I entered my 13th year, and that’s the year the weak side of your brain decides to stay home or find someone else to play with.
No murmured comments because the weak side is very happy with the co-op arrangements he’s made with the “normal” side.
Somewhere in that year, Uncle Blaine’s stories of a fast car and bootleg whiskey started two brothers and a cousin wondering if it could still be done.
Of course, when my brother, “the jackrabbit,” learned it might involve hard work and his own money, he found a way out.
Our first hurdle: getting to Ogden without grandma or Aunt Ruthie finding out our true intent.
That was easy.
Mike’s dad, my Uncle Bill (who was in our escapade) was a brakeman for the Union Pacific Railroad and he told Aunt Ruthie that Mike needed to go up to Ogden to pick up a car Blaine had promised him for working in the beet fields and playing with momma cows the year before.
Since Mike was a bit of a truant, he thought it might be wise if I went along to keep him out of any trouble, and yes, he’d make sure the porters on the north bound kept us in the right car.
That ride convinced me that hopping a freight train was something I needed to do. I haven’t done it yet, but the urge is still there. Please don’t tell Jane.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but when we pulled that stinky Army tarp off the car, it was just an old car. I mean it, there was a 1949 Ford that looked like every other old Ford wandering around Utah half full of missionaries looking for a place to go.
Uncle Blaine’s hand patted the hood gently as he started talking about the motor, transmission and how third gear could pull you through most turns if you kept her open all the way. I was oblivious to the motorhead blah-blah-blah; all I could see was a faded black, two-door dream-killer.
The motorhead stuff continued as Uncle Blaine lifted the hood, and we bored out the engine a bit and added that manifold and carburetor grandpa found somewhere in Provo.
All I could see were the carburetor and valve covers you could eat off. How could this possibly be a bootlegger’s rocket ship? Then I heard the rapid clicking of the electric fuel pump fade as the engine fired up and turned the black beater into a memory-maker.
“Where does the rum and whiskey go,” I yelled out over the engine noise.
“Ease up there, H. Neal,” Uncle Blaine said, pulling me away from the car. “This car is payment for Mike’s hard work last summer, not for two boys to haul hard liquor in.”
Mike came walking over as the engine dropped into that deep throated idle all men come to love.
“I don’t want to hear anything about you boys’ making a trip to La Barge, Wyo., looking for moonshine to bring down here.”
“Yes, sir,” I said kicking something harder than my toe.
“Now, if you were to drive over to Vernal and take the back road to Helper then on to Grand Junction, you could load the car with Coors Beer and bring it back through St. George, dropping it off here and there,” he said, handing Mike a slip of paper.
“If you’re caught,” he continued, looking at Mike, “I’ll bail H. Neal out cause he’s a minor, but you’ll need to call your dad, understood?”
“Yup,” Mike said.
I was already halfway to the car, daydreaming of high-speed chases through hair pin turns and losing followers in our dust.
Unfortunately, except for the land-speed record we set going down the canyon into Helper, Utah, our bootleg adventure was pretty boring.
Nobody paid any attention to our old beat up Ford until we got to Bountiful, where we got pulled over behind the old drive-in theater.
Mike’s desire to burn rubber after our last stop overcame him and he “lit them up.”
As the policemen wrote Mike his ticket, he reprimanded him on the treatment of the car.
“You kids these days can’t take care of anything,” the officer said. “These old Fords will last a lifetime if you treat them right.”
Mike did — he drove it to his wedding in 1971.
Hey, you be careful out there.