While patrolling the highways of a mountainous area in California, CHP Officer Nathan Taylor saw a man by himself, attempting to hitchhike his way back to town. Rather than stopping to harass him, Taylor offered to give the guy a ride. After dropping him off, the officer didn’t see it coming, but that ride resulted in much more than he could have ever expected.
Paxton Brewer had planned a backcountry skiing adventure through Donner Summit when plans for his trip fell through. He was left in the rugged terrain without a ride. With no choice but to make the approximately 50-mile trek back to town on foot, Brewer got walking, carrying his gear on his back, down the side of the highway.
He hadn’t gotten far when Taylor rolled up on him, a sight that Brewer said was the last thing he wanted to see. “Here we go, I’m about to get harassed by the cops,” he recalled thinking at that moment. Instead of the questions he was expecting to hear from the police, Taylor asked if he was all right, then offered to give him a lift. Gladly accepting the offer, Brewer climbed in, and for the next 45-minutes, he learned all about Officer Taylor, who spoke freely with him.
“He told me about his wife and kids, and how he loved working up in the mountains away from the city,” Brewer said in a Facebook post later, recalling the enjoyable conversation they shared. This left an impression on the passenger that he wouldn’t soon forget, especially after what happened not long after.
When they got to town, the officer dropped the hitchhiker off, but he gave him his personal cell phone number, instructing him to call it at 6:30 p.m. The thoughtful cop told Brewer that if he hadn’t found a ride by then, he would take him the long haul back to Sacramento, where he was ultimately heading.
Brewer found a ride, and as a courtesy, he texted Taylor to let him know he was off the hook and thank him again for his kindness. “He texted back ‘All’s well that ends well. Glad you made it,’” Brewer said, but he didn’t realize the gravity of that seemingly simple response.
Over the next few days, Brewer found himself thinking of all the ways he could repay Taylor for going so far out of his way for a stranger. He mentally contemplated bringing the cop a 6 pack of beer, writing his department a letter of praise on his behalf, or taking him out to dinner the next time he was in the mountains. “I thought about becoming his friend,” he said. However, he would never get that chance.
Brewer woke one morning, a few days after meeting Taylor, and opened the newspaper. That’s when he saw the cop’s familiar face. Officer Taylor had been on duty 25 hours after dropping Brewer off in town when he was struck and killed by a driver while investigating an accident. The recipient of one of his final good deeds on earth was completely devastated to read what had happened to the man, who he said challenged his prejudice against the police and inspired him to be a better person.
“Buying him a 6 pack or dinner seems so small in scope now. I am sharing this in an effort to broaden that scope,” Brewer said in his post. He hopes to repay him with something better now — by inspiring others to do good. Taylor died serving other people, leaving an unforgettable legacy that everyone is capable of carrying on.