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Stovebolt Sagas

2 Guys in search of a Truck


Episode 4 -- Jack Kerouac would be proud

           Paris (as in France, not Kentucky or Maine) -- The sun cascaded from the bright autumn leaves, dancing among the russet hues of the late September day. Like loosed sprites, free of restraint and laughing madly, the rays raced and bounced from ripple to ripple on the ever-so-slightly agitated surface of the Seine River to lap gently against my face. No, not agitated. Maybe amused would be a better word. Either way, it was a delightful afternoon to be wafting our way to the South of France on a canal boat, one day out of Paris.

           "Cherie," I called to Marguerite, down in the cuddy cabin. "Passe moi le vin et la baguette, s'il vous plait." (Translation: "Hey! Throw me a longneck and a cheese danish, huh?!") Ah! La Compagne! The tiller, animated slightly by the slow, but powerful, currents here in the river, felt good under my arm.

           You see, at the time, I was an expatriot painter, eeking out a meager, but fulfilling existence on Le Rive Gauche, or "Left Bank" of the Seine River in Paris -- home to all expatriot painters, ne'er-do-wells, and fugitives from American divorce courts. I had just finished a major commission for the Banque du Paris of King Louis the 16th, which I titled "Bonjour, Monsier le Guillotine." I had been working on it in oils for about 4 years (it was, um, big.) and now that it was done, the creditors paid off and Interpol thrown off my trail (perhaps for another time, gentle reader), it was time for Marguerite, the dog and me to sashay on down to Marseille for a little R and R in the Mediterranean sun.

           Marguerite came up from below, vin in one hand, baguette and fromage on a tray in the other. She paused on the step, smiled and illuminated the surrounding pastures lining both banks of the river, with the warmth of her smile -- a slight twinkle came from her eyes. She stepped lightly toward me as the dog sidled up against me to sleep in the sun. She (Marguerite, not the dog) put her arm around me to lay her head on my shoulder..

           "Hey, there it is!" Johnhancock's excited voice jerked me harshly from my snooze. He had been talking about the University of Kentucky basketball team and the personal history of each player, or something equally BORING (sorry, Johnhancock). Anyway, being not-so-gently ripped from my dreams of Paris, I turned to see the object of today's foray into the wild and woolly netherworld of the Bluegrass.

           Yes, indeed. There it was, behind the house -- a 1949-50-51-52 Chevrolet Schoolbus, sinking slowly into the rich Kentucky soil. The one side sinking quicker than the other...

           "Isn't that cool?" Johnhancock asked as we zipped by. Yes, it was just just too cool. I was at a loss for words as I studied what appeared to be a junk pile with windows in it. There was a fellow out working on a truck next to the road as we passed. "Wanna stop and ask about it?"

           Being ever the brave former Marine, I naturally said, "No." So we went on to scope out some other vehicles he had seen on the back road to Frankfort. When we got there, they were obscured in the bushes and pretty far off the road. And besides, they appeared to be mainly F--ds anyway.

           "Yay, another mint Model T in a crate," I said with a yawn. (Not). So we went back. Not wanting to report a dry run, I screwed up my courage and we stopped at the bus.

           "Bill," as we later found out he was called, hardly looked up from his work under the hood of his late model Chevy truck as I asked to snap a few shots of the bus. I had hardly gotten the request out when he said, "If you want it, I'll give it to you -- if you'll take it outta here." Well, what do you say to that? I fumbled some kind of a response and trudged up the hill to take my pictures and inspect the bus.

           As you can see in the photos, it is complete. But it is quickly fading and reverting to more elemental form. The sheet metal is all there, but rusty. I'm dumb enough to try restoring it, but I doubt anybody else would be. The engine was gone, but bellhousing, transmission and drivetrain remain (somewhere down in the dirt). Perhaps as parts for our eventual flatbed? Who knows.

           But still -- a schoolbus. Haven't we all harbored a secret desire for a schoolbus, to carry us carefree, a la Jack Kerouac, across the country in an escapist, beatnic adventure? Okay, maybe not. But anyway, here it was, and free, too! Of course, parting the Red Sea would seem like child's play compared to transforming this glorified garden shed into the Magic Bus. But still, a free 6700 series bus ... Hmmmm. Free Parts, at least... And Johnhancock even came up with a plan to move it from Stamping Ground to his place in Porter. How could we go wrong?

           So, I shook hands with Bill, promising to return when the ground isn't so soft to cart off his bus, and Johnhancock and I rode the Red Rocket off into the gathering dusk to plan how we were going to break this development to Margaret. Making matters worse was that Margaret had reinforcements back at the house -- my mother, who thinks all this old truck stuff is daffy to begin with. Johnhancock and I had quite a challenge on our hands.

           "We'll blame it on the dog," Johnhancock offered. Good one. Then again, he is a UK grad. We settled on a diversion (Clausewitz would be so proud of us) -- we'd stop at Tractor Supply where I'd purchase one of those Precision Diecast Models of the International Farmall M (the after Christmas 30 percent off sale) that I've been wanting. She'd get so mad about that, the bus would be nothing! Sometimes our brilliance is just incredible (so is our spelling -- that's brilliance). Congratulating ourselves, we set off for the house and our triumphal reception.

Post Script: Luckily, when Margaret threw me out of the house, she also threw one of the surplus winter sleeping bags we had, so living in the garage hasn't been too bad. The concrete floor has been good for my back...

           And Johnhancock says that the bullet holes in the tailgate of his truck should be pretty easily patched.

           Stay tuned for an update on "Moving the Bus."

           'Til next time -- Aloha, JC

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