Leon Calls It Quits!
Machinery is not as inanimate as one may suppose. Each machine has a special Personality of Its own. and this is especially true of cars. We had three cars, or two cars and Old Leon. My son, Jed, was in a small car pool to the University. Nada, my oldest daughter, was in a car pool to the cheese plant, and of course, Lin, my husband, had his car pool to Thiokol where he works. I, a school teacher, being the last one to leave the house each morning and also driving alone, was left with the old 1949 Ford we had bought from Leon Bright for fifteen dollars.
The whole winter had been quite an adventure, or nightmare depending on your point of view. Right when I needed him most, Old Leon wonid leave me in a pickle. One time I got 2 miles down the road and it steamed and carried on so I finally pulled it off to the side of the road by a house and called a neighbor to pick me up on his way to school. Another time I got as far as the Junkyard between Lewis ton and Richmond on the Conference Road when Old Leon called it quits. A neighbor was going by Just as I stopped, and he rescued me from my sinking ship. The school bus went by a short time later and some of the kids called out, "That's Mrs. Rawlins' old car off to the side of the road." The bus driver called back, "Is she in it?" and they replied "No." All This exchange caused my children to shrink lower and lower in their seats.
Old Leon always waited patiently for the coldest, most miserable days to act up, knowing full well that the situation wouldn't be as dramatic or traumatic on a warm, sunny day. This one day a full.fledged blizzard was in its prime and visibility was near zero. When Old Leon could see that we were nearing our school destination, he gave a shudder and a shake and quit. I braved the storm and burst into the school house looking like a snow covered icicle and saying unkind words about Old Leon.
There were many other times when that old Ford stopped in the middle of the stream, but time has dined the details the details from my lind. I did develop quite an attachment for the old dear, much as you would for a wayward child. I endured my husband's helpful remarks about how I should drive it instead of herd it, how I should keep it at a more even speed and not overtax its motor, how a few minutes spent checking under the hood for loose wires and proper antifreeze would be valuable, and all other helpful suggestions that husbands are prone to gIve driving wives. In spite of all of this I did learn a few things about Old Leon that came in handy. I learned the proper depth and speed to push the clutch so That the gears didn't grind when I shifted, and I learned to be patient and sit with him for a while after each stoppage. After a short rest he would go again.
Finally the last checkout day of school for the teachers arrived, and I and my youngest daughter, Nancy, set out in Old Leon for school. He was more temperamental than usual, and 10 miles an hour was his top speed. We stopped at least four times in that 12 mile distance to rest the poor old soul, and we drove on the shoulder of the road so as not to Inhibit traffIc too greatly. Lunch time found us making the trip home and back again as we needed to get into the bank near our home. Each old Ford rest required a longer time. Finally, we stuffed the last things in the school room closet and headed home trying to get there in time for a Sons and Parents party. Since my husband was working and couldn't make it, it was very important for me to go and be on time. Of course, these circumstances were just too good for Old Leon to pass up, and half way between Mendenhall's corner and Richmond he shuddered his last, and no amount of rest or coaxing would persuade him to move. Fortunately, our neighbors, the Jessops, came along at this moment and gave us a ride home.
Jed came home about then and said, "Come on. We'll pull it home." Nothing makes me more nervous than being towed by another car, and so I elected to be the one to pull (which also makes me very jittery). Due to many years of intense, derogatory instruction I felt very compelled not to let the chain drag on the ground, and any noise from the chain automatically caused my feet to press heavier on the gas. Of course, at the first corner the chain shifted, which increased my speed. Jed signaled me down and, none too kindly, explained that I was driving too fast. He also said to turn at Edis's corner and he would stop at his house and blow the gas line out.
Each time we went around a corner the station wagon, which I was driving, would slow right down and practically stop. My mind was screaming "Oh, no, not this one too! We have one car in the garage, Old Leon has quit, and now this one is going!" I pushed harder on the gas.
"Just get home before this one gives up entirely," I thought. Due to extreme weariness, this new worry about the station wagon, and my general forgetfulness, I Just plain motored on past Edis' Corner. The station wagon slowed right down, and I frantically looked in the rear view mirror. There was Jed, waving Old Leon's stearing wheel over his head. Every time I had started going faster than he thought I should, he had been tromping on the brake, and at Edis' corner he was pushing on the brakes with all his might bracing himself against the steering wheel. Jed had been playing football and was pretty strong, and the inevitable happened. I stopped the car and went back. The look of utter disgust on Jed's face was the last straw. I leaned against the top of Old Leon and Laughed and cried, and laughed and cried, and laughed and cried. A neighbor stopped and asked if we needed help, and I just hee-hawed and blurted out that we didn't need him. No one could help us. He looked terrible bewildered and went on his way.
Idon't know how we got the rest of the way home. I was grateful to know the station wagon wasn't ailing. It was just Jed's braking efforts that slowed me down to a near stop.
After the dinner that evening, the neighbor, who had rescued us earlier in the evening, asked if we had managed to get the old Ford home. I tried to explain, but the vision of that steering wheel kept looming up in my vision, and this set off my hysterics again. I clung to the support pillar in the cultural hall and laughed and cried until everyone around backed away with "insanity" printed in their eyes. My sons finally got me home. When my husband came home I tried to explain it to him only to go off in gales of laughter and tears again. Jed tried to tell his dad the story, but Lin cut him off saying, "She'll tell me eventually," but I didn't tell him that night. I would overcome a spasm of hysteria and think I could finally relax and sleep only to see that steering wheel in my mind and have it all begin again. I clung to the edge of the bed and fluctuated between calm and hysterics for hours. Finally, troubled sleep came. It took several days before I could tell my husband the full story without recurring painful hysterics.
P.S. This last episode was drastic enough to cause my husband to remove the gas tank and clean it out. He found that some of the friendly neighborhood boys had put a couple of eggs in the tank and the eggshells did an effective Job of sealing off the gasoline by floating up to the top every so often. Thus repaired, Old Leon went on to serve for another year.