as we drove on Union this morning. The car is at Esther’s and the key is in the mailbox.”

Men are good for some things. They aren’t perfect but they can be handy for the step-and-fetch-it jobs.

Bug in the kitchen? Call a man. Dogs barking and a strange noise outside in the middle of the night? Call a man and if the man doesn’t return, he’s done what men have done for generations — laid down his life for his lady even though he wanted to live, badly.

Cracked windshield? Call a man so he can call another man.

“Did you see what happened? Was it a rock? A BB gun?” I asked.

Do people throw rocks or shoot BB guns first thing in the morning? Those seem more like later-in-the-day enterprises.

“I don’t know,” Sue said. “I didn’t see anything. All of a sudden the windshield just shattered.”

Windshields don’t just shatter. There’s a reason, there’s cause and effect and there might even be a bad guy involved. This is not a spontaneous miracle like Maria Morales Rubio seeing Jesus in a freshly made tortilla.

Men want to know why. They embrace the adventure that often comes with calamity. Women want to know when it’s going to be fixed and may not want to entertain the saga of Lewis & Clark.

Twenty years ago, we were driving to the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in Canada (this is Glacier National Park on the U.S. side) and ended up behind a gravel truck when a piece of gravel flew out of the truck bed and pulverized our windshield. I was devastated and almost cried but I had a wife, a car full of kids and a reputation to uphold. My lower lip may have been quivering but there was nothing I could do about that.

We followed the truck to the gravel pit and met a man who had foreman written all over him. He graciously offered to pay for the new windshield.

Since that day, I’ve wanted to be a foreman but I never made it. You’re either foreman material or you’re not. They usually excuse the guys with the quivering lower lips.

Later that day, a friend gave me a ride to the old gray car with the shattered windshield parked at a friend’s house in La Cresta.

I picked around the hole in the windshield from which the cracks radiated. I found neither a rock nor a BB. There were bits of glass on the dash, floor and front seats.

“We were lucky that the glass didn’t get in our eyes,” Sue said.

I nodded like I was sympathetic but what I really thinking was, we were lucky the glass didn’t tear up the new leather upholstery on the front seats. Those seats are sweet and they weren’t cheap.

I drove the car home. It wasn’t that bad. If I craned my neck, I could definitely see around the hole and the cracks.

When I was stopped at lights, I noticed that people looked at me differently. It was like. “Watch out for that guy, he’s driving a car with a broken windshield and he doesn’t seem to care.”

I had become a man with a story and who knows what that story was. I could have been fresh out of prison, and when a man is fresh out of prison, he has enemies but his enemies do not scare him.

I wasn’t foreman material but I could have been an ex con. I’ll spin these wheels and lay some rubber. Go ahead and act like you’ve got something underneath the hood.

I called the windshield people. Maybe they heard about me and were afraid because they couldn’t come out for four days. If I were them, I’d send backup.

Men are good for some things. Taking care of windshields. Telling stories, if only to themselves.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or (661) 395-7279.

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