Duncan West and Cesar Chavez, United Farm Workers; Delano, California, 1974.

It rains and blows monsoon style. I drift offramp, where a pale man in a gray windbreaker with PROBATION on the back peers under the hood at the silent aircraft engine in his brand new Ford Behemoth II. He and his truck block the right lane.

Roll down the window. “Hey buddy, want me to help push it off the road?”

He won’t meet my eyes. No tools in hand – just staring at the Big Engine That Couldn’t. His NRA sticker and gun rack support a working differential diagnosis: 1) too-much-anxiety disorder.

He hesitates; yells something and nods, so I park in the dirt and hop out.

Good God. He’s jumped back into his truck to steer, closing and locking the door. Not sure I can push this heap myself, although the road is flat here. I’m having a hard time even budging her. Knock on window: “We’ll probably both have to push, you know?”

Traffic all around now – people getting off work, holiday shoppers safe and dry in cars we’re now blocking. And me, wearing my sharply creased slacks and carefully ironed soul, crouching behind a squat, shiny truck I now realize I’m going to be attempting to push up a freeway offramp in about 15 yards. Bending to get some leverage, shoulder to bumper level, I form a hypotenuse which rain flows down.

Rolling a little. Yeah. Problem is, he’s driving out into traffic instead of pulling over to the right curb. Angry honks. My best diplomatic tone: “Lot of room over on the right, buddy!”

We slow, still well out in the right hand lane. Sounds like America’s Silent Majority has lined up behind us, unwilling to push but happy to lean heavily on their Ess-You-Vee horns.

Then the loud laughing Spanish-speaking voices suddenly all around. A half dozen men join in, leaning into the rear of truck. One fellow smiles at PROBATION jacket, then bends his knees, braced against tailgate.

The truck rolls easily, and bumps the curb. Success. Perfect ending: driver turns key, Ford Behemoth starts right up. Flooded.

We the Movers grin wide. Team Aztlan runs back to their own old truck idling in the midst of the furious Christmas shoppers and employees on work-release from the endless gray buildings.

Each pusher has another laugh and an honest-to-God living smile for me as I walk past. I drive on.

And then I remember. We somehow forgot to check their “citizenship” papers before they pushed…”citizenship” papers for these Natives whose ancestors are dust beneath the endless California freeways.

And they didn’t care a bit about checking ours.