Nothing like a good tale
My story begins over 30 years ago. Back in the wee dim long time passed (1978), I was a 17 year old kid on the family farm in Montana. Life was good back then. Not all the responsibilities of parenthood that surround me now. I am now a Grandfather of a wonderful baby boy. My diversion from all this is working on my old truck. But first the genesis of this story.
Last fall I intended on bringing an old 1929 Chevy 1.5-ton truck off the farm to use as a backyard decoration. The truck was pretty much a basket case as far as restoration goes, but it had been in the family since it was new. I was going to pick up a few Yucca and Prickly Pear from the farm to plant around it and make it an arid garden feature.
When I arrived at the farm, the truck was gone -- along with an old REO and a smashed 1955 Chevy pickup. Someone had liberated the vehicles sometime in the previous 12 months. The things people will steal!
The gentleman that leases our farm (a wonderful steward of the land and good friend) had no idea who could have taken them. They had been parked in a spot about two miles from the house and were not visible from the road.
I made the decision then to remove all our old trucks left on the farm (four in all) and bring them all to my home 230 miles away. One of these trucks is a 1946 2-ton grain truck with a seized-up 235.
Now for the rest of the story…
In the spring, we did a lot of cleaning on the farm. Equipment repairs were done over winter as was shipping the previous year’s harvest. We owned a grain elevator that we used to store and ship our grain. One of the chores to be done was to clean the “pit” at the elevator. The old “international Elevator” is very small by today’s standards but at the time was a tremendous asset. Elevators need sidings on level ground so rail cars can be moved easily. The ground that the railroad chose, years ago, happened to be on the end of a dry lake bed. The area was never under water but the water table was fairly high. The pit (the bottom of the elevator) was below the water table in the spring. There was always spillage in the pit and after it soaked up the spring moisture, the wheat and barley mix would ferment and create this black ooze. Wonderful stuff…
The way to clean the pit, was to drive a truck (the 1946 Chevy) onto the scale and one guy would don the hip waders and a shovel and climb down 12 feet’ into the stinking quagmire. Another guy would drop the old five gallon Texaco grease pail down on the end of an inch-and-a-half sisal rope. The rope had knots tied in it every 18” or so to aide in lifting the bucket.
Once the bucket was full, the man above lifted the bucket (trying not to spill on the man below) and dumps it in the truck. The ooze would leak out and run back down in the pit. One could almost get lit off the fumes.
Needless to say, neither job was a great experience. To be fair, my Step-brother and I swapped places to share the fun. We loaded about 40 bushel of rotten grain onto the truck that day. A very long and tiring chore to say the least. Once loaded, we still had to get rid of the mess. As was the usual scenario, we went to the local bar owner (the only bar in town), who happened to also own some pigs.
The offer was made by two underage young men for 40 bushel of pig feed in exchange for two $7 cases of OLY beer. Now I don’t know if our smell had anything to do with the haste that this transaction went down, but, in less than 10 minutes the deal was sealed and away we went to the hog lot. This was 7 or 8 miles from town and on a creek bottom.
The old truck made its way down the highway at the cruising speed of maybe 50 mph. Cold beer in hand and the wind blowing the smell away. We were feeling good.
Once at the hog lot, we raised the hoist and dumped the load. We drove maybe 50 yards and pulled out the 22 rifle and stared shooting gophers and drinking more beer. The owner was all for the extermination. "Just don’t shoot the pigs."
The time went quickly. We drank enough beer that those little buggers were getting tough to hit. So we decided to leave. Supper would be ready soon and we were 16 miles from home in a slow truck.
As we were about to leave, I noticed an old sow ate a bit too much fermented grain and was staggering around and feeling pretty happy. She made her way to the creek for a drink and fell in. Unable to master the task of getting up, she laid down in the creek and was blowing bubbles with her snout.
We couldn’t leave her to drown. We managed to find a farmer’s second best tool, bailing twine (we all know duct tape is tops). Bunches of used twine hung on a board on the side of one of the buildings. We fashioned a rope out of it and tied one end around her hind feet and the other on the axle of the '46. We eased her up the bank, out of the water, and unhooked her.
Not wanting to be privy to another porcine suicide attempt, we high tailed it out of there and headed for home and a hot meal. Now as I said, we had a couple of beers in us and were getting hungry. The highway grade out of the creek was about 6% and over a mile long. With my right foot firmly planted on the floor, we made or accent. We maybe made it a half of a mile before we heard that awful sound under the hood. The truck lost all power.
I shoved the clutch to the floor and rolled to a stop. Everyone that owns one of these motors knows just what happened and why. Stupid kids.
These were the days before cell phones so there was only one thing to do ... walk. About a mile up the road, someone picked us up and took us to town. I phoned my Dad to come and get us. He was eating but would come get us (stupid kids) as soon as he was done.
The ride home on the end of a tow rope was long to say the least. We were tired, hungry, smelly, and the hangover was starting already. At home, after a shower, we stuffed ourselves with leftovers. In the days that followed, I promised Dad I would help fix the truck.
We did get it tore down but other things pulled our attention away from it. Dad moved to town. I graduated and left the farm. The truck sat in storage. Those days turned to months and then years.
It has now been 32 years. Dad has been gone 14 of those years, but I’m now going to fix it.
Maybe I’ll have a beer first…