Autobiography of One Old Ford


John N. Lewis


Part One

1. North to Alaska
2. University of Alaska, Fairbanks
3. Mississippi State
4. Home for Christmas--by Canoe
5. Adventures In North Mississippi
6. Getting Involved
7. Back to Alaska--and Back
8. Thanksgiving Bride
9. Married Student Days

Part Two

10. California Honeymoon
11. Icelandic Interlude
12. Return to England
13. Continental Holiday
14. Farewell to England
15. California Here I Come--Again
16. Michigan Meander

Part Three

17. Home at Last
18. Journeys Missed by Being Second
19. Texas Tour

Part Four

20. Wyoming Via North Carolina
21. Return of the Vagabonds
22. From King Tut to Kansas City

7. Back to Alaska--and Back

Monday morning, June 2, when John got up to leave for the long drive to Alaska, he was hit with a blow that seemed to set the tone for the summer. After making all the preparation, and advising his brother weeks in advance of the intended departure schedule, he discovered that Jimmy had made no preparations at all to secure any funds, and had frittered away the weekend without making any effort to remedy the situation. So, after a call to Waverly to Mr. Earl Warrick (who was generous enough to co-sign notes for boys trying to go to school), John and I had to sit in Delhi ready to go while waiting for Jimmy to go to Tallulah and borrow money for the trip. It was eleven o'clock when we finally pulled away from Delhi with 32,885 miles on my odometer. We should have been to the Texas line by then. After a few shakedown halts to correct the flapping tarp on the trailer, we tried to make up for lost time. We didn't even stop in Dallas. John drove on until three o'clock in the morning before pulling off the road in northwest Texas to try sleeping his first time in the travel trailer. The bed was fine. But the campsite was near a small lake, and the bullfrogs were having a convention. John is an extra light sleeper anyway, so after a few hours of listening to the bullfrogs, he awoke his brother and drove on into Wichita Falls for breakfast. By noon we pulled into Amarillo, about 800 miles from home.

For dinner the boys decided to have steak--the easiest meal to find in Texas. (I had already had my thirteen gallons of gasoline.) They ordered the steaks rare, which is the only way to taste a good steak. Well, they were served almost as quickly as the waitress could make the round trip the length of the cafe. Since they were in a hurry, the quick service was welcome and impressive; but when John tried to stick a fork into the meat, there was an audible crunch--hard ice. The steaks were still frozen in their centers. That's rare alright. Not wanting to offend the young lady, and not wanting to wind up with shoe leather either, John politely told her that they still wanted the steaks rare but would she please have them put back on the grill long enough to thaw out the ice. Seldom in the years since has he been able to order a steak without thinking of Amarillo, Texas.

The afternoon of June 3 I hardly stopped at all. We clipped by Dalhart and Texline, Texas; Clayton and Raton, New Mexico; Trinidad and Pueblo, Colorado. Finally, after midnight, we got gasoline in the heart of Denver. John was so tired by that time that he planned to pull off at the first good spot north of the city and go to bed. The trouble was that U.S. 87 had been so improved (build up and straightened) that no inviting campsites were left. Maybe John was too sleepy to see them. Daylight was not long away when he finally pulled me into a deserted drive-in theater, after three a.m.--in Cheyenne, Wyoming, 1,310 miles from home.

The hot sun on the canvas trailer forced the boys to roll out of bed before too late on June 4. After a quick look at Cheyenne and a few minutes to send a post card back to Rita, John pointed me as directly as possible towards the south entrance of Yellowstone Park. It was there on the bank of the Snake River that we stopped to bed down that night. When the gate to Yellowstone Park opened on June 5, we were right there waiting to get in. We spent more time in the park this time than the previous year. There were so many attractions spread over this vast wilderness that, even though we hurried from one spectacular view to another, it was mid-afternoon before we cleared the north exit into Montana.

On of the most memorable sights observed in the park is recorded no where but in John's memory. In one of the small, marsh flats separating the densely wooded areas, two swans were resting beneath a lone conifer. Perhaps something unnatural about their stance tipped John that this scene warranted closer observation. A slight movement far out in the marsh grass caught his eye. Soon a large, grey wolf was in full view, belly to the ground, stalking the swans. The boys watched this exciting drama for a couple of minutes, and John was preparing to put the telephoto lens on his little 8 mm movie camera; but, even though traffic was still light in this section of the park, two vehicles came into view. Knowing how a stopped auto draws a crowd, and not wanting to disturb this rare pageant, John drove away, and has always wondered how the episode ended. The swans seemed aware of the intruder, if not sufficiently perturbed, and his guess is that the old canine had to settle for something less than swan for dinner.

Soon after leaving Yellowstone Park, we stopped at a roadside market where John bought a big ripe cantaloupe. Somewhere up along the Yellowstone River, the boys halved the melon, after which we headed for Great Falls. As we crossed the mountains and darkness approached, so did the rain. John drove on to the outskirts of Great Falls and made camp late the night of June 5, in the pouring rain. Supper that night consisted of cookies that Rita's mother had made for the boys before they left home. It was the first test of the trailer in the rain, but the tarpaulin proved to be waterproof and the little trailer a snug haven for tired travelers.

The next morning John had some business to attend to in Great Falls. Since he had gotten me a new set of tires the previous fall, his billfold had been stolen and along with it the Sears guarantee card for my tires. We went to the Sears store, and with no fuss at all, the manager replaced the warranty. John was anticipating a real need for this with the round trip over the Alaska Highway pending. Since Great Falls is the last stop in the United States that can be called a city, it is the logical place to stock up on goods that will be needed for the trip to and stay in Alaska. Accordingly, we went to a wholesale grocery supply and had several cases of canned goods put into the under-the-bed storage compartment of the trailer. Before leaving Great Falls I had a flat fixed, a new set of spark plugs, and seven gallons of gasoline, at 35,073 miles.

Leaving the Missouri River, we sped north across the vast, rolling wheat fields and sheep lands of northern Montana, detoured briefly into Glacier National Park, and crossed the mountains into the endless prairies of Canada. At the border there was very little delay because I had Alaskan registration this time, but it was still necessary to buy a bond ($7.25) for the trailer in order to take it into Canada. Once across the border, John was anxious to get north as fast as possible. There was a brief stop for food in Fort Macleod; but he drove through Calgary with only a fuel stop, and on to the outskirts of Edmonton before stopping for the night.

Saturday morning, June 7, 1952, we stopped for breakfast at the little prairie town of Okotoks. The waitress, Gloria, was a personable young lady from the northern prairie town of High Prairie, "Where Culture and Agriculture Meet." Just out of school, Gloria had come south to work for the summer, and was a little homesick. She wrote a note to Sig, her former employer in High Prairie, and asked to boys to stop by, say "Hello" to Sig, and deliver her note. This they were glad to do; so, saying goodbye until next time, we went on into Edmonton.

While the boys spent most of the morning in Hudson's Bay Store, I had a chassis lube and an oil change before jumping off into two thousand miles of dusty, gravel road. That afternoon I had the first serious trouble in my life. My engine began to sputter and falter, my speed dropped, and I had particular difficulty getting up the hills. I could go downhill as usual; but as soon as we started up a grade, I had trouble. By the time I coughed into the village of Slave Lake, John was plenty worried. There was an Oldsmobile dealership in Slave Lake (which also operated the diesel-powered power plant). The mechanic at this garage made a valiant effort to cure my ailment without ever learning what it was. In rapid succession, I had exchanges of fuel pump, carburetor, and distributer points. Each time I was taken for a test run, the missing and sputtering returned. The mechanic confessed that he was whipped. (Smart people do that.) John offered to pay him for his trouble, but the craftsman did not want to take pay for not solving my problem. Finally John paid for the points and filled me with gasoline. The 12.5 gallons cost $5.90. As we left Slave Lake on a very rough road my symptom had disappeared. We camped that night beside the road far from the village and the lake: Lesser Slave Lake, Alberta.

Sunday morning, after the boys had a good camp breakfast, I was back on the road again. It had rained during the night and the road was a sloppy mess. We came upon a car load of Canadians whose automobile had slid off the road and down a four or five foot embankment. There was no damage, but they needed help. We stopped to lend aid and very shortly another car of Canadians also stopped to help. By this time there were almost enough men on the scene to pick a car up had the ground not been so muddy and steep. All the men except the driver of the stuck vehicle and one very fat individual gathered around the stranded machine for a concerted effort to get it back on the road. Just when everyone was getting in a real strain, the fat man, standing upon the roadside above the others, called out as if he had suddenly discovered a great solution: "Hey! a chain would be a good thing."

Some of his fellow Canadians told him how little they thought of him being a spectator rather than a participant; but to the Americans the sight of this hulk standing up there sounding as if only he could think of such an obvious remedy was so ludicrous that they could not help laughing. Throughout the trip, when difficulties arose, one or the other of the brothers was almost sure to say, "Hey! a chain would be a good thing." Sometimes it certainly would have been.

As we passed through High Prairie, John stopped and located Sig and gave him the note from Gloria. Soon after we had passed the muddy country, the rear-view mirror revealed a white spot on the left trailer tire flashing with each revolution. This particular tire was "Old Kelly." This had been bought for two dollars from a trash pile at an Alaska roadhouse the year before. The tire was bald as an onion when John dug it up from the mud and the additional 8,000 miles had just about worn it out. In fact, the cords had worn right down to the inner tube. The white spot was a smooth rock about the size and shape of a small egg. It had popped through the hole in the tire carcass, and the pressure inside was enough to hold the rock in the hole, but not enough to force it back out. There was no leak in the tube at all. John broke the tire down, saved the rock for a souvenir, then took a roll of athletic adhesive tape and covered the hole from inside the tire. After building up several layers of tape over the hole in the tire, he mounted it again, pumped up the tube and resumed the journey. That was the only trouble we ever had from "Old Kelly." It never blew out, nor even went flat.

Before noon my motor was sputtering again. Each mile went slower and each hill became more difficult until, finally, I could not make the top of a long grade. Stopping in the road is the ultimate ignominy for an automobile. A dump truck going north gave me a push over the hill. As we started down the slope, my motor caught and I ran like a scalded dog. As soon as we bottomed out and turned uphill again, my old misery returned. After a few more stops, pushes, and starts, John had had enough. When we reached a level stretch of road he told his brother, "Right here is where I'm going to find out what is the matter with this car."

He fished his tools out of the trunk and an empty milk bottle from the trailer and began his diagnosis. He drained some gas from the fuel tank into the milk bottle. Then he removed the flexible fuel line from the metal fuel line and dropped the end of the flexible line into the milk bottle. My motor ran as smoothly as ever. Going back systematically, when the fuel line was disconnected from the tank and stuck into the milk bottle, it again ran normally. When the line was connected to the tank again, the motor would hardly run at all; but this time John caught sight of air bubbles coming through the fuel pump sediment bowl. This told him what the trouble was.

The fuel line exited the gas tank halfway up the side. On the inside of the tank (John surmised, because there was no way to see) there is a pipe joined to the wall that curves down to the bottom of the tank so the fuel pump can pick up the gasoline in the bottom half of the tank. The constant vibration of the gravel road had caused this stand pipe to crack where it joined the inside tank wall. Consequently, when the tank was full, or we were headed downhill so the crack was covered with gas, the fuel pump got plenty and the motor ran fine. When we got low on fuel, or were going up hill so that the gasoline uncovered the crack, the fuel pump got air and the motor could not run. Now that he had diagnosed the trouble, what could he do about it? We were a hundred miles from the next town and it was Sunday afternoon.

Well, clearly, something had to be done. John took his old army canteen, which holds a pint, tied it to the engine firewall with fishing line, filled it with gas from the milk bottle, and put the open end of the flexible fuel line into the canteen. By this means we would go as far as a pint of gas will carry a V-8 pulling a loaded trailer. When the canteen ran dry and we had coasted as far as we could, John would fill the canteen again from the milk bottle, and we would make another sprint. About every fourth stop he would have to slide underneath the trunk and drain another milk bottle full of gasoline out of the fuel tank. This is how we limped into Grand Prairie in the light of the late evening sunset, 202 miles from Slave Lake.

That Sunday evening Grand Prairie was extremely quiet as we made camp right in the heart of the downtown business district. The peace and solitude was expected, and frankly, quite welcome. John cooked a big supper on the Coleman stove and removed my gas tank before crawling into the trailer for a much-needed rest. What was surprising was the following morning when breakfast was over and it was time to be rolling, there was still no one on the streets. Where John had anticipated the hustle and bustle of Monday morning business, the town was as dead as it had been the day before. Since I was totally incapacitated, John walked about town until he located a service station that was open, and then he learned why the town was deserted. June 9 was the Queen's birthday (officially), so it was a national holiday. He had already located just about the only business that would be open that day. Luckily, the station owner was a friend of the Ford dealer; and in response to the emergency at hand, called him at his home and persuaded the gentleman to come to town and sell us a fuel tank. The new tank cost $22.25. As fast as he could, John installed the tank, drove to the station where he had been treated so kindly, filled up the new tank with gas, and pressed on toward the Alaska Highway.

After such a late start, John was anxious to make up for lost time. After a brief stop in Dawson Creek, the start of the Alaska Highway, he drove on far into the night beyond Fort Nelson before turning the wheel over to Jimmy. John got on the back seat to try to get a little sleep while his brother drove. Before going to sleep, he checked the map and told Jimmy that the gas would only take them as far as Steamboat Lodge and they would have to refuel there. Sometime after midnight John awoke and checked the milepost as we went by. He could see that we had passed the fuel stop and the gauge showed that I had no fuel. When he asked Jimmy how he had managed to pass a roadhouse and not see it, his brother replied that he had seen it, but that the place was closed so he just kept going.

So goes the best laid plans. That is just not the way to travel on the Alaska Highway. Knowing full well that we could not reach Summit, but not willing to try to go back, John began driving again, determined to be as close to Summit as possible when the gas ran out. So it was that about three in the morning of June 10, I came to a halt on the side of the mountain leading up to the highest point on the Alaska Highway. The road was plenty wide enough for me to park and not obstruct traffic, had there been any; but the slope was so steep that John had to put a jack under the rear of the trailer to make the bed level enough for sleeping. After chocking the wheels, the boys retired to the trailer until traffic began moving later in the morning.

We were near 58 degrees north latitude where there is not much darkness in the June night, so the sun was already high when the travelers arose about seven o'clock. There was not much to do but wait. It was a good place to be stranded. There was a sheer drop on the left of the road down to a crystal-clear mountain stream. A few ducks diving to the bottom in search of food were as clearly visible underwater as they were on the surface. About eight o'clock a highway maintenance dump truck came down the mountain. John had his Jerry can and "Oklahoma credit card" (rubber siphon hose) ready and the truck driver allowed him to appropriate enough gasoline to reach Summit only a few miles up the mountain.

As soon as the truck was out of sight, John realized that he had laid the spout to his Jerry can on the truck running board, and it was gone forever. A funnel was soon rigged from cardboard, however, and we made a late start again. Soon we crossed over the creek so that the mountain was on our left and were climbing the mountain where we had pulled the Olds and the house trailer the fall before. At the top of the mountain, John stopped for breakfast (his third time at Summit) and filled me with gas where we had the old gas tank fixed the year before. We had made 228 miles on the last tank of gas plus the couple of gallons given to us by the truck driver. After leaving Summit, John pushed me relentlessly through alternating mud and dust all day until he made camp on the bank of the Yukon River over 500 miles from Summit.

Wednesday, June 11, was another hard day for us. We only stopped for fuel and the two check points for the border crossings--ninety-eight miles apart. John had a feeling of homecoming now, and did not intend to camp again south of Fairbanks. The sun went down and came up again, but still we jolted over rough, gravel road made even more miserable by the spring thaw. It was a welcome relief when we finally met the hard surfaced road reaching farther south from Fairbanks each year. After more than 600 miles, we cruised through Fairbanks without stopping and nosed on to Joe Lawlor's homestead about four o'clock in the morning. Not wanting to interrupt Joe's sleep, John stopped short of the cabin and went to sleep in the potato field.

The sun was five hours high when Joe got up to find he had been invaded by Southerners. After hearty greetings and breakfast, Joe gave the boys his large, army tent which they erected a short distance from his cabin. This was their summer home. The trailer, with the bed removed, was parked adjacent and became the clothes closet. After setting up the housekeeping arrangements we went to the University of Alaska so the boys could take baths. I needed one also but, for some reason, people are more tolerant of a car that has been eleven days on the road without one.

There were old friends to see, and John had to locate employment. Friday, both boys overslept (a luxury they could not afford); but after a good breakfast they went into town, got much-needed haircuts, and sounded out the job market. Lloyd and Carl Elder had flown up from Dallas and were already at work as laborers. Late that afternoon, John stopped by to see Wayne Brickey, a civil engineer he had met the year before, about a job. He got some encouragement there.

Saturday was a loafing day, but early in the evening John took his brother to Fairbanks to see if the old Sourdough Squaredance Club was still active. Not only was it active, but it was in new quarters. Some of the resident members recognized their old member immediately and made Jimmy welcome also, but without his college friends John just couldn't get into the full spirit of the festivities. About ten p.m. we wandered back out to the university. Almost in the center of the campus was the little, grey house where Miss Donoghue, Professor of Music, lived when college was in session. Ginny Hall, a good friend from 1950-51, who lived with Miss Donoghue, was down on her knees weeding the flower bed in front of the cottage as we quietly coasted to a stop in the yard. The girl didn't even hear me; but when John spoke her name she turned around, jumped up, and really made him feel at home.

Sunday, June 15, we started our routine that was to continue throughout the summer. Each Sunday morning and evening there was a trip into Fairbanks to the First Baptist Church. After church, John fired up the Coleman stove and cooked a full meal for late lunch. Each of the other six days he had to arise at five o'clock, fix breakfast and lunches for two, and leave for work by six o'clock. There was a drive of approximately forty-five miles each way with a stop in town to pick up and discharge a surveying party. On the way to the homestead from town we detoured by the university each day to pick up mail. By June 17, mail had begun to arrive from the states. Along with a letter from his mother, there was a sweet letter from Rita which John answered immediately. On the eighteenth there were three letters from Rita.

The Alaskan mosquitoes did not allow much lounging outside late in the evening, and inside the tent was a little dark for writing, so John did all his correspondence in me. My windows provided light while protecting him from the insects, and my rear seat was ample substitute for a sofa. In a sense it's true that Rita and John did most of their courting in my back seat; but they were five thousand miles apart. Almost every day there was a letter from Rita which John would read and answer, late at night, parked by a tent in the heart of Alaska.

Our usual schedule was to leave the camp by six each morning and return about nine that night. Then there were goats to be milked and supper to be cooked. Bedtime was usually near midnight; and it seemed an awfully short nap until the clock rang at five again. One of the first things John did after setting up camp was dig a refrigerator. Yes, that's right: dig. About one hundred feet down the north slope from the tent, where the ground was permanently frozen, was the site for the refrigerator. By cutting three sides of a square through the layer of peat moss which covered the ground, and inserting a piece of 3/8" plywood between the moss and the soil, a top was formed for the ice box with the uncut side of the square serving as a hinge. Then raising the lid, John took his hatchet and chopped out a hole in the frozen silt about two cubic feet with smooth sides and square corners. This hole was used to store meat and milk. Warm goat milk that was placed into the hole at nine in the morning would be cold by the time Sunday dinner was ready. Joe Lawlor did the morning milking each day except Sunday. John did that chore on Sundays and each night. There was always plenty of cold milk for the three residents of the homestead.

On Saturday nights there was an extra trip to the college for some extra sprucing up in preparation for Sunday. When we went in on June 21, the boys dropped by Ginny's house and had cantaloupe at midnight to celebrate the beginning of summer, even though there had been no darkness since we had been in Alaska.

John had begun work the first Monday after arriving in Fairbanks. June 30, a job had opened up on one of the survey crews, and John got his boss to give the job to Jimmy. On the third of July, I got my second Alaskan license plate. The Fourth of July was a Friday. The First Baptist Church of Fairbanks had acquired land on Harding Lake, far south of town, where they planned to build a youth camp. The land was in the wilderness. In order to begin the project, the Fourth of July was declared a work day for the men of the church. John, Jimmy, the two Elder brothers from Dallas, and many others formed a work crew and spent the day hacking brush and cutting spruce timber to clear a road into the church's lakeside property. At noon the pastor and a few of the ladies had a big moose stew simmering in a huge pot for the main course of the Independence Day feast. Harding Lake is the spot from which Will Rogers and Wiley Post took off in his float plane on the morning of August 15, 1935, on their fatal trip to Point Barrow. Vic Johnson, the carpenter foreman on the power project with John in 1951, lived on Harding lake and had been a host to the aviators the night before their departure. Vic was a native born Swede who became a naturalized Canadian before becoming a naturalized Alaskan. One of the benefits of working in Alaska in those days was meeting some of the early-day pioneers such as Vic and learning their view of history firsthand. When the highway to Eagle (on the Canadian border) opened to traffic in the summer of '51, Vic and his entire crew of carpenters (all of Scandinavian origin) took the day off and chartered a bus to go celebrate the event. Some of them had never been back to Eagle since they had mushed through there during the Gold Rush in the early part of the century; but as their numbers dwindled the affinity of the old timers increased.

Our routine did not vary much. Six days every week I hauled a survey crew to Eilson Field where we worked in choking dust or mud. August was particularly cool and rainy. Always, we came by College to check the mail, and if there was no letter from Rita, chances were good there would be two the next day. Sundays were the only days John had time to cook big meals, although some nights he would fix steaks on the little Coleman. The base course at night was always soup because soup, peas, and corn were the main staples that John had stocked in Great Falls. Variety was achieved by dumping a can of peas in the soup one night and a can of corn the next.

Occasionally John would drive up the Steese Highway to visit with Mattie Lee and Carl Henning. This couple, whom he had introduced to each other, invited him out to their homestead for dinner the last Sunday we were in Alaska.

Sometime during the summer the realization finally came to John that Rita was the one girl with whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life, although he did not specifically tell her that. On August 28, as we were preparing to leave Alaska, a letter came from Rita along with another to be opened when we crossed the border back into the United States. There were only two more days to work. What a miserable two days.

On Friday John and his crew were working extra late to finish a job before checking in at the engineering shack. Jimmy was on another crew that had checked in earlier. He had not obtained an Alaskan drivers license, and John had cautioned him repeatedly to not get under a wheel as long as we were in the territory. When we came by the office to pick up our usual load of riders, there were only two men on the yard. John asked where Jim and the others were, and was told that they had taken the boss's pickup and had gone on into town. John experienced a wave of apprehension, and we rushed towards Fairbanks as fast as we could. He knew what was going to happen, but hoped somehow to overtake the pickup before the inevitable.

The daily drive from Eilson Field to Fairbanks was a hectic experience. Each evening hundreds of motorists charged into Fairbanks, many of them determined to get there first. The road, although hard surfaced, was two-lane, almost without shoulders, and for most of the twenty-six miles built on top of a land fill through muskeg. The speed limit was whatever the traffic would allow; and since most of the traffic was towards town, many drivers simply assumed the left lane to be inbound also and passed at will. Whenever a southbound vehicle was met there was cutting in, bent fenders, sudden stops, flared tempers, and in general a nerve shattering ordeal. Wrecks were a daily occurrence. As implausible as it may seem, the trip was much more hazardous than the Los Angeles freeways.

We used the left lane quite a bit ourselves that day, but when we finally overtook the truck it was too late. Jim, with two passengers, had made it to the very outskirts of Fairbanks before smashing into a three-vehicle pile up. We arrived immediately after the wreck--even before the Highway Patrol.

One of the passengers in the company truck was a powerful man from McComb, Mississippi. His name was Hutson, but all the surveyors called him "Missip"--naturally. Missip was a hard worker, a hard drinker, and a wastrel; but he was all heart when he could help anyone in any way. When the old Pioneer Hotel burned in the early hours of a chilly morning, it was Missip who kept going in and carrying helpless victims out as long as it was possible, and didn't even know to whom he had given his coat. All summer John had been trying to help Missip save some money so he could go "outside" in the fall. John told him he would let him ride out with us at the end of summer if he would save some money, but that we would not take him home broke. Once the urge to go home was so strong that the fellows worked out a plan to make the trip a reality. Missip was to give John a set amount each payday to hold for him so that the fund would be sufficient at the end of the season for the trip outside. But every Monday the week's pay would be gone, and then the trip fund would be withdrawn to make it through the week. At the end of August Hutson was just as rich as he had been in June--flat broke.

Soon after we arrived at the accident scene, so did the Highway Patrol. Their first question was, "Who was the driver of this vehicle?"

"I was," said Missip, stepping forward without any hesitation. He knew that was the only way Jimmy was going to get to leave Alaska any time soon--like maybe two to five years.

The next day, Saturday, August 30, was our last day to go to work. Wayne Brickey, the boss, had been furnishing gas for me all summer since I was hauling a crew, not only to and from work, but on the job all day as well. In midmorning on that Saturday, the level crew was setting final grade stakes inside an excavation for a new building. The job was done and the crew was aboard, so we started to go to the next site. As we got to the road ditch, John slipped my transmission from second to low to climb the slight embankment up to the roadway. There was a barely audible "ping", and my motor raced. Immediately, John muttered, "axle". My left rear axle had parted midway between the brake drum and the differential.

I was ignominiously towed to the shop area where John jacked up the wheel, pulled the outer half of the axle and, after fashioning a wire noose, succeeded in fishing the stub of the axle out of the housing. Wayne had just bought a Chrysler New Yorker. He carried John the seventy-mile round trip in to Fairbanks for a new axle in just over an hour.

There was a small shop on the job site where John borrowed a hydraulic press to remove the bearing from the old axle. He removed it alright--all over the shop. Ball bearings hit the tin walls like an ambush. This called for another trip to town. This time Doug Tomlin (a friend with whom John worked both summers) carried him in his souped up Chevrolet coupe. By mid afternoon I was back on the job until the finish of a very long day. Finished, that is, as far as the job was concerned.

That night we went back to Joe's homestead for the last time. The boys hitched on the trailer, loaded the few camp utensils, said good-bye to Joe, went by College to pick up a passenger, then went to Wayne Brickey's home for their final pay checks. It was after 10 p.m. when we finally left Fairbanks, and John made the trip over the road to Eilson Field for the sixth time that day. When we passed the field entrance, John had already been 275 miles that day, and we were only getting started. So anxious was he to be home that he drove to Scotty Creek, mile 1227, that night. Fairbanks was mile 1521. I had arrived at Fairbanks in June with 37,600 miles on my odometer, but left with 43,560--nearly seven thousand miles of work in slightly less than three months.

We were heading south now to something more than just another year of college. Sunday, August 31, was a nice day. Jim was doing some of the driving now that we were in Canada. Ace, our passenger, was a cordial traveling companion. We were able to listen to Billy Graham on the radio, so it was not as if we missed church altogether. We made the 517 miles from milepost 1227 to milepost 710 that day. By driving day and night on Monday, and not having over a dozen flats, we clicked off those 710 miles to Dawson Creek in time for an early breakfast and were in Edmonton by midnight Tuesday. I was lucky to make it to Edmonton at all.

The constant jarring of the rough roads had opened the seam where the top section of my radiator joined the core. It had been necessary to stop several times for water. Sometime Tuesday morning John aroused from a nap on the back seat and checked over Jim's shoulder to see what the temperature gauge registered. There was no needle in sight. In pure panic he told Jim to throw me out of gear. As soon as he clutched, my motor screamed and locked up. We were on a long downgrade and John thought he recognized the area as having a major stream down in the valley. We coasted to the bottom of the mountain and across the bridge before pulling off the road to stop. From under the hood came only the crackling sounds of tortured metal. When the radiator cap was removed, there was no steam. It takes water to make steam, and that had been gone for quite a while.

Down on a gravel bar next to the stream was an empty coffee can left by some campers. John filled this can from the stream, carried it back up the bank, and began the long process of cooling down what he expected to be a completely ruined engine. The first can or two of water exploded out as steam; but it was a long way from the creek to the road, so eventually the motor cooled enough for John to fill the 22-quart cooling system.

Miraculously the only leak was the radiator top seam. After perhaps a half hour John tried the starter. The engine would hardly turn, much less spin, but it did fire. It would not rev up; but there was nothing to be done for it where we were so we headed south again. At first, we could only go about thirty-five miles an hour. Gradually the engine limbered up with use, and by noon we were back up to forty-five miles an hour. After such a scare, however, John decided to get the radiator fixed at the first opportunity. That was in High Prairie.

There was a radiator shop in High Prairie. John removed my radiator, put it in the shop for repair, then led the others down the street to Sig's cafe so they could eat while the repair work was being done. When Sig was asked how Gloria was getting along down at Okotoks, he stuck his head in the kitchen door and yelled, "Hey, Gloria, some fellows out here to see you." She came out to the booth surprised that such casual acquaintances had remembered her. She had been so homesick for High Prairie that she had not stayed long down south in Alberta. No matter where a person calls home, other places suffer in some respects by comparison--even High Prairie, British Columbia.

After a quick lunch John replaced the radiator and we continued to move south. Ace left us at midnight in downtown Edmonton. We were in Calgary before the businesses opened, so there was time for a quick nap while waiting for Hudson's Bay Company to open. Tires were getting thin now and blowouts were frequent but Wednesday, September 3, we made it into Great Falls, Montana. John read Rita's letter as soon as we crossed the U.S. border.

My tattered tires lacked two days being one year old when I got to Sears for a new set. The same mechanic who had replaced my old rags in 1951 got the honor again. He said all he could do with my old tires the previous year was take them out and burn them. I guess that was all he could do in 1952 also, because, even though they were not quite so bad as the year before, John had fixed fifteen flats or blowouts since leaving Fairbanks.

With a year's remaining warranty, four new tires only cost $49.44. I also needed two new inner tubes; a wash and grease job cost $7.45; new front springs, shocks, and wheel alignment cost $68.00. Actually, there was nothing wrong with my springs, but I had hit so many bad holes that John had convinced himself they needed replacing. Just as we did the year before, we pulled out of Great Falls at five in the afternoon.

With new tires we could really roll. A supper stop was made at Belt, Montana, and sometime after midnight we crossed into Wyoming. Of course all the small towns were closed at this time of night, and we were desperately in need of fuel. When it seemed as if we could go no farther, we passed through a ranch with a tractor parked close to the road. All the alternatives were bad: (1) go ahead and surely run out of gas; (2) wake the rancher and risk his ire; (3) steal some gas (not considered); (4) siphon some gas and leave some money on the tractor as payment. John decided on alternative #4; but just about the time he got the cap off the tractor's fuel tank he heard a window raising in the ranch house and changed his option to alternative #1--and as rapidly as possible.

We did not get much deeper into Wyoming before the gasoline was gone and we came to a halt. John was so fatigued he did not much care. There had been practically no traffic for hours; but a few big trucks roll all night, so the boys dug the Jerry can out of the trailer, and soon a trucker headed north stopped to see if he could help. He took Jimmy and the Jerry can back to Montana while John crawled into my back seat for the first sound sleep he had enjoyed in days. It was three-thirty in the morning when a truck stopping beside the car woke him up. The northbound trucker had carried Jimmy into some small town in southern Montana where he had located the constable who had awakened the filling station operator to sell the young man a can of gasoline. The good driver did not leave Jim stranded there, but carried him on north until they met a rig heading south. He signaled the other driver and transferred his passenger to the southbound trucker who completed the rescue.

With a couple of hours sleep, John felt ready to drive while his brother took his turn on the back seat. We rolled down U.S. 87 through Sheridan, Buffalo, and Kaycee to a late breakfast stop in the oil camp of Midwest. In Casper John bought a pair of Hyers cowboy boots that were to last him many years. Sometime that afternoon there was the usual stop at The Rancher in Cheyenne where he bought a tooled leather purse to carry home to his mother. Supper that night was at a roadside diner in southern Colorado near Walsenburg. Later that night John was so near utter fatigue that he just pulled over on the shoulder and fell asleep at the wheel, too bone weary to fight the traffic.

Saturday, September 6, the boys made up for lost time. They pushed me about 800 miles from southern Colorado, across the corner of New Mexico and the whole state of Texas, more than half way across Arkansas down to Bastrop, Louisiana. This trip I had pulled the little trailer down from Fairbanks in a week. I was only fifteen months old and already had over 48,000 miles behind me. About half of them were miles I was very glad to have well behind.

There were reasons the brothers did not wish to arrive in Delhi Saturday night or early Sunday. During the summer both had grown full beards (remember how few there were in 1952) and they figured that if they showed up in church before the hometown folks had a chance to make some adjustment there would be very few listening to the sermon. Their actual homecoming confirmed this suspicion. They delayed their return to Delhi until after services on Sunday. Knowing their mother's habit of going to the bus station cafe for Sunday dinner, they boys went there looking for her. As they walked in, their mother was seated near the rear of the cafe facing the door. Her companion, Mrs. Lydia Frazer, was seated across the small table with her back to the door. John could read his mother's lips plainly as she whispered to Mrs. Frazer, "My Goodness! I wish you could see what just walked in here."

Mrs. Frazer turned to see, and immediately recognized the approaching pair sooner than their mother. When recognition did dawn on the dear lady, she almost dropped her fork, and she would have been very glad at that moment if the floor had opened up a hole for her to fall through.