Circa 1998, 1999
North Nikiski, Alaska
Bob needed an economical car to go back and forth to work as a carpenter for Unocal. He spotted a two door Ford Escort at the old Unocal camp across from the plant. He asked around to see if it was for sale and if it ran. It was and it did. He bought it for $50.
It had been T-boned on the driver’s side front door. It was hit so hard that the floorboard was buckled and the driver’s seat was broken loose. It ran good and everything worked, you just couldn’t open the driver side door. So being the inventors that our friend JT and Bob are, with the use of jacks and hammers and pry bars, they pushed the floorboard back in position so the clutch and brake pedal would work. They still had difficulty opening the door so they fixed the door latch with the piece a wire and the handle on the outside was an old garden trowel handle. All you had to do was pull on the handle, the door would open. The window in the door would not roll down. Everything else worked including the inside door handle.
Next thing to be fixed was the driver’s seat. When it was T-boned, the seat bolts broke off from the floor boards. So the inventors, still at work, put the spare tire and wheel between the driver’s seat and back rear seat. The front seat was fixed!
The muffler also got louder and louder and eventually we could hear him coming home from two miles away! Bob drove it like it was a Cadillac.
The poor car suffered many mishaps.
Driving to work one morning and in a hurry to get Unocal, he had a flat tire. He grabbed the spare tire out from behind the front seat and in his haste to get to work, threw the flat tire and wheel in the front passenger seat. He got back in, started the car and let out the clutch. This seat and Bob flopped back against the backseat, his feet in the air and he was staring at the ceiling. He could not touch to clutch or the brake. All he could think about was he hoped he hit something soft! He ended up in the borrow-pit and was able to reach the key to turn the car off so glad that he did not hit anything hard. He managed to up-right his seat, opened the broken door, climb out and put the flat tire and wheel back behind the broken seat and he drove off, getting to work just in time.
One cold morning while loading garbage, as it was an all around utility vehicle, Bob slammed the hatch door and the rear window broke out. Putting his inventor’s hat back on, he patched it with clear plastic and duct tape. Eventually, his son-in-law who had a wrecked car, provided a window to replace the broken one. It did not fit so Mr. Bob the inventor, cut an opening in some plywood, screwed the plywood to the car and with mirror hangers he put the window in. That worked for about three months until one day cutting a tree down. Mugs, Bob’s son, was in the snow plow with a rope tied to the tree, when Bob sawed through the tree, Mugs was supposed to pull it with the snow plow. Things went wrong and the tree fell on the back end of the Escort — breaking the window out again. Back to plastic and duct tape!
Shortly after that the plastic broke making a big hole in the middle, probably due to colder than usually weather. On his way to work the rusted heater core busted, the car filled with steam and the steam going out the broken plastic hole of a back window. It looked like he was leaving a jet stream con-trail. He laughs about that to this day!
On a cold bitter November evening, we piled baskets of dirty clothes in the backseat to go wash them. Because the heater core was busted, I had two coats, a hat and a scarf over my head. Gloves and two pair of socks and boots finished my Alaskan outfit. Bob had on a heavy coat, warm hat, gloves and a day old beard. We started rattling down the road with laundry piled to the ceiling — we looked like the Grapes of Wrath, Alaska style! Coming around a curve, muffler so loud we never spoke a word, a Trooper, only doing his duty, heard us coming, I am sure, a mile down the road. He turned around and pulled us over. Bob takes offense to something he thinks he has not done! The Trooper motioned to roll down the window, Bob says loudly, “window is broke.” The door handle on the inside by then, was now not in working order. He told the Trooper to pull on the wooden trowel handle. The door flew open and the Trooper says “pretty loud muffler, sir.” Bob says “This is ALL I got!” Then Bob got real brave, which is not like him in front of a Trooper and he says “WHY did you stop ME?” Trooper stammers and says “Your front license plate does not have a tag on it.” Bob stomped around in front of the snow covered car, wipes off the plate and there in the corner was a little bitty piece of the tag. The Trooper walks around back and inspects the back tags … all good. He checked the registration and Bob drivers’ license. He looks in at me, probably looking more like one of the Grannies of Grapes of Wrath, except for all the coats, scarves, gloves and boots all hunkered down shivering until my teeth were rattling. I do think he felt sorry for us two scroungy, scruffy, cold OLD people and he said “Dang cold — you better be on your way.” Bob was so mad, he took off like a lightning bolt, muffler noise deafening! I had to remind him to slow down! Did he want to get a speeding ticket?!
It ran well even in lots of snow and it got us up the hill and to our destination or to Bob’s work. He drove it for two and a half years and then retired it. Someone inquired about it. Bob gave it to him. Darned if we did not see “our” Escort rattling up and down the road for another two years!
I finished this story at midnight, totally exhausted. I boiled eight eggs dry and they exploded all over the kitchen! Pieces and bits of egg and shells were hanging from the ceiling. The smell is even worse! It took me two and a half hours just to clean the tiny kitchen. The rest of the house has to be washed down and aired out and all the bedding and clothes have to be washed. Tomorrow — Monday and the rest of the week, guess what I will be doing? Be safe and be careful and don’t let the skeeters bite!