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

17. Home at Last

Settling down in a permanent home was a big change for John and me. Our first task was to convert the large, old house from a week end retreat and hunting lodge into a more habitable family dwelling. Hedges had grown up around the place like a jungle. With a log chain hooked to my trailer hitch, I pulled the old growth out by the roots so light and air could get to the windows. The plumbing was so old and leaky that John simply removed all the risers that pass through the floor, tied the chain to the main lines, and I snatched the whole mess, hot and cold, out from beneath the house. With the help of his step dad, Pop, John replaced the plumbing from the well point to the septic tank. Part of the remodeling included a new kitchen. One of the few things Rita had wanted all the years she had been dragged around from place to place was a dishwasher. She got one in her kitchen, and it was beneath a 16-foot counter. On a cold night in December, John had half a wall knocked out installing a large horizontal window for her above the double, stainless steel sink. The old space heaters were removed, and a butane system installed. While this work was going on, the family lived next door with John's mother and Pop; but on New Years Day, 1960, they officially moved into their own debt-free home with no expectation of ever moving again.

John began work again in Delhi at the radio-television repair trade. This was only a sixteen mile round trip for me most days. On February 15, 1960, as we neared Waverly on the way home, John looked down at my odometer and watched it change back to all zeros. I was brand new again, with the first 100,000 miles wiped out. It was fitting that this milestone was at Waverly. This little spot on the map was the place which John always thought of as home throughout his childhood and while he was away in the Air Force. It consisted of only a school, church, cotton gin, and a store; but it was still home. My little red book shows that my operating costs for the 100,000 miles were 3.23 cents per mile; and if my entire purchase price were depreciated out over those miles, the total cost would be 5.373 cents per mile. By the time my tenth birthday rolled around in June, John had paid out $5,499.14 for me and my expenses, mostly gasoline, over 103,280 miles.

The changes since 1954 in the radio and television industry, both products and service, had been such that it was increasingly difficult for a serviceman to make a decent livelihood without also being a retailer of the merchandise. So, as the spring semester of college opened in 1961, John enrolled at Northeast Louisiana State College at Monroe. We made the 100-mile round trip almost daily during the semester, but the necessity of earning a living prevented John's giving the school work his undivided attention. Mid way through the term, an opportunity came to acquire a herd of cattle and lease land adjoining the home place on Tensas River. It seemed a logical way to use the animal husbandry major from Mississippi State and to live at home and raise a growing family. By now Don (5) and Alison (3) had a chubby baby brother, Todd, who had arrived October 24, 1960.

The cattle herd was not our first livestock. All her young life Alison had been very restless at night and could hardly ever go to sleep after supper without becoming upset and requiring a second gown and set of sheets. Rita could never relax until she had been through this tiring nightly ritual. Soon after we were settled into the house at Tendal, John hooked the Studebaker up one Sunday and drove deep into the piney woods of central Louisiana. We brought home a fine French Alpine dairy goat heavy with kids. Soon Pamper (the doe) produced a pair of big kids and an abundance of naturally homogenized milk. Less than a week after Alison was put on her goat milk diet, her digestive troubles that had plagued her since birth vanished, and she began to grow into a normally healthy, forever-getting-dirty, outdoor, country girl. She played with Pamper's kids as the little doe kid, Betty, grew up to be as fine a milker as her mother. The goats produced enough milk for the whole family.

In the fall of 1961 John became a livestock inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The screw worm line was a set of inspection stations set up along the west bank of the Mississippi River to prevent reentry of screw worms into the southeastern states from the southwestern states. The local station at Delta Point, Louisiana, just across the bridge from Vicksburg, Mississippi, was manned around the clock, year around, in eight hour shifts. When the opportunity came for John to add on this job, he was already working at a country elevator at Waverly from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. He got on the graveyard shift at the inspection station from 12 midnight until 8 a.m. This left an hour in the morning to make the 37-mile trip from Delta Point to Waverly, dropping by home for a bite of breakfast. Of course at night, there were three hours for supper, sleep, and the drive to Delta Point. It was a close race which would run out first, bean harvest or John. This schedule left very little time for feeding his cattle, but there are enough rainy days in Louisiana during harvest to make a little slack time at the elevators.

During 1961, I only traveled 15,704 miles, but I only used 816.2 gallons of gas, or 19.2 miles per gallon. My total expense for the year, $333.02, amounted to 2.12 cents per mile. The increased operating expenses that are supposedly incurred with us "older cars" just never materialized. I began 1962 with an odometer reading 24,450 miles on the second time around. Most of that year was as routine as life can be for a farm family vehicle. I made five or six trips per week to Delta Point for John's job and about as many to Delhi for Rita's errands and visits with her mother. During the summer while John was baling hay for himself and neighbors, Rita and I carried twine and lunch to wherever he happened to be working.

In early fall John decided to buy a registered billy for his dairy goats. For a trailer for this trip, he took the old wheels and axle from the original Alaskan camping trailer and bolted on a single, thick slab of cypress just as it came off the saw of a small "ground hog" mill. To the narrow end of this tapered slab, he bolted a trailer hitch. Just one board was trailer floor and tongue, about as simple as a trailer can be. He tacked a narrow crate to the board for the goat. On the eighteenth of September, I pulled this ridiculous contraption to Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Through the Dairy Goat Journal, John had been attracted to a French Alpine herd in Hot Springs that had established some very high production records. The owners were retired missionaries who had spent many years in Africa. They invited the Lewises to be their guests at the dairy goat show at the county fair in Hot Springs on the night of the eighteenth. On the way there, as I coasted down one of the many hills of southern Arkansas, a peculiar noise came from my rear end. At each hill it became worse. The noise was not present pulling up the hills, only when the engine was braking going town hill. As soon as we reached Hot Springs, John had me put on a grease rack, but it was too late. I was the victim of a freak accident indeed. About thirty feet of nylon fishing line had caught the rear universal joint and wound into the differential shaft seal, letting enough grease escape to cause wear in the ring and pinion gears. The result was an awful whine each time the accelerator was released.

Having gotten home with the new billy goat, our next trip was for a new bull. John had about 120 crossbred cows and had decided they should have a Beefmaster bull to encourage heavier offspring. The fair at Alice, Texas, in dry, south Texas where the Beefmaster breed was firmly entrenched, began on October 22. On the eighteenth, John opened my rear springs and slipped an extra leaf between the top and second leaves. This set my rear end up with much heavier load capacity for hauling heavier trailers. For this trip John had built a new trailer for bull hauling. Well, he almost had it built, anyway. Actually, the shifts at the livestock inspection station interfered with the project so that when time came to leave for Texas, the trailer had no tailgate. We left Tendal at the planned departure time sans tailgate, for John had planned to spend the night with friends in Logansport, and he considered being late to be more serious that just being without a tailgate on his trailer. After a visit, night's rest, and a good breakfast with the McCoys, John and Rita pulled out for San Antonio on October 23. All day my radio kept them informed and disturbed with news of the Cuban Missile Crisis. To John the incident seemed ominous, reminiscent of the incident which launched the Berlin Airlift, only potentially more dangerous. A somber mood pervaded San Antonio that night.

After a morning shopping in San Antonio and a Mexican dinner at the Casa Rio, John and Rita headed for Goliad to look at some bulls on a ranch near there. The ranch house was set on the peak of a steeply sloped, round hill so that the road had to circle the hill as it climbed to the yard. After I pulled up to the gate, John went to the door and knocked. The rancher's wife stuck her head into the hall and in a friendly voice called that she would be to the door in a few moments. Stepping back towards me a few steps, John told Rita, "This is a city girl, not a country gal." As she got out and joined him on the steps, Rita asked, "How can you tell?" Before the exchange could develop into a discussion, the door was answered by the personable hostess. As the afternoon was rapidly waning, she gave John a spare pickup truck and pointed him in the general direction of a distant pasture where he could look over the bull crop while she and Rita went inside the house to talk girl talk.

When John returned about dark, the rancher was home; his eighteen year old son was in from the hay field; and the sixteen year old daughter was home from school. One of the young bulls that the rancher had hoped to sell had broken a leg a week before and had been converted to frozen beef. John and Rita were invited to stay for supper and help consume some of this expensive roast. The visit with this fine family would have been delightful even without the sumptuous meal. The wife and mother had lived on the ranch for fifteen years; but she was a San Antonio debutante, and her city raising shone through charmingly. If Rita's question that she asked upon arrival was not answered sufficiently before, it surely must have been by the response of her son when he had expressed a distance in rods and his mother asked in bewilderment, "How far is that?" The son replied with affectionate condescension, "Mother, to you it is about four blocks."

As is the custom in ranch country, John and Rita were expected to spend the night, but they had plans to meet Mr. Jack Dunn in Alice the next morning, so we departed and pulled into a motel in that town very late that night. The next day at the fair, Mr. Dunn introduced the Lewises to some of the South Texas Beefmaster breeders and hosted them to the standard Texas lunch--big, thick, juicy stakes. One of the young ranch managers that John met at the fair invited him and Rita out to his ranch for the night. We dashed back to the motel to pick up our stock trailer, then fell in behind the Pontiac for the trip "out" to the ranch. It was a quick trip--only fifty miles. Again, the Louisiana couple enjoyed the hearty and genuine ranch country hospitality, equaled in few places and surpassed in none. The next morning, after a big breakfast, their host and one of the Vaqueros roped out a two-year-old bull that John had selected and loaded him in the trailer. The absence of a tailgate was quickly remedied by jamming in a wall of coastal Bermuda hay bales to contain the hope of a new generation of north Louisiana cattle.

Junior Moore, the manager of Sullivan Cattle Company, had worked for the neighboring King Ranch. He trailed us into Kingsville, and while I waited at the local veterinarian's for the necessary health certificate to be prepared, Junior gave his guests a guided tour of the Santa Gertrudis headquarters ranch. It was nearly noon when we left the King Ranch and Kingsville. It was already dark as the guard cleared us to pass through the tunnel under the ship channel at Houston. Heavy traffic in Beaumont and Orange made the supper stop in Lake Charles awfully late; and to make matters worse, John chanced upon the worst restaurant that he can recall. Service was slow, but it was not much below the quality of the food. But it was a chance to rest awhile--or would have been had it not been for the obnoxious vulgar clientele.

Bad luck seldom comes single. Having wasted so much time for such a sorry repast, John did not wish to stop for fuel more than once between Texas and Tendal; but the folly of passing up the Lake Charles stations was soon evident as, one by one, the small settlements were passed with no sign of an open gas station. Long after midnight, John pulled me over on the road shoulder on one of the deserted hills below Alexandria and tried to sleep on the front seat while Rita slept on the rear and the bull rested peacefully in the trailer--for a while. That night winter arrived.

The cold, northern air rolls out of Texas down the Red River Valley across Louisiana quite often, causing lower temperatures in the central part of the state than farther north along the Arkansas line. That particular Friday night, the first real Arctic air mass of the season brought frost to the deep South. The bull, becoming uncomfortable, got up with a great lurch that pitched the two wheel trailer so that it almost tossed Rita off the car seat. The cold made a return to sleep impossible, so John cranked up to try to ease on into Alexandria. We went, perhaps, three hundred yards. The last of the gasoline was gone.

Desperate straits call for desperate measures. Taking the flashlight which is always clamped to my steering column, John hurried to the nearest house and, at three o'clock in the morning, rapped on the door. Shining the light on his own face so the inhabitants could see who disturbed their sleep, he succeeded in getting the lady of the house to answer his knock. Upon hearing the plight of the traveler, she offered what she had, which was a can of lawn mower gas in a shed. With this gallon of fuel I was able to pull the bull on to an all-night station on the outskirts of Alexandria. While the attendant was filling my tank with 33-cent gasoline, John smelled trouble and found that the right rear wheel bearing had been running hot. Faced with a five-hour wait for a new bearing, he decided to risk going on at a slow pace rather than sit and freeze. At least Rita would be warm, and each mile that rolled by brought that wonderful Beauty Rest at Tendal that much closer. The sun was not up but day had dawned when I crept into the drive at home. The bull had to spend a few more hours in the trailer, for after the 800-mile trip John needed his last ounce of energy to reach the bed so his weary bones could recover from the drain of the miserable night.

When John's thirty-third birthday rolled around at the end of 1962, I had registered 144,787 miles, 20,610 of them during 1962. For that year I had cost 2.52 cents per mile delivering 18.67 miles per gallon. The wheel bearing that had heated up on the way back from Texas cooled down and John simply forgot about it for a few years. I wasn't getting old, just getting better.

The shift work at Delta Point, Rita's errands to school, church, and town and the daily trips through the pasture to check on the cattle kept me plenty busy. I was on the go every day. Nineteen sixty three was almost a repeat of 1962, but the Fourth of July was a notable exception. That day almost proved fatal for me, but being a holiday had nothing to do with it. We were on the eight-to-four day shift at the livestock inspection station, and it was a pretty slow day. Coming off duty at that time of the afternoon, John was looking directly into the sun as we headed home, and sleep was coming down on him with a powerful force. I knew the road between Delta Point and Tendal so well that very little driving was involved. Our transit time for the thirty-four-mile trip seldom varied as much as four minutes, and the commute was so routine that John quite often was not aware which side of Tallulah we were on. This parish seat was just another piece of road, albeit cluttered with a few unsynchronized traffic signals.

On this Fourth of July afternoon as John dozed along the bank of Brushy Bayou on U.S. 80 approaching Tallulah, a slight drizzle wet the black-top road surface just enough to mix with the oil and grime and create extremely hazardous road conditions. Of course, any road surface is hazardous when the driver is asleep at the wheel, but instinct had gotten us through Tallulah many times before. The highway leaves the bayou shore on the town's eastern edge, making about a seventy degree veer to the right while the roadway straight ahead becomes a city street. Traffic heading east sees this intersection as a tee junction where they must veer left or run into Brushy Bayou. (Some do.)

John's consciousness returned just before we reached this intersection. We were cruising about fifteen miles per hour above the speed limit, having dozed right by the reduce-speed signs. The next three seconds was a very busy time. When John became aware of the traffic light, we had the green signal, and an eastbound Caddilac was stopped for the red light. Realizing that our speed was too great to make the right turn safely, John instinctively opted to go straight ahead and slow down beyond the intersection. This would have been a good solution had not the light, at that instant, changed. The driver of the Caddilac had been watching the overhead signal. The moment it changed to green, he lurched forward, then almost immediately saw me bearing down on him and slammed on the brakes. His car hardly moved half its length, but that fleeting instant was enough to fake us out. Foreseeing hitting the other car broadside, John tried to go behind him, but the other driver's reactive stop thwarted that escape. There was no time for other changes in strategy. Time had run out. We were an accident seeking a place to happen, and the middle of that intersection was the place.

It was a long skid before the sickening crash. Since my wheels were locked, I was standing on my nose as I went into the brand new Caddilac. The broken glass, blown tire, and antifreeze running down the street were all mine. Inside, John's little French chess set took a dive from the seat into the floor breaking the box and the black king, but no one was hurt. The Mississippian in the Caddilac was understandably unhappy. His hood would not open; but since the car would start and run, the police suggested he go on home and let the insurance people do their act. He did, and they did. When the adjuster for John's insurance company asked him how the other driver could have avoided the accident, John told him, "He could have stayed in Mississippi until he had his car payed for; but other than that, he didn't have much chance."

I had my one and only wrecker ride. My front end was a mess from the doors forward. It was what is generally known as "totaled." Riding in the wrecker to the body shop, John did a lot of thinking about the 155,050 miles we had been together. He couldn't picture me dumped in the junk yard, yet. Besides, my second set of seat covers was just a little over a year old. By the time we reached the body shop, he had his mind made up. He told the mechanic to go to the junk yard, get another Ford for parts, fix me up and give me a complete paint job. Then he called H.C. Youmans to come pick him up and carry him home. The twelfth of July I went back to work as usual, only now my grill and hood were 1951-style rather than 1950. Well, people get face lifts, too, don't they?

When the twenty-first of November came around, it was time to go back to south Texas again. The bull that I had pulled home the previous year had been named Ding Dong by the children for a most obvious reason. Actually, it was a most inappropriate name, for that most vital part was the very one that did not work. Dr. Anthony, the veterinarian from Tallulah, had examined the bull and certified him as sexually impaired. The rancher had readily agreed to exchange a sound breeder for Ding Dong. Don was now seven years old and in the second grade at Waverly. His daddy decided it was time for the boy to go with him to Texas even though it meant missing school on Friday. Thursday afternoon I got a rare oil change at 162,334 miles. For this trip, John even made a tailgate for the trailer. When Don came home from school, we left Tendal under rapidly lowering clouds, heading west.

Monroe was only fifty miles from home, but already Don was ready for a hamburger. Darkness had just fallen as we pulled in to an A&W Root Beer stand near the Ouachita River. The evening was warm when John ordered; but in the short time it took to receive the burgers, fries, and root beer, a cold front blew in from the northwest, and the wind became so strong that the patrons had to abandon the outside, picnic tables. We soon crossed the river and ran into rain. By the time we reached the lonely stretch of four-lane by the Minden Ordnance plant, the rain was blowing in sheets so it was a strain to see the road. Old Ding Dong, in the open trailer, was about to drown. I picked up 12.5 gallons of gas at Shreveport and splashed on into east Texas. John had worked his eight-hour shift before leaving home, and the two hundred miles of rainy night had grown worrisome. This time he had come prepared for sleeping in the car, so a lonely country churchyard alongside U.S. 79 below Henderson, Texas, was where we pulled off to rest.

There might have been a little rest, but not much, and even less sleep. The violent thunderstorm continued throughout the night. Gusts of wind rocked me side to side, and at each flash of lightning the restless bull caused me to pitch for and aft. The rusty trailer hitch ball and socket seldom ceased their miserable squeaking all night long. I am pretty fair transportation, but a poor substitute for a motel. By daylight the storm had passed, although the rain continued; but it was gentle now, lacking the fury of the night before. Don and his daddy could hardly wait to get to Jacksonville for a pancake breakfast.

The odds are stacked against finding good pancakes on the road, but John keeps trying. That morning the odds won. The cakes were the usual blotters that taste like saddle blankets and soak up all the thin syrup they touch. But they had breakfast, and I got a little gas before moving on to the southwest. Down on El Camino Real below Bryan John just had to stop, if only for ice cream, at a spot on the map named Old Dime Box.

That morning drive through southeast Texas started out to be as ordinary as one could imagine; but as any American who was an adult on November 22, 1963, remembers, it was the most infamous day in our history since December 7, 1941. My radio was tuned to "Big D" (KRLD) in Dallas as John and Don listened to the live broadcast of the arrival in Dallas of the President of the United States. With shock and dismay they heard the tragedy of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This news cast a pall over the trip. As John visited with Junior Moore on the southern border of Kleberg County that night, they could hardly ignore the coincidence of his visits to Texas with the advent of great crises.

On November 23, John selected a big, dark red, spirited bull to replace old Ding Dong. This time he had a veterinarian from Kingsville make a sperm count before loading the critter for the 800-mile trip home. Just loading this fellow was a chore in itself. He did not choose to enter the trailer. It took three men and a good sized tractor to put him in it. He began at once, and spent the next thirty hours, trying to get out again. There was another young bull in the lot that caught John's eye, but there was no way he could haul two this trip. He told Junior that if he would get the other bull as far north as Sealy for the annual Brangus sale on December 7, he could sell two bulls. With an agreement to meet in Sealy in two weeks, the cattlemen parted, and I began that long trek homeward again.

The famous King Ranch is headquartered on the western city limits of Kingsville, Texas. Don had not been there before, and his dad was not going to pass right by without affording him the opportunity. So it was that I cruised about the Santa Gertrudis Ranch, home of that great breed, with a Beefmaster bull in tow. Only a King Ranch fence separated the ranges of the two breeds in the first place. The parentage of the Santa Gertrudis was 5/8 Brahman and 3/8 Shorthorn, whereas the parentage of the Beefmaster breed was 1/2 Brahman, 1/4 Shorthorn, and 1/4 red eyed Herefords.

All afternoon, through the old coastal cattle ranges of Shanghai Pierce, the new bull fought the rope that held him in the trailer. His constant lunging and shifting of weight made driving slow and tiring. At midnight, too tired and sleepy to go on, John was in the very heart of the big city of Houston. We pulled over to the curb for a feeble attempt at rest. The bull didn't have the same idea. He kept up his constant effort to escape. After some fitful naps in the tossing seat, John headed up the long stretch of east Texas, piney woods hills. Before daylight he was so aggravated with the troublesome critter we were hauling that he pulled into the yard of a country slaughter house, and I believe if it had been open for business, I would have been relieved of my burden right there.

After daylight we fueled at Livingston and 190 miles later at Shreveport. This twelve gallons carried us on home by late afternoon. Our custom was to ride over the pasture on Sunday afternoon and check the cattle, so on this Sunday we stopped by the house, picked up Rita, Alison, and Todd and proceeded to deliver our new herd sire to his new range. As I stopped in the shade of a large pecan tree, the curious cows came to see the strange, new arrival. for the first time since he was roped the previous morning, the bull settled down enough for John to reach in and slip the loop off his horns. The 5/8-inch manila that had held his head down during the trip was drawn to a scant 3/8-inch diameter. When John swung open the tailgate, the rascal backed out as nicely as a trained quarter horse, and after a thirty-hour ride with no food or water, went straight to work at the business for which he was raised. This ardor instantly earned him the name of Redigo, a corruption of ready-to-go suggested by the character on a television series that was popular at the time.

The trip to south Texas had covered 1,600 miles, and John had less than two weeks to get ready for the next one. His plan this time was to buy a Brangus bull at the Sealy sale and also pick up the other Beefmaster. For this job we needed a larger trailer. Claude Lively, from Tallulah, loaned John a tandem, stock trailer. The seventh of December was a Saturday. The bull sale began at 1:00 p.m. John had to work the four-to-midnight shift at Delta Point Friday night. We stopped by Tendal and picked up Rita and the trailer at 1:00 a.m. It was nearly 500 miles to Sealy, but I had them there in plenty of time to have lunch with Junior Moore and Sammy Pierce before the sale started. Sammy managed a Brangus ranch in the scrub oak country to the north. He invited the Louisiana couple to his ranch for the night: an invitation that was gratefully accepted. After the sale, I towed a black bull and the red bull that Junior had brought up from Falfurrias through the main square of Bellville and out to the ranch for the night. Sunday morning, after farewells to the gracious hosts, John drove across the Brazos, through Navasota and Huntsville, to the same route we had taken home just two weeks earlier.

Pulling so much weight up those long hills around Lufkin and Nacodoches began to tell on me. Such strain is hard on valves, and I began to use oil, although it was a week after we returned home before John actually added a quart. However, by Christmas Day I needed another. A great annoyance to Rita on the return trip was the whine from the lash in my differential whenever the trailer pushed us downhill. The damage caused by the fishing line three years previous was growing worse, and the noise was irritating. A week after we got home, I had a 1953, junk-yard replacement rear end that cost $42.55.

With the exception of the two trips to Texas, 1963 was an "at home" year. Still I accumulated 21,862 miles on exactly 1200 gallons of gas: 18.2 miles per gallon. My operating costs were only 2.39 cents per mile excluding the Independence Day wreck. Even the wreck was not a significant factor when spread over the 166,830 miles I had logged by year's end. My total costs, including purchase price, were 4.4 cents per mile excluding the wreck and only 4.5 cents per mile including the repair of the crash.

Throughout most of 1964, my routine was the same as it had been since John became a livestock inspector. I made five trips each week to Delta Point, hauled kids to Delhi, and in the summer carried twine and lunch to wherever the custom hay baling demanded. John had bought a used pickup with no bed and had mounted the GMC bed from the trailer he had built in California. This additional vehicle took some of the heavy hauling off me; but I was still called on for some trailer work, and many times when the pickup got stuck in the pasture, Rita and I would go to the rescue. With mud grips, I was better able to negotiate the wet pasture than the truck.

One morning as we came through Tallulah after the graveyard shift, we stopped by the elevator to pick up a load of assorted feedstuff for the cattle. Orders were placed in the office, and then relayed by intercom to the crew in the warehouse. John placed the order for twelve sacks (which were fifty pounds each), but by the time the information reached the loading dock someone had translated the bags to hundredweight, and the order was doubled. I backed up to the loading dock, and as John was opening my trunk one of the crew said, "Cap'n, where we goin' to put this stuff? This here is 1200 pounds."

John told him to load me up. By piling a few bags on the rear seat, we pulled out with the full 1200 pounds while the crew watched and scratched their heads. No one told them about the extra leaves in my rear springs. They didn't even bottom out.

Late summer brought a drastic change in our cash flow situation. The screw worm line was closed. The nearest jobs that were offered the livestock inspectors were in Georgia and New Mexico. Only one man took a transfer; but for John and the others who owned their homes and were more interested in just raising their children than following such a low-paying position, it meant the end of a regular income for a while. Soon, however, it was time for the cotton harvest throughout the South; and since a ginner at a nearby plantation had retired, John was offered temporary employment as the gin man. He used the old pickup for transportation to this job and left me at home for Rita. In fact, he had used the truck for quite a few trips to Delta Point, because my usage for the year fell to just 12,068 miles. During the year he gave me a valve job without putting in new rings, and that really increased my oil consumption. Still, I ran all year for 2.3 cents per mile.

At the end of the ginning season John stayed on at the plantation doing odd jobs through the winter. In the spring he began clearing new ground and putting it into cultivation. He was using a company Ranchero all the time now, and I was left for Rita and the kids. Rita thought I was out of style, and perhaps I was, but I was still serviceable and in no danger of being traded in; but on the first of April, 1965, John came home with a fully equipped, blue, 1963 Galaxie for Rita. For the next six months I did little more than sit in the yard.

In September each year, when the college school year starts, John always gets the urge to go back to school. Since he was working for a large agricultural producer, it seemed to him that there would be mutual advantages to employee and employer for him to return to college and complete work on his B.S. The president of the company did not agree, so John took a leave of absence (without pay), replaced my king pins (which did not need replacing), and began another semester of daily commuting to Monroe. This time we made the one-hundred-mile trip six days a week, for John was taking a load of twenty semester hours, most of them lab courses. At the close of 1965, I had logged only 9,563 miles, but my mileage had improved to 21.36 miles per gallon, and operating costs had dropped to 1.85 cents per mile even though I had gotten a new battery in November. My total costs for fifteen and a half years had been $7,981.67 for my initial costs plus operation for 188,681 miles. The miles were much easier now because I didn't have a trailer hanging on me so much of the time; and increased land rent had caused John to sell his cattle, so I spent less time in the mud and more time on the highway.

One afternoon on the way home from Monroe, there was a slight unevenness in my gait. It was a little like an ignition miss, but not exactly. Passing Holly Ridge, an old sawmill village, the stagger became more pronounced. Only two miles down the highway was a family-owned garage set off in a field a short distance from the road. Since there was not much of a place to pull off the highway anyway, we made it to this shop. James Tibbs, the owner, was standing in the yard when I came in. John asked him to check the right rear wheel. James put his hand to the hub cap and burned his hand before he could withdraw it. He said the wheel bearing had seized.

I rolled into the shop, and an apprentice mechanic jacked me up and pulled the wheel. While he was working he was telling John that since it was so late, and the auto parts store in town was already closed, there was no chance of getting me out of the shop until sometime the next day. He had not noticed John opening my trunk and taking something out. When the boy finally snatched the hot axle and bearing out of the housing, John handed him the spare he had bought in 1958, and said, "Try this one." The boy was so startled he could hardly speak. He had never heard of anyone carrying a spare axle and bearing in their trunk. The old bearing that had acted up on the way back from Texas in 1962 had finally gone out; but the total delay in our trip home that day was just twenty minutes.

The little red ledger that had been in the glove compartment all my life just barely had enough space to record the gas I needed to get John through college. The bottom line, on January 20, 1966, was for 6.1 gallons of gas for $2.00, at 190,143 miles. Since we had started on that B.S. degree in Alaska in 1950, it seemed strangely fitting that John should exit from the night graduation exercises to a campus already white with gently falling snow.