The following article was in the Paris Post Intelligencer, written by my Dad.
From the State Line
Once in the long ago, we owned a 1979 Plymouth Sport Fury.
The automobile was a year old when purchased from Johnny Richard Orr. Like many of our purchases, it was paid for with a crop of mortgage tobacco.
Mortgage was not the type of tobacco grown. This term simply means that money was borrowed to raise the crop.
Back in the good old days, many farmers planted Little Crittenden or Stag Horn tobacco seed. In years past, the majority of dark-fire tobacco produced along the state line eventually ended up in a pipe or snuff box.
Many mortgage crops were used by families whose parents worked day jobs. Money derived from mortgage crops usually went for such things as college for the children, medical bills, and various and sundry bank notes.
Any remaining funds from an already-thin profit margin many times were earmarked for a new television and living room suit or a used vehicle.
The “stove plant” in Murray had recently closed. Bob Smith was generous enough to employ me until I could find permanent work.
I worked six days a week for Bob. I usually saw him twice a week. Every Monday, he told me what my task for the upcoming week would be. Of course, sometimes the weather altered those plans.
Bob always found a chore for me to work on. Cleaning out fence rows or milk barns/stables, or moving or hauling hay. There were 13 months of work in tobacco. Bob always paid me around dark on Saturday.
Hico is a better place because of men like Bob. He is a very deep thinker, not prone to useless babble, and also a heavy reader. His knowledge of world, local or state affairs is astonishing.
A person could converse with Bob for an hour and never know he made a living farming. He can quote stock market trends, real estate investments, history, politics, sports and a little Scripture.
I had been working for Aubrey Hunt and the Paris Parks Department for about two months when Ann called the park office with some discouraging news.
Her lovely emerald Plymouth would not “crank,” — that’s rural for start. I self-assuredly told her that I’d crank it when I arrived home from work.
It was a tropical sunny afternoon. The schools had recently dismissed for their summer hibernation. The scorching mean days of July were still far away.
Upon arriving home, I deftly retrieved my heavy-duty jumper cables and attempted to “jump” the Plymouth from my trusty Gremlin, but it was to no avail. I was bewitched, bothered and bewildered.
My only recourse was Ralph “Wild Man” Page, who lived just north of Hico Church. He was an over-the-road trucker and was gone much of the time. He also was the proverbial village handyman, generous and well-liked by everyone.
Ralph was born with a ratchet in his hand. He was a motor master. There was nothing known to mortal man that Ralph couldn’t repair/rebuild.
I approached Ralph’s abode in hopes he’d be home. His wife, Lena Ruth, advised me that he was in Dayton, Ohio, and would be home about midnight. School was out and we could survive short time on just the Gremlin.
Our daughters, C.J. and Molly, were involved in softball and Girl Scouts, and were planning for their very first Freed-Hardeman basketball camp. I had a bedridden aunt in Hazel who Ann visited daily. It was imperative that the Fury was road-ready in a timely fashion.
Ralph came over the next afternoon and pronounced the verdict as the timing chain. We visited a local automotive shop and purchased the proper parts.
Upon arriving home, Ralph diagrammed a perfect set of instructions for me regarding the dreaded operation about to commence He unloaded his tool box from his Ford truck and laid out the proper tools needed for the next day’s assault.
Ralph had to leave for Red Bank, Ala., and from there to Tifton, Ga. I would face this massive undertaking solo.
In Hico folklore, I’ll be remembered as the Hicoian with the least amount of manual dexterity. If something could not be duct-taped or beaten into submission by a claw hammer, I was useless.
I diligently proceeded to follow Ralph’s written instructions. Little did I realize that the front half of the engine had to be dismantled prior to replacing the old timing chain.
The new chain went on with moderate ease. I began reassembling all the pieces in reverse order. Things were going just ducky. By nightfall, 90 percent of the motor was back in place.
I was hot, greasy and sweaty. Ann had fried chicken, creamed potatoes and gravy, cornbread and early June peas. A shower was in order. The Cardinals were on the radio. The world was good and the remaining motor parts could wait until the next morning.
I arose early the next day, awakened by the open-window perfume of honeysuckle. I quickly put all the remaining “stuff” on the engine. I felt as though A.J. Foyt could use me in his pit crew.
Then reality kicked in. There were three foreign “things” that I had left off the motor. Only the Lord knew where they belonged.
If you can imagine an old United States map puzzle with Nevada, Iowa and Michigan missing, that was my problem. I had three pieces to the puzzle but they were Burma, Peru and Bulgaria. They didn’t fit or belong.
I was afraid to crank the Fury. Ann was furious with me.
Sadly, like a whipped puppy, I ventured down to Ralph’s house. His wife told me that he was headed home from Davenport, Iowa. Ralph had to redo my poor effort at being a mechanic.
Ralph refused to take any pay for his labor. Ann and the girls were delighted and headed to the Memorial Park swimming pool. I sincerely thanked Ralph.
I filled my Styrofoam cooler with soda pop, and grabbed my Freddy Fender and Percy Sledge eight tracks. I hopped — not to be confused with the past tense of a popular breakfast restaurant — into my friendly, sea-foam-blue-colored Gremlin and headed slowly toward the state line, listening and singing along with Freddy Fender’s version of “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights.”
by Dan Patterson