Comal tow lady
By Carter Milner
There is an extremely rare site to see if you watch attentively as you travel around the roads in Canyon Lake.
Whether you are just visiting or live in the area it is likely that you will come across her at work. Her name is Laura and she is one of only a handful of women tow truck operators in the entire United States (and across the globe), according to Lyndia Thomas, Operations Director for the International Towing and Recovery Museum.
"Most of the women [in the business] own or operate a family recovery service, but it is seldom that you see the women actually operating the trucks." says Ms. Thomas. "People don't realize that every time they break down someone is risking their life to pick them up. Many recovery operators lose their lives in service." the Director told me.
My heart began racing when I hung up the phone with Laura. I was to meet her immediately at an accident off Highway 306. The remainder of my afternoon watching Laura work would prove tons of adrenaline, incredibly hard work, and an unselfish drive to get to people's aid.
At the scene were a Texas State Trooper, several Comal County sheriffs, some onlookers, two bored longhorn cows, and a car that looked like a giant crushed tuna can. With her strikingly blond hair, pint sized Laura had already backed up her tow rig to the accident and was knee deep in mud hooking up a winch and trying to figure out the best way to dislodge the totaled vehicle out from underneath the bend in an old oak tree. Amazingly, the kid who'd been driving the car was walking around in a daze with only a few minor cuts and scrapes.
"Did you hear me yell 'watch the winch' to that trooper?" she said chuckling. "He backed off quick, didn't he? If you get too close to that winch it can pop out at you. Some wreckers have had their heads chopped off doing that. 'Watch the winch' . yeah, that's about the only time I get to tell a trooper what to do." Laura grinned. Most of the work Laura does is rescue work. When she is in action, it is obvious that she loves her work with a passion.
With every call that Laura went on that afternoon, it was the way she treated the people in trouble or need and all the little extra things that she kept doing for everyone that stood out so much. In one instance, (while unloading at the wrecking yard) she took valuable time out to wait on a young man to come get a memento (the license plate) off a truck he'd totaled a few weeks back.
"That's his second Ranger. He wrecked the first one too." she said when I asked her if waiting for him had put her behind. "We all have to live together around here, so I didn't mind waiting for him."
Laura grew up in the South Central Texas area. She and her husband, Rick, of 20+ years, spend their time now giving back to the area. Rick has owned and operated Anastasi Towing and Automotive and Canyon Star Towing out of Canyon Lake since 1979. The two of them are on call 364 days out of the year for both the Comal County Sheriff's department and the Canyon Lake community. From the pictures they have and the stories they tell, over the years, they have towed vehicles in this area out of every body of water and strange predicament imaginable. It is crazy how people get themselves into the oddest situations in their cars. And how often they do so.
Rick is a straightforward guy who is fussy with his business in a good way. Anastasi is one of a disappearing breed of local family owned and operated services to the community. It's clearly not just the bottom line or a fast buck that motivates these folks. The first time I approached their shop, I had recently moved to this area and my car was overheating. They didn't know me from Adam, but they stopped what they were doing and came out immediately to look at my car. The whole staff treated me like family and as if they had known me all my life. They even offered me a hamburger and I didn't spend a dime with them that day. The kind way these people treated me has remained one of my first and most endearing impressions of this area.
"The hardest ones are when you know someone or there is family around and there has been a bad injury or fatality." Laura told me. "Everyday is different. I've seen people sawed in half, or with a leg or an arm cut off. I was a nurse for 25 years before I did this. People who die slowly of natural causes look very different. If you die suddenly in a car wreck you turn a pale blue much quicker."
It was dark when Laura dropped me off that day. She was off to another call on that chilly, wet, dark Sunday eve. As I puttered home in my little 4-cylinder car (that now sounded like a "toy" car after riding in their tow truck) it struck me how fortunate we are in this area to still have so many people such as these running businesses and services for our community. It's rare that you see a woman running a tow truck, but it's quickly becoming rarer these days that you find people in business that still care like they do as well.