The Northwest Passage

 

Salt Lake, Pocatella, Butte, Missoula and Spokane

Rejoining the Jack crew was medicine to me.  I missed the life, sleeping in motels, eating in restaurants or a drive through.  Trying to carry enough money at all times, to pay your bond, if needed.

Going back to work with Arnie as the crew chief had changed things though.  No longer was the impetus of always getting something over on someone.  Before, under Joe McDavid, it was always “stiff on to others, before they stiff onto you.”  Gary and I befriended Arnie, his wife Kathy and their two children Denver and Kathy, in Phoenix, when Arnie first hired on to the crew.  It wasn’t long after that, that Jumping Joe made the decision to hand over the reins to Arnie, so that he could retire to his race cars back home.

Tranquility seemed to take over the crew.  Arnie and his passive ways had a calming effect on the crew.  There wasn’t as much cut throat stuff as before.  Arnie held group prayer meetings in the parking lot at the motel, every morning after breakfast.  It didn’t seem to be such a big deal when the crew only had about a dozen men.  Once the crew size grew to about 22 to 25 men, people began to take notice.  If you get 25 people holding hands while standing in a parking lot of an average sized motel or restaurant, there isn’t much room for anything else.

Arnie preached “faith.”  Say your prayer and stand by it.  Its okay to ask for the Lord’s blessing.  It seemed a fair trade, to ask the Lord to forgive you of your sins and then ask him for his blessing in return.  Arnie made it seem plausible.  I mean, why not?  All you have to do to make it work is to have faith.  If you get out there and show God your faith, he will help you, if you just keep trying.

I didn’t see anything wrong with the idea.  I’ve been a churchgoer most of my life.  Besides, the other guys needed some direction, but not me, or so I thought.  I began to say my own prayer every morning before leaving for work, me, who ever went with me and the Holy Ghost.  We prospered.  It is hard to argue with success.  I sold tools like I never did before.  In return, I gave credit to the Lord.  I still did all the obnoxious things I did before, but I tried to do some good with the money I earned.  If I saw a homeless guy, it would ease my conscious to invite him out to dinner, or to go buy a new outfit, maybe put some money in their pocket.  That is until I found out, that there are plenty of people out there that can work, but choose not to.  To them, it’s just easier to beg.

Roy Landrum, that “skeezer,” stole a suitcase full of money from Glen and I, while we working Salt Lake.  I heard a knock on my hotel room door one Sunday afternoon while I was watching a football game.  I pulled an abandoned suitcase into my room to check it out, and let it slip in front of Roy just what was in it.  The money was inside a double sided suitcase.  Each side filled with US currency on one side and Canadian currency on the other.  All the money was folded multiple times and placed inside a 35 mm film holder.  There were hundreds of these in each half of the suitcase.  I put a couple in my pocket and told Glen and Roy to go hide the rest, an hour later, Glen return but no sign of Roy.  He had doubled back on Glen and took off with the money.

We worked a couple of weeks without Roy.  It was a welcome change.  We were still saying our prayers daily, making a sale every day that we kept our faith.  The crew followed me and Glen to Pocatello, Idaho and then to Butte, Montana.  These were rural areas, with the help of the Good Lord, we made our sales, but some days were tougher than others.

In Butte, Montana, Glen and I met up with some gals that we really liked.  When the crew moved to Spokane in the eastern part of Washington state, we dropped our load before the weekend and went back to Butte for one more visit.

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The crew had gone on westward, ahead of us to work Seattle, Wash.  Glen and I traveled back in Butte to explore our love interest.  By the time we had enough of those girls and decided to head west, the crew was settled in Seattle.  The mountainous inclines going up the east side of the Bitterroots heading west were a steep 7% grade.  The Ford Super Cab we were driving was loaded down, heavy with a load of tools, we blew a motor.  “Dog gone” we had just had a second hand motor put in it, two weeks before.  We had picked up a hitch hiker just outside of Missoula, Montana when the truck started acting up.  His clothes were nasty, he smelled to “high heaven,” but I told Glen that we might need some body to help us push the truck.  When the motor blew we were almost to an exit, 40 miles east of Missoula.  The three of us got on our hands and knees in the dirt and gravel, held hands and said a prayer to the Lord to come to our aid.  We only had two dollars in our pocket.  It was Labor Day week end. We didn’t know a soul for about 6oo miles.  We walked down the exit, I called a wrecker in Missoula, to come get us and bought two 16 oz. Budweisers with my last two dollars then waited for the wrecker to get there.

The wrecker driver, he was a card, real talkative.  The hitchhiker rode in the back of the Ford, while Glen and I rode up front in the wrecker.  I had gotten a brand new heavy duty, 6 inch vise out of the Super Cab and rode to Missoula with it resting in my lap.  The wrecker was a chatty fellow, he kept talking the whole way.  “Hey, its Labor Day weekends boys, whatch youins gonna do?  How much you want for that there vice?,  You won’t even be able to get in touch with your boss until Tuesday, might as well get you a motel room and sit it out.”

I told him we were broke, but we had said “a prayer to the Lord” and we intended to be leaving there before midnight.  He said we were crazy, and asked me what did I intend to do with that vise?  I told him I was going to sell the vise for enough money to pay him and get something to eat and then, see what happens next.  He said he would give me a hundred for the vise; the tow bill was $60.00.  That gave us $40 to eat on.  We made the deal, I asked him not to lock our truck on the inside of his fence, because we would be out of there before midnight.

The tow truck driver didn’t believe me.  He started talking about how we should spend our money on a room, it was Labor Day weekend, and he said that we might as well camp out until after the holiday.  I told the tow truck driver that the Lord doesn’t take holidays off.  I told him that we had already said our prayer to the Lord, for us to do anything different would be a challenge to our faith.  So, we got the tow truck driver to kneel in the dirt with us, while we said another prayer.  We held hands in the gravel on our knees, the four of us, in broad daylight.  My faith was strong; I couldn’t break weak in front of Glen.  He had trusted me enough to leave life as he knew it, to go on the road with Uncle Mike.  Here we were, in the middle of no where, broke as hell, with a blown motor in our truck, on a holiday weekend.

My game plan was to take the ignition out of the truck and go find us a Ford truck parked in long term parking area at the airport.  Desperate measures call for desperate means, but just as we stood up from our prayer, we could see an old man waving at us as he was driving by in a cool looking “49 Studebaker truck.”  It was painted primer; on the side of the truck was a magnetic sign, “S & S Salvage.”  I whistled at him and he stopped.  I told him about our truck with the blown motor and how we were suppose to be hauling some salvage equipment for our boss, could he use it, if it were cheap enough?  Then he said the magic words, “I sure can”.  He took us to the restaurant while he got us and his wife “to go” dinners.  Then we went to go look at the equipment.  Thankfully, that we had gotten the wrecker driver to leave the truck outside of the fence.  We planned all along to be gone by midnight.

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We called Arnie back at the farm in Arkansas to be our “closer,” because we didn’t think anyone would be at the factory 800 number on the holiday.  Arnie thought I was pulling his leg at first, about the blown motor, being broke and a long ways from nowhere but he quickly jumped into character and ended up skinning the old man into trading his 1949 Studebaker truck, with the 326 Pontiac Hemi and 4 speed, along with 22 hundred cash for a hoist and a press.  We gave him an 8 inch grinder and a sack of wrenches for helping us out, we asked him not to tell the boss.  “He don’t know they was in the warehouse too.”  The hoist and press, grinder and a sack of wrenches cost us about $900.

The Studebaker didn’t have a hitch or a back bumper, so I got Glen and the hitch hiker to go to the local U-Haul dealer after dark to steal us a tow bar.  I know what you’re thinking, but sometimes the Lord helps those, that help themselves.  The U-Haul dealer was only 3 blocks from the tow yard.  The boys made so much noise getting the tow bar, I thought that the police was gonna get us for sure.

When they came back, they had the wrong one, they had the one for the front of the truck, we needed a bolt on bumper to hook it to and so I sent them back to get another one.  “This time get the right one.”  The dogs were ready for them this time.  The lights came on, more cops.

When the boys finally showed back up, it was getting late.  In all of the commotion with the dogs and police, they had gotten the wrong tow bar again.  We crawled over the fence and took a 12 foot long chain off of the wrecker and hooked the Super cab up to the back of the Studebaker.  Did I mention that the Studebaker had a 326 hemi- 4 speed, fat tires, baby moons and chrome reverse rims?  We cruised out of Missoula, Montana about 15 minutes to midnight.

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We drove through the Rocky Mountains that night, pulling the Super Cab with the blown motor, carrying a band saw with the chain that we had “borrowed” from the wrecker driver.  The Studebaker didn’t have a radio, so I got Glen to play Lynyrd Skynyrd tapes full blast so I could hear it.

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The next morning, we pulled into a Rest Area outside of Cours de A’llene, Idaho, about 60 miles from Spokane.  That’s where we run into Paul Hamilton.  Paul wasn’t what I would call a top notch Jackman, but he did have a bad ass truck, heavy duty, but he was broke and out of gas.  He was sitting in the front seat of his truck, his Bible in his lap, praying for deliverance.  I gave him a hundred to pull the Ford to Seattle, about 400 miles.  Heck, we already had the tow bar.  I was getting kind of tired of the hitch hiker’s smell and his company, so when he went in to use the bath room, I drove off and left him.  We left his stuff by the road, where the road from the rest area merged with the Interstate.  I just figured that he would be better off closer to home than riding further away with us.

Glen and I were off and on at every exit after that, seeing just what could we get into on the way.  We spent the day at the river with some gals that we met from the Yakima Indian Reservation, we enjoyed ourselves, not a care in the world.  When we finally get to Seattle, of all people there’s Roy Landrum’s banty rooster looking ass standing next to Arnie, with his hat in his hand.  Arnie told us that Roy was sorry he stole that suitcase of money from us and he promised to pay me back at least twenty thousand.  He said that’s all he took before he tossed the suitcase; he said he was scared it was counterfeit.  He said he flew to New York City, rented a room and bought heroin, shot it all up in his arm, and now felt remorse.  I didn’t believe him; I was ready to let him have it, except I didn’t work for that money.  I had just found it.  I’ve been enjoying myself and have been having lots of fun since it happened.  I really could care less about Roy Landrum.

Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and more

When Roy noticed the Studebaker truck we were driving.  He wanted it; he had to have it.  Arnie was acting like Roy was a lost sheep that needed salvation.  He offered to forget the $900. we owed for the tools and gave us $22 hundred more in cash.  Plus, we had Roy’s promise to pay us back.

I pretended to go along with it.  Roy was a snake in the grass.  I wanted to hold him to his promise to pay me back.  Roy and I went out together, every day for two weeks.  He wouldn’t let me make a pitch, he was on fire.  Dropping like flies, every day, Seattle was good to us.  I think he was trying to show me that he was as near as good as I was.

Then one day, we get pulled over by the police. They started telling us about “the Green River Ordinance,” signs all over the place.  No door to door selling.  Then we see a truck from Carolina Tool, working our area, drive on past.  The cop asked me if I could read that sign.  I said, “Sure I can, I ain’t smoking.”  He laughed it off and let us go but Roy had gotten a case of the “black twirlies.”

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Roy wanted to ride away and look for new territory, I told him no, we are going right next door to where that Carolina Tool man is pitching in our territory, and show him how to drop a load.  Roy was hiding in the bottom of the floor board of the truck.  I don’t know what he was scared of.  I thought to myself “I’m the one you should be afraid of.”  I went right next door, no luck but I saw the Carolina man go right next door to me, and so I did the same to him.

A carpet distribution center this time, I was able to get it off the truck for a pretty good lick.  Roy was too scared to even look over the dash until I asked him to help me unload it.  I had to do it that way, just to show Roy who the real Jackman was.  After that we never did ride together, but all told, he put about $18,000.00 in my pocket in two weeks, that was close enough, but I still owed him an ass whooping.

 

Seattle was one of the best places we’ve been to.  It’s an international city for sure.  People were coming and going from all over the world, the economy was great.  We sold two tractor trailer loads in no time.  We saw plenty of money, things to do, new sights, everything different.  The local government tags a King Salmon every year and releases it in Puget Sound.  If anyone catches it, they win 1 million dollars.  It rains in Seattle, every day for about 30 minutes, usually around 11:30.  College age kids go out to the park everyday around noon, looking for mushrooms.  Seattle sets at the foot of Mt.Ranier, you can see a snow covered mountain all year round.

Arnie held our morning prayer meetings everyday, right after breakfast in the parking lot of the motel where we were staying at the “A-99 Motel.”  The meetings had to be moved to the parking lot of the restaurant down the street, for more space, because we had grown to a group of about 30 people.  Sometimes people from the restaurant wanted to join in.  He was a good speaker, articulate, believed in what he preached and he made you feel it too.  It rubbed off on us.  I got to say it’s true.  I’ve seen it happen on a daily basis, you can pray for what you want, don’t give up faith, keep trying, and just when you are about to give up your faith, you’ll get it.  It worked for me then and still does today.

We worked Seattle for about three months; I almost didn’t want to leave.  It seems to me that the women folk there outnumber the men.  Seattle is an international city.  Folks gather from all over the world, Japan, Korea, Russia Scandinavia, because of our accents we were all real popular.  One of the reasons we liked it so much there was that most of the women we met, liked us.  Then for his own reasons, Roy married the ugliest girl he could find in Seattle.  We figured he wanted to be sure no one would steal her away.

 

The Golden Gate, San Francisco, Oregon and Grant’s Pass

We moved to San Francisco at summer’s end.  It seems like it rains there a lot too.  Roy put the Studebaker truck body on a Jeep Wagoner chassis, now it doesn’t want to steer properly.  Then we put another new motor in the Ford Super Cab.  We agreed to tow the Studebaker to Sacramento, for a hundred bucks.

I can’t remember why, but the Super Cab didn’t have a windshield.  It might have been the one I rolled over in Beaverton, Oregon the week before.  So if it rained, you wore sunglasses to keep the rain out of your eyes.  I was towing Glen with a tow bar, driving the Ford listening to “Skynyrd,” while he was behind me, trying to keep the wheels of the Studebaker turned straight.  I would keep an eye on the rear view mirror, if I saw his wheel drifting one way or the other; I would point my thumb which ever way it needed to go.

Going over the Golden Gate bridge, the rain was coming down pretty steady, I don’t know if Glen could see me point or not, but the front end got side ways and we flipped.  First we slid sideways, all the way to the left, all six lanes, both trucks hooked together, and then we ended up sliding back around the other way until both trucks rolled over and came to a rest against the concrete curb and the metal guardrail.  Both trucks ended up lying on their side.  We got out, standing in the mist, we took a pee off of the bridge, just as a tow truck driver come by, then another Jackman, Dino Dave Anderson.    We loaded up with Dave and followed the driver to his shop, the driver’s boss agreed to buy both trucks from us for 2 grand, just sign a bill of sale.  That old Studebaker had been put through the mill in a few short months.

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Sacramento was a horror story for me.  It “beez” that way sometimes.  Some towns I couldn’t get a scratch.  Some places, I sold tools like I was dealing cards.  Arnie had left some equipment in Seattle.  Glen and I volunteered for the trip, just to get away from Sacremento.  Roy wanted to go with us to see his wife, so Arnie gave Roy the expense money for the trip.  Arnie wanted me, Glen and Roy to drive from Sacramento to Seattle to get the equipment and get out before the impending winter storm hit.

After we get to Seattle, Roy disappeared on us, again.  I think his wife had run off on him.  We waited for him at the motel for 2 days.  Glen and I loaded about eight truckloads of tools up on the back of an old 68 Chevy half ton and a U-Haul trailer.  We call the office and talked to Bob Ward, told him the deal, if we wait any longer, the oncoming blizzard will catch us on Grant’s Pass, Oregon.  Bob said “y’all go on ahead, I’ll wire you some money for expenses,” he lied.  We stopped at every exit, we don’t get any money from Western Union, after we spent on gas, the last little bit of what we had, we just kept going trying to beat the blizzard.  It caught up with us going up the side of Grant’s Pass.

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Yeah, it’s beautiful driving in the snow, looking out over the valley, but not if you’re from Florida and pulling 6 or 8 truckloads of equipment.  It was dark, we were almost at the crest, when the old truck just couldn’t fight against the incline, the weight and the cold, the old loaded down truck started sliding backwards, even though we were in drive and the speedometer said we were doing 30 miles an hour.

A highway patrolman helped us to throw sand under the wheels for traction but eventually we just shoved it across the ice to get it off of the road.  He told us that he would check on us the next morning to see if we froze to death, because I told him that we weren’t leaving the truck and equipment.

He woke us early; a beautiful blanket of snow everywhere, the blizzard was over.  The Highway Patrolman offered me a lift to town.  I told him that I thought I needed a transmission gasket and some fluid.  I didn’t have any money with me, but I took a brand new half inch socket set, still in the box, for barter.  Before I left, Me, Glen and the Patrolman held hands, got down in the snow on our knees and prayed to the Lord, thanking him for our blessings and to ask him to help us get what we needed to get this truck running and out of here.  I sold the socket set for $60.00, went to the parts house and asked the counterman about a pan gasket for the bottom of the transmission.  “Oh, is that 350 HD or Turbo 400?”  What man, oh I don’t know, wait, I told myself that I had turned it over to the Lord, I got down on my knees in the snow to ask for his help. Oh Lord I’m asking myself, which one, then in my head, I hear that which ever one I choose will be the right one, have some faith.  I get the 350 HD and six quarts of fluid make it back, with donuts and coffee, the highway patrolman saw me walking in the knee deep snow and gave me lift.

Since I sold the socket set, I needed a flat blade screwdriver to remover the slotted pan bolts, and didn’t have one.  I used a dime with a pair of pliers to remove 16 bolts.  The ice was thick and the hill was steep, so every time I laid something down, it would slide towards the rear of the truck.  When I got it off, the new gasket wouldn’t fit.  I was mad, straight up mad at the Lord.  I had asked in the proper way, I showed faith, I walked in the cold ass snow and ice in cowboy boots, this isn’t right.  I got indignant with the Lord.  Then a voice in my head said “Try it again,” and when I did, it miraculously fit.

After getting it back together, we didn’t have a funnel to reach the fill spout on the “tranny” fluid refill tube located in the back of the motor. Glen volunteered, he would fill his mouth up with transmission fluid and then he crawled over the motor and spit the fluid in the tube, all six cans.  When we started up the truck it hauled us perfectly all the way down Mt. Shasta and on into Sacramento,

There to greet us at the motel was Roy and his wife.  They had caught the bus and pass us by on the road.  She was sporting two black eyes, but along side of Roy, by the time I got through with him, for once, she looked pretty good.

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Thank you Lord.

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