Friday, May 25, 2007

The Jeep and the Tree [CCR]

During my later high school years Dad purchased a 1966 CJ6 Jeep. I probably spent more of my waking hours in that Jeep than I did at home. We roamed over all the back roads, hills, and hollows of western Colbert County. It wasn’t a fancy Jeep but it did have a metal top. Somehow I convinced Dad to let me take the top off in the summer. I know he worried, but I survived and created some memories that will never leave me.

The Jeep didn’t use much gas, although gas prices were much cheaper then. I kept a hoe handle behind the driver’s seat for my gas gauge. Dip the handle in the tank and you could quickly read the fuel level. Dad bought a new set of tires for the Jeep which lasted until he sold it less than ten years ago.

On Saturdays you could find me wandering some back road enjoying the sun and cool breeze when there wasn’t work to be done at the house. But sometimes we took the Jeep out for some of those tasks. One of those missions gave Dad a new trust in me. We were out gathering pine stumps, also known as rich pine for some of you folks back home. Dad liked to keep plenty at the house for building fires. Our knack for gathering rich pine resulted in numerous piles of the treasured wood in our pasture.

On the day in question we had driven to the point of a long ridge where we had looked both for pine and ginseng. It was time to go and Dad told me to turn the Jeep around. I simply replied that the Jeep didn’t have any brakes and I didn’t think it was a good idea to turn the Jeep around on the edge of the hill. I’m not sure why Dad didn’t believe me, but he decided to show me it was fine.

I was both amazed and scared to death as I watched that Jeep begin its unrestrained journey backwards down the hill. I could hear Dad pumping the brake pedal faster than a loaded steam engine. But since most of you know my Dad today you already know our escapade did not result in disaster. Luckily a small tree impeded the path before the Jeep gained enough momentum to become unstoppable.

With the tree using all the strength of its root system to hold our Jeep on the hill we began to examine the situation. Dad was fine. But the tree and the back bumper on the Jeep didn’t fare as well. Dad had built the bumper and it wasn’t really a concern. In fact we never really straightened the bumper. The tree would have to recover on its own.

I bet you’re wondering how we got out of this pickle. Dad always carried critical tools and supplies for emergencies. We basically opened our toolbox to find a wrench and a bottle of brake fluid. A small panel in the floor of the Jeep gave access to the brake fluid reservoir and the problem was solved in a matter of minutes. We saw no massive leak and decided the fluid had left the system slowly over a period of time. We could make permanent repairs later.

Dad and I climbed back into the Jeep, placed it in low gear, and crawled back up the hill. I think Dad may have thought I hadn’t pumped the brakes to build pressure as you would in older systems. But today we both still laugh about the time Dad rolled down the hill. And if you look in the back of Dad’s car you will find that stash of supplies. But don’t fret, there is a red box in the back of my van with some of the same supplies.

Dad and I have a fond recollection of that day and the many other days we spent roaming through the woods of Colbert County. There are many more adventures involving the old Jeep, some Dad probably doesn’t know to this day. Maybe when I travel home we can meet down at the local store, sit a spell, and summon up those tales. If it brings a smile to your face then it is worth having my own surreptitious exploits revealed.