First to third. Doesn’t sound like much but I remember the truck well… As a kid on Saturday’s I went to work with him.
Dad was always up before the sun and gone soon after that… so for me the ride was early. We traveled out Hanson across the hump at Fowler, felt the rugged RR tracks near the local radio station (WMYR) and on through the deserted neighborhood streets of old Ft Myers. Florida is pretty much flat terrain so it wasn’t uncommon for Dad to shift directly to third from first gear (drove me nuts, even as a kid).
I remember peering over the ‘nose-like’ hood as we tunneled through that thick morning fog. I recall the doors shaking, the cab rattling, and could feel the dampness seeping through the many cracks of the cab. For a boy of ten, the truck was a mechanical goldmine – in it’s own way it was like a carousel; possible to see and feel the parts that provided ‘life’ to this one little rusty machine.
During those years a friend of his owned a race-car so Dad often carried a couple of gallons of ‘nitro (high powered fuel for race engines) in the back of the little pickup. One morning in 64 (I wasn’t with him) the little truck ran out of gas, so Dad resorted to using some of that ‘nitro to complete his drive to work. Being’s a kid at the time I remember the story went something like the truck “ran like someones scalded dog” (I think it was a boy dog because in the actual exclamation it was a “son of” something….); point being that the motor literally blew apart (cracked a cylinder wall) it ran so well. With the motor blown Dad’s ‘beater’ was towed to an open field near his shop off Palm Beach Blvd and covered with a canvas tarp – out to pasture.
As a young teen I visited that field numerous times not only to remove the standing water from the tarp but to slip under the cover and onto the driver’s seat – pretending to drive it as my father had.
In 1969 I was old enough for a “hot-rod,” so Dad and I retrieved the truck from the field and towed it to his welding business (Southwest Welding). This is where we completely dismantled it for reconstruction – that was the fun part. In the following years (1971) the business closed and we loaded the dismantled pieces of the little pickup into the ‘nose’ of a semi-trailer for storage
– this is where the little pickup remained dry but hidden for 24 years.
During that 24 year period I had married, moved to the Carolina mountains and began a family. For young adults life is/was about paying those endless bills that are a necessary part of life – it was ‘payday to payday.’
In 1992 when I turned forty Dad turned the relic over to me. I borrowed a trailer, loaded the kids (and the p-bucket) into the van and drove to Florida for the truck.
After the visit I returned to the Carolina’s with a ‘Pile of Bones.’
In the Carolina’s I had a barn with a dirt floor – but no garage.
I still had a family to raise and those priorities remained. The little truck was stored in an empty stall within the barn – always my favorite corner of the building after a few beverages. Ever riding in the truck again remained a remote possibility, a distant dream – for I had never owned a home with a garage or a cement floor to work on. This dream wasn’t going to happen in the dirt of the barn so the ‘bones’ simply remained dry while we raised a few cows alongside.
2005 – Thirteen years later we moved into a home with a real garage, a cement floor, internet, and ebay! Now with the kids mostly up and gone I felt a ‘byte’ of hope. Along came a torch, a welder, a spare frame, a refrigerator (a shop necessity) and a television on the wall – my friend Bruce Dewey donated an engine, a real boost to the project.
After 41 years, work resumed on the old rusty pickup truck.
I contemplated direction the parts and ideas slowly came together – I watched as people on TV completely redid cars (Overhaulin) in a week! (I also saw folks on the same TV catch boat loads of fish in thirty minutes) I couldn’t do either so I’ve just set my own pace; sometimes working hard and long – and then sometimes just completely getting away from it.
2008 -It took three years, but there came a day when the 12-year old boy that had once pretended to drive this old rusty pickup from under a tarp an a field – stepped back in as a 55-year old man. It was for more than to wiggle a lifeless shifter; it was time to actually drive it. I checked the brakes, then put it into gear and felt the ‘life’ from within. The first time in 44 years that the little truck had been on the highway under its own power, one of those really good moments; a ‘little circle‘ with the best of results.
When I drive the ‘old pickup’ now the doors and cab still shake – but for a much different reason; the rusty and dented fenders have been replaced with modern fiberglass and the remaining steel of the cab and body shines with a ‘Cool Vanilla’ paint. The splintered wood of the old floor in the ‘bed’ is all new and unscathed, the glass is clear and without cracks.
Somewhere in the heart of this machine is my Dad’s rusty old truck – the same old pickup where 45 years earlier a boy of nine once listened to his father’s conversations and dream that he too could drive this truck to work – just like his Dad.
In its own way its all been a pretty special ride.
( Dad’s ride)
In fall 2009 on the last official day of my 31 year career at the Asheville Fire Department, and 50 years after my Dad first drove it to his workplace – I drove the old truck to work one last time.
Losing a Dad is never on the top of anyone’s list – in my own way I find comfort in one of the few places that he and I shared and spent extended time together – riding old highways as he ’ciphered-out’ our surroundings – he was real good at ‘figurin’ things out.
He would wipe the inside of the windshield (defroster didn’t work) with his handkerchief, mix ketchup with his eggs and grits, ’sop up the gravy’ from the skillet with a piece of bread, he liked cornbread and butter-milk, he could tell you the history of a truck from just walking around it. He would unbuckle his britches in front of anyone (during conversation) to tuck his shirt-tail in (no big deal), he rolled his Prince-Albert cigarettes while driving (his elbows on the steering wheel) and he coughed as hard as he worked. ‘Willie T’ Haynie was just ‘Dad’ and that’s how we knew him – he “was what he was.”
I guess life is like a highway, another place with a good seat to appreciate whats right there in front of us, an opportunity to acknowledge others as we pass, a place to remember – and a time to move on.
– bye Dad, and thanks for the ride. – “uddddnnnnnn.”