|The Stovebolt Page||
|Oral history of Stovebolt Quests, Journeys, Treasures and Dragons|
The words uttered to me in a casual conversation are ones of myth and great fantasy. They are sounds we have all dreamed to have uttered in our presence.
“I got an old '52 Ford F1. It’s finished mechanically, but needs the body completed” I told the man before me, while on a break from our day. The other person participating in the conversation replied to me, “I have a '53 Chevy 3100. I really need to do something with it or get rid of it.”††† †††††"How much ya want for it?” I asked, while knowing in the back of my mind the pointlessness of the question. The ruler of my household would not be allocating any more funds toward my affliction to own old vehicles which I have intentions of fixing up "some day."
The reply came with the same intensity as a casual checker game being played between two old timers in front of a Sinclair Station. “You can have it if you come haul it away.”
The emotions of his statement didn’t seem to set in on him for a few seconds. He then began to inform me of the truck's history and location. It was bought new by his Grandfather in 1953 and was used on the family farm all its life. He also had the factory livestock racks for it. With the passing of his Grandfather, so was the passing of the truck to him.
“You sure you don’t want anything for it?” I asked to make sure I was hearing him right, all the time trying to contain myself, human nature being what it is and all.
“Well you can buy me a steak sometime” he replied. “The truck is just rusting away sitting in a shed on our family farm in Mississippi.”
“That’s terrible” I replied in a saddened voice. None of us want that to happen to an old truck, or anything else for that matter. The truck began developing a soul of sorts, even though it was sight unseen.
“How long has it been sitting and why was it put there?”
"I drove it to the farm about six years ago and it hasn’t moved since” he said.
“You mean it ran six years ago?” I replied with less control over myself. I needed to take a calming breath. Just think, a once-running truck for free.
“It ran when I parked it” came his reply, in a North Louisianan twang. “I’m sure if you change the fluids and get a battery for it, it will run.”
“Well, I am the man to take it and put it in a nice covered garage especially if you are just going to give it away. Is it still 6-volt or was it converted?” I asked as I started to pace, hoping to release some excited energy.
“It's got the 6-volt. It's bone stock, original. Just let me check with my family and make sure it’s all right with them.”
Ahh, the catch. Well it was a nice thought anyway, I said to myself. There’s always someone in the family who won’t want to let it go. Someone will want to keep it with the intention of a grand restoration to its previous glory. “Well just let me know."
“I’ll call when I find out” he said.
I told my wife about the emotional roller coaster of a conversation. I told her that I doubted it would happen. I hoped the words would ease her thoughts of me dragging home more junk. The comment also helped prepare me for that call that I believed really wouldn’t come. My lovely bride agreed with my assessment.
Over the next few weeks, we didn't speak much of the truck. As a tinker of all things of grease, oil and dirt, I hoped every day for the approval from his family.
The triumphant e-mail arrived on 24 March 06 -- “Let me know when you can come after the truck!”
YES! YES! YES! I yelled inside still a little scared of any ridiculing from my family and friends. Telling them the good news, as looks of a disbelieving surprise on their faces was hard to do in the calm manner required for such a delicate situation.
The inevitable questions came. What in the world am I going to do with it? Why do you need another old truck and so on? Smiling was my only response. They just don’t understand. The smell of stale cab air and old oil is to us gear heads what roses and fruity bubble bath are to them. Catalogs were immediately ordered, the research process intensified, and I looked into joining a support group of other people struck with the same affliction as I have.
The impending acquisition of my new treasure would require me to re-deck my trailer, as the wood had rotted to a point that careful foot placement was of the utmost importance. All my trailer friends and family had started to complain that I poorly neglected my responsibility as trailer maintainer. When one purchases a trailer large enough to haul a car or other heavy items, he also gets the added bonus of a heightened level of "carrying" from friends and family. The truth is that my trip to retrieve the 1953 Chevy 3100 would only be the second time I have used the trailer for my personal use in the four years of ownership. An idea I once had of selling it was quickly laid to rest with an aggressively organized campaign from my trailer friends and family conveying to me my need to keep the trailer. The problem of storing such a large trailer didn’t seem to be a good enough reason for selling it as they really had a hard time relating to the storage issue. The week spent preparing the trailer and other essentials to haul a vehicle passed and the date of 16 April 06 was agreed upon to bring home the substance of my addiction.
I awoke in an excited state the morning of the big day. The hardest part of the day would be the wait. I would be killing two birds with one stone. A 90 mile detour to New Orleans would be required to drop my parents at the airport before the trip to Mississippi. They were visiting from Oregon. Dad was one of the skeptics with regards to my latest acquisition. On the outside he was amused, but on the inside he was worried about my mental health and who would pay for my impending stay in one of Louisiana's high-security state hospitals. Dad decided we should leave around 12:30 instead of the previous 2:00 pm departure time. The verbal reason was so they would have time to get checked in. In truth he was embarrassed at my inability to maintain control over myself.
Hello! IT WAS AN OLD TRUCK THAT RAN WHEN IT WAS PARKED, BEING GIVEN TO ME!! FOR FREE!!
All I could do was bounce around the house like Ricochet Rabbit, drinking my double skinny latte (editor's note: THAT certainly didn't help...). The anticipation was murderous. At 12:29 we headed out of my subdivision, enroute to the airport.
After throwing their crap on the sidewalk, close to some door at the airport, we said our good byes with a quick hug. About 30 seconds later, that 350 was howling for a decrease in RPM’s and the trailer was doing it’s best to hang on.
One -- The Odyssey
Now there are three stages in treasure retrieval. The first stage is traveling to the location of the treasure. This is the point when one begins to formulate and calculate such issues as vehicle condition, location, storage structure integrity, ease of loading once the item is moved out of the storage location, and how to deal with any squatters that might be using the truck as a home. Animals, like humans can accumulate quite a collection of items over a six year period. After I told the man who was giving me the truck good bye on our last call, I heard him yell "wait." The ear piece of the phone was about a foot from my head, on its way to the docking station. I returned the hand set to my ear to hear him say, “Watch out for snakes!” with a laugh. Now I’m not scared of snakes, or much else in the way of animals, but I do respect their right to co-exist in the presence of homo-erectus. The biggest timber rattler I have ever seen lived about 20 miles from the farm were the truck was located. It was in the middle of a trail I was running down during an enduro race years earlier. His comment did assure me that the trip to the area would be done alone.
The scenery is beautiful in that area, with rolling hills dotted in pines and hardwood. He had given me good instructions and I mapped them out on the computer. Had the road sign for "Everett Bridge Road" actually been on the post, I would have driven straight to it. The incident only added 30 unbearable minutes to the trip. Once I turned my '75 C10 down the old gravel driveway which was over hung with trees on one side and a wood plank fence that framed a meadow on the other, I entered the second stage of the trip.
Two -- Big Truck, Little Trailer
Vehicle/trailer placement, old truck extraction, and old truck loading/securing for the trip home is stage 2. I eased up to the edge of the lawn and stopped the truck out of the way of the family member’s vehicles there for Easter weekend. The actual owner was not present. I assumed the loss would be too great to witness in person (it would be for me anyway). The vehicles had to be moved. They were blocking access to the treasure and what a treasure it was. Not quite the image of perfection with the window stickers still on it but still able to be called a truck. People with this affliction often embellish mental images of their acquisitions before actually seeing them. The desire to fight this urge is futile and desperate at best. No matter how many times the outer verbal voice says "it is an old junker beyond repair," our inner voice will lie. Looking through the trees and cars that prevented a full, unobstructed view, I saw my truck. A bit of disappointment at the lack of a window sticker helped to subdue my excitement in front of the family, who watched as a piece of their family history left for good.
A few seconds after coming to a stop, people started to wonder out of the old green house that was topped with corrugated tin. This place was amazing, in a Norman Rockwell sort of way. I was greeted by a robust man. I introduced myself, as he sized me up from head to toe. He felt no need to tell me his name. Expressions can speak louder then words. His expression was not very promising. We discussed the moving of the truck as his family began moving the other vehicles, allowing me access to the truck. Once the other cars were moved, I dropped the trailer and positioned my pickup so I could hook up and pull the 3100 out of the shed. A note: it is important to come prepared in such situations. In the back of my truck were mechanically orientated hand tools, an air compressor, an impact with sockets, tire inflation wand and pressure gauge. I also had 100 feet of air line and electrical cord. Besides the newly installed winch, donated by my Father-in-law/trailer family, I had a collection of pulling, hooking, lifting and pushing items. My Father-in-law was the "Chairman of the Board" of the "Todd can’t Sell His Trailer" coalition. He also wasn’t shy in voicing his opinion about my abilities as trailer maintenance person. The only time I was addressed as "Owner" of the trailer was when something was wrong with it or it required financial input.
My first up close look at the truck was filled with a cyclone of inspiration that can only be had by people with the same condition I have, the need to drag home old hulks and other manly things. The back was filled with six years of anything imaginable, black plastic and 847 lbs of pecan shells. A spare tire held it all in place. Since the roof on the shed was in good repair and the three-walled structure was used all the time for other parking, the truck was in ok shape. A lot of dust, a small hole in the back glass, and a driver's side window that has been out of service for quite some time were the only issues I noticed on the initial inspection. There was one other big issue. Putting air in the tires and having them stay inflated long enough to load the 3100 in my opinion was nothing more then a manly fantasy. This fantasy would surely develop into a do or die story of vehicle resurrection and would start out with the ever popular phrase, "You’re never going to believe this."
The front skins, if not original, were definitely factory original replacements and the rears were in good shape, tread wise. All four tires had several dry rot cracks in them about ¼’’ wide and several inches long from six years of sitting in the same location. I checked hoping that they had tubes in them. A glimmer of hope filled my doubtful mind when I found that they were in fact tube tires. The fellow helping expressed his thoughts on the waist of time it would be to try and air them up as I positioned my air compressor for the task. It had been at least 36 hours since I last aired a tire up for my neighbor and I felt that it would be good practice as my skills were defiantly rusty. Knowing that there was no way those rims were going to ride on a cushion of air this day, I proceeded to inject the old rotted bias plies with compressed atmosphere. You’re never going to believe this but they held air. As I aired up each corner, the truck groaned a bit, reminding me of a retired old super hero waking from a long nap, standing and then flexing each shoulder. I didn’t want to be greedy and only put enough air in the tires so they wouldn’t role on the sidewalls. (Believe it or not, but they’re still holding air to this day.)
We emptied the back of the truck out and I carried the rotten black plastic to a trash barrel. I kept listening, but never heard any stirring or rattling type noises coming from the plastic as I walked with it. The whole extraction was without involvement from four leggers or ground sliders.The only evidence of their presence was the several inches of butt raisins in the cab corners, the 847 pounds of pecan shells in the back of the truck and the relocation of some seat padding to the lip under the front of the hood. I have an image in my head of a rat stopping dead in his tracks when he rounds the corner of the shed and finds his home is missing. I saw the same look of confused horror on some railroad bums faces when they saw I had cleared some property next to set of tracks years earlier. They had a make shift housing complex dug under blackberry bushes and a few lean-to’s made from old pallets and plastic bags, which I leveled with a skid steer.
The next step was the removal from the shed and pre-trailer loading positioning. I put away my air compressor and the other associated items. I then tried to roll the truck by hand, but soon discovered the adhesive qualities of red clay and time. Hooking the tow strap up to my modern 1975 C10 was required. That done, I fired the pickup up and took up the slack. My mouth was parched, my hands were tensely gripping the wheel as I eased the accelerator down, tensing up the tow strap. Without any noticeable tug or sounds of snapping parts, the 3100 rolled for the first time in six years. I slowly pulled it about 100 feet with my helper steering it. In the light of the early evening, and my ability to see passed the broken glass, dents, rotten wood bed, bad tires, rust and rat raisins, it looked even better then before. The only thing missing was the dealer window stickers. We brought the old truck to a stop strategically were I could re-hook the trailer and easily load it.
Once completing the extraction stage, we had to trailer and secure it for the trip home. I re-hooked the trailer, and after several tries, had the hauler lined up to receive its cargo. The ramps were placed on the trailer and precisely spaced. I unwound the winch and hooked on a chain which was surgically wrapped around the bumper braces. I didn’t even tear anything up and was proud of only one bent brake line during the whole quest.
Being the self-appointed captain of the operation, I grabbed the crank handle. The steady ratcheting sound of the winch signified the start of the loading process. After cranking for a while, I needed to unwind and adjust the slack on the chain that the winch cable was hooked to. In actuality, I was tired and needed a break. My helper, not being fooled, took over cranking duties for me. I took a triumphant stance on the trailer in front of the truck with a belief that I looked like I knew what I was doing.
Once the truck was where I wanted it, I had the cranking man stop his laborious task. A look at the mud flaps on the C10 dictated I move the 3100 a little closer to the front of the trailer, shifting a little more weight to the tongue. During the whole process, I felt a bit of sadness from the man helping me and his young son so I wasn’t surprised when I looked up from binding down the truck and discovered I was alone. I understood, as I had long ago lost control of my excitement. I finished securing the truck, stored the ramps and snugged up the winch.
While looking the truck over before we removed it form the shed, I noticed the original factory livestock racks on a bench leaning against the back wall. I carried them to the truck, installing them in the bed slots. Once they were strapped down, I picked up the trash that was left behind in the shed and thanked the people for helping me. After settling into the driver seat of the C10, I fired it up and headed back down the driveway along the fence. It was a few miles back out to the main road so I stopped before reaching the highway to check the chain binders. After re-tightening the binders, I changed my clothes back into my shorts, old tee shirt with plaid over shirt and blue rubber Crocks. I’m a comfort dresser by nature, with the next concern of my fashion sense being economic value. A shirt that is way too ugly to pay $10.00 for looks a little better for $5.00. It is one of my wife’s greatest battles.
Convinced the 3100 was safely bound for the 150 mile trek home, I settled back into the C10 and headed south down the series of old two-lane roads. As I passed through small town U.S.A. every 30 miles or so, I stopped to check on the 3100. Watching the truck gently rock back and forth as the trailer springs absorbed the bumps, I was struck with a name for him. The thought of the three characters on the old Bob Newhart Show passed my mind. Daryl, Daryl and Larry were brothers. Larry was the only one that talked. The two Daryl’s hadn’t spoken since they were kids and tried to ride a porcupine. The brothers weren’t big on hygiene, and the 3100 was also pretty dirty. For some reason the name Larry seemed right.
Three -- The Miracle of WD-40
I had a smile on my face the whole trip home. A fuel stop was required in Baton Rouge. I pulled into a Shell station to fill my tank, wash the window and check my oil. Since Louisiana roads are much less then adequate, I checked out my load again. The roads in the Bayou state are a result of years of political corruption, misspent funds, and pork belly projects. Walking out of the store, I was asked by a young man how old the truck was. I smiled a toothy grin and said 53 years old. I then told him that the look on his face would surely resemble my wife’s when she sees Larry for the first time. The rest of the way home was uneventful with the occasional car pulling along side me and looking at Larry proudly being chauffeured to a new home. I pulled into Morgan City about 9:30 pm. After backing the load along the side of our house, I collected my things from the cab and went inside for the night.
With the sun and the motivation of a new morning, I ripped the bed out of Larry. Before the wood removal could start, dirt and pecan shell cleanup was required. The metal strips were shot, from 53 years of animal byproducts and farm life, but the wood wasn’t in as bad of shape as I thought it would be. For their age, the livestock racks were in pretty good shape also.
Bed removal was followed by engine investigation. Larry’s engine was as free as it was six years earlier. This was verified by placing a ¾’’ square socket adapter in the hand crank socket on the flywheel of the believed 216. The water pump seemed stiff, but the oil in the air cleaner and engine had no signs of moisture. After blowing Larry off with air, I sprayed the entire truck down with WD-40, to help loosen up the more stubborn grim and rust. I was surprised how much of the surface rust came off with a blast of air. I knew I would be gone from home for a few weeks and Larry would have to spend the time outside, as I didn’t have time to shuffle vehicles around to clear a spot for him in the garage so a coat of WD-40 would only help. †††††††††††
The reaction of my friends and family was milder then I thought. The coat of oil I sprayed on Larry made him look 20 years younger, which I am sure helped ease the surprise. So remember, a coat of WD-40 sprayed on an old dirty treasure will help with convincing the other parties involved in our life that such items are needed and required acquisition! It’s kind of like paint on a unskilled weld.
The case here was work. My time to leave the family for two weeks and fly out to the gulf had arrived. As I stated in the events of Larryís acquisition, he was sprayed with a coat of WD-40. Since my time was limited, he would have to spend a couple of weeks outside in the weather, perched on the community trailer. I wanted him to wear a protective coat. Upon my return form the drilling rig two weeks later, I had dreams of a grand and immediate vehicle transfer. The 1952 Ford would be pushed out of the garage, started and driven around the block. After that, some shifting of manly treasure would be required to fit Larry into the garage bay. The '52 Ford would be moved to a storage shed, which was also in need of some tidying up.
The dominate 66% of my life had other plans for my first week around the house. Since my wife had some scrap booking shin-dig that would take up the entire upcoming weekend, I was required to watch our loving and manipulative three year old daughter. This actually required seven days of my time. I was told that there was some prep work and other things to be done. I was also informed that I understood and that it made sense to me. Iím not sure, but I think it was all my idea because I was thanked for coming up with the whole plan of events that were going to take up my seven days of Larry / manly time.
After a kiss on the cheek for being such a considerate husband, full of good ideas, I was strutting around like the "Cock of the Fleet," all because I had this great idea with regards to my reallocation of time. My daughter on the other hand is a great little helper. I canít wait to see grease under her fingernails for the first time. I am sure Larry will help out with that. We did a little tricycle lubrication during our time together. Kids will teach you more about life then life itself.
And we finally begin
Wednesday, eight days after I got home, I pulled Larry away from the house a few feet and started the oil infused grime and red claw removal process. I didnít weigh it, but I believe that close to 500 pounds of dirt fell to the deck of the trailer. A note: washing the vehicle on the trailer before you unload is a fantastic idea. First of all, you donít have to bend over as far to see the underside of its belly. Second, the crap that falls off ( for the most part) stays on the trailer. If you wait until the next day to clean the trailer, you just sweep up the loose debris. Third, you really feel masculine when the grime flies off the vehicle and sticks to you. The spread of the grime isnít limited to your shoulders and legs as it is when you kneel down to pressure wash. I used 3200 PSI so I got a really wide splatter pattern. My face really came out nice.
Once Larry was all cleaned up, I started the process of cleaning the garage. The 1969 Ford Bronco would stay on its side of the space, and as stated above, the 1952 Ford F100 would be relocated to the freshly cleaned-out storage unit. I pulled the '52 out of the garage and hooked it up to the president of the trailer coalitions 6 1/2 cylinder Dodge so he could pull it off for me. That old Ford always fires right up.
After a spin around the block, I pulled it onto the trailer and hauled it to the storage unit. I know that most of you here are strictly General Motors people. Itís that same on the other brand dedicated boards. Iím just an old vehicle person, no matter what brand it is. Before I removed the '52 out of the garage, I had to remove the four years of life that had been stacked on, under and around it. There was also the top to my Bronco which hung over Larryís new area. The top and two Bronco doors went to storage with the '52.
While the coalition president and I labored at the storage unit, my mother-in-law and a few of her friends dropped by to give us advice and pointers on how to place the '52 in the unit. Iím sure the truck would still be outside the unit if they hadnít dropped by to bird dog the operation.
Once back home, I used my Honda 4-wheeler to move Larry around and position him into his new staging area. Once Larry was placed in the garage, I made him a promise that I would only stack all the stuff back on him for a few days, until the reorganization of the space could take place. I donít like to refer to the space as his resting space, because he isnít dead, but more like standing by for some manly caressing. I then proceeded to stack everything into his bed.
With the end of the vehicle swapping process, I was able to spend a few days on garage reorganization. Thereís a message on the "ĎGreasy Spoon" about my packrat illness. Iím not a good speller by any stretch of the imagination and meant to use the word GENTAL, and not GENITAL. Stupid spell check! My wonderful bride quickly pointed out the mistake in a instant message.
To make the space workable, I had to stow everything as precise as a Depression era man struck with OCD. The first day of this task was spent building a storage shelf that hung from the ceiling, above Larry. I was able to get a lot of testosterone scented loot up there. Yes itís high enough to allow for hood opening! Once that was complete, I spent the next day rearranging shelving around the garage. The Bronco was pushed out of the area to get the job done. Although the Bronco is in great shape, I didnít run it at all last year because I need to replace the Rubber Bushings on the axles, A-arms, and transmission mounts. The carburetor base gasket is also bad.
The third and final day was spent replacing all the items back on the newly placed shelving and the hanging my bicycles. There was also the mounting of a new air hose reel. Iíve been meaning to complete that task for 6-7 years. OH SO NICE!!
My time at home came to an end and now Iím back out in the Gulf. When I get back in, I will have to touch up little storage issues in the garage. As for whatís next for Larry, he has to wait in line. I was informed of a promise to my wife that I would get the Bronco back on the road before I touched anything else. Iím not sure, but she said the promise was all my idea which means more strutting around like a rooster, after the Bronco is once again road worthy. It should only take two days.
Larry's previous owner is sending me the key and I hope to maybe get him started sometime in the next month. I canít wait to hear his old oil dipper run. I will first have to change the fuel out, and maybe clean out the tank. Once he starts, I will change all the other fluids in him. I am a big believer in synthetic oil and will more then likely run Mobil 1 in his veins, but we will have to see.
The issue of why I saved all the wood from the bed and livestock racks is also a future project. I want to use it to make a piece of furniture for the man that gave me the truck. A side board or secretary comes to mind. There are pictures of Larry at the farm on an old school 35mm disposable camera. I forgot to take the digital. I will post them once I use the film up and get them put on disk.
Keep the shinny side up, or at least on a dust free shelf!
Bolter # 10964
v. May 2006
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