Jim Buchanan

Jim Buchanan

An awful lot of features on Daddy’s trucks were apparently optional

Daddy was a U.S. Navy mechanic in World War II. But he didn’t work on ships, he worked on planes at a training base in Florida.

I think being a mechanic for an outfit created to put ships on the ocean, and instead doing work on things that flew in the air, sort of messed with him. Evidently for the rest of his life, he thought anything he worked on should fly.

There was some truth to that. Like so much of “The Greatest Generation,” he worked on his own vehicles. And most of those vehicles could in fact fly – as in go fast, not go airborne. At least not very far airborne. Daddy would fly going down the highway, and he would fly as best he could on the old logging roads in these parts everyone used on hunting trips. The combination of flying and those roads was tough on a vehicle.

I’ve mentioned before that broken axles were his specialty. However, he was well versed in other facets of vehicular destruction. He rarely had a hunting truck that had either side mirror. At times he had hunting trucks that lacked interior rearview mirrors. He came along before the police practice of pulling people over because of broken taillights came into vogue, a good thing ’cause he would’ve been pulled every day of his life.

One time he managed to throw off his dog box. I’m still not sure how that’s possible. And I’m still not sure that, initially at least, he even noticed.

I was always amazed at how he never got lost on the maze of unmarked backroads. Then it hit me he probably just followed the trail of parts back out.

His disdain for anything he managed to knock off his truck caught up with him a few times, sometimes aided by another habit of folks who grew up in the Great Depression: Never throw anything out.

As such, his workshed contained a great collection of unlabeled jugs of this or that. Could be brake fluid. Could be motor oil. Might be molasses, who knew? Well, he did.

But now and then he’d get ’em mixed up. One time he mistook an anonymous container for brake fluid when it in fact contained transmission fluid. He discovered the mistake the moment after he’d turned around after topping the highest point of East Fork.

The ride down could be described more as a series of bounces than an actual drive, but he made it home with the truck more or less intact, and chuckled about mixing the jugs up.

A couple of weeks later he sprayed his beloved tomatoes with weed killer thinking it was bug killer, and he didn’t take that so well.

At any rate, Daddy had a complete disregard for frills on trucks like working headlights or doors that stayed closed so long as that truck continued moving forward.

This combination of habits quite often resulted in Daddy getting himself stuck in the woods with a disabled vehicle. He’d walk out, call somebody, and be hauled back in to see if he could get it running again.

I recently heard one of those tales that somehow escaped me growing up. Daddy was somewhere up on Greens Creek near the fire tower, bouncing around on a rutted mountain trail, when suddenly the truck lost power. Attempts to restart it by every means met with no results, so he walked out. The next day, he got a ride back up to see if the mystery could be solved.

About 100 yards from the out-of-commission vehicle, they were able to figure out why the truck wouldn’t start.

See, there was something lying in the road

It was his gas tank.

Buchanan is editor of The Sylva Herald.