Blues For Iron Jack

Some of you may have read my article on Old Trucks, Hot Rods & Gender Questions posted July 17th of this year. This is an update of what has become a continuing saga of old truck angst and how to keep the peace in an unresolved relationship in my driveway.

I bought a ’59 Chevy truck several months back, a 3100 Apache. I was excited about it, naturally, and drove it about 100 fun-filled miles before it blew the heater core and spewed antifreeze all over the nice carpet and custom floor mats. That led me to discover other mechanical malfunctions and soon the truck was sitting at the local NAPA dealership, with a list of things to do, fix and replace that was growing by the minute. I knew at that point that the truck was a female, because I hadn’t had her two weeks and she was costing me money… lots of money.

For awhile I called the truck the no-name bitch, as I was upset with her, that she was breaking down on me, turning up all sorts of rude and costly surprises, showing me in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t sure she wanted me to be her new owner. She also showed me she’d been used and abused, a fact that led Betty to suggest the name “Roxie” to me. Betty is my special lady friend from Seattle who’s been spending the month of August here with me. Well, the name “Roxie” fit the truck to a T for several reasons. One, “Roxie” hints of a slick-looking lady with a little too much makeup on, who is way older than she appears, has been rode hard and put up wet, but still has a good heart. Two, Sting has a great song on one of his albums I have, called “Roxanne.” It goes, “Roxanne, you don’t need to turn your red light on…” Betty and I decided that she would be Roxanne when she was acting like a classy lady, and “Roxie” when she was being the trick-playing, mean-spirited bitch we’d already seen in her. So, for now, Roxie was in the shop, and we had no idea which of her we’d get when she finally came home.

Meanwhile, my favorite old truck, Iron Jack, was in denial. A most horrible thing had suddenly happened in his otherwise very simple and straightforward life. His owner (me) had, without warning, introduced him to his new older sister. She was taller than Jack, stylish and stately, with great lines and an attitude. Her name, he found out later, was Roxanne. His owner (me) had been walking around her, putting new plates on her, touching and cleaning her up, and (ugh!) had been calling her “Roxie.” It was sickening.

After ignoring her for a week, she suddenly disappeared for nearly a month. Jack hoped she was, perhaps, just passing through and might have been sold. No sooner did he feel she was gone for good when she showed up in the driveway again, looking and sounding stronger and finer than ever. By listening very hard to the conversations around the cabin he was able to figure out that a nice chunk of change had been spent on her to replace worn, rusted and broken parts. She now had new bearings, hubs and brakes, all new hoses & brake lines, some new electrical lines, some new gears in the tranny and two new glasspack mufflers. The overdrive had been fixed, a new stereo sparkled in the dash and the engine compartment looked brand new, with a new distributor, coil and air filter. Not to mention the new heater coil that was on the way. It was a nightmare of colossal proportions. Roxanne was now newer, faster and prettier than Jack. He sat quietly in front of the garage, his back to us, in total pain.

“Jack is sad,” Betty said to me one day after Roxie had been back about a week.
“I can tell he feels bad.”

“Oh, I know it. But I don’t know what to do…”

“Maybe we should take him up into the high country. You told me once that’s what he does best… bounce around up there in 4-wheel drive with heavy loads…”

She was right, of course. Iron Jack’s specialty was up in the mountains on tough, rocky roads, with branches scraping past the windshield and his 4 wheels scratching for traction up a steep grade. That was it! We needed to remind him that we love him, that we know the things he does better than any other truck, things he does effortlessly, with strength and confidence… things that Roxie could never do. And that’s exactly what we did.

He didn’t start right away, but finally fired with a sullen roar. I almost said something to him about his attitude, but decided to go easy on him… he’d had a rough time lately. And it had been my fault. So we loaded up the chain saw, Betty and a picnic lunch and headed for the high country in a tentative Iron Jack.

He soon figured out that he was still king of the mountain trails, and he growled with confidence as we started up the rough trail in Linder Gulch. When we put him in 4-wheel drive, that was it… he knew he was still wanted and needed and that no frilly hot rod of a girlie old pickup was going to replace him. He bounced and scratched up through the timber until we came upon a cache of dead fallen that we couldn’t refuse. I sawed it into loadable lengths while Betty loaded it into Iron Jack’s bed.














It couldn’t have taken us more than a half hour there to get a full load. Then we eased on up to the top, had our picnic up there under the trees, and headed on back home. Jack never missed a lick for the rest of the day, and when we got back on the highway he sang up the road to V.C. as if he were empty, rather than loaded to the hilt.

He still stopped in front of the garage with his back to Roxie, but now it was in defiance. He made sure she saw the big load of wood he had carried home, and he wanted us to leave it in there a few days just to make his point. Roxied handled the whole incident much as a Siamese cat would… utter indifference, as if she were primping in a hand mirror and simply couldn’t be bothered. But Iron Jack had made his point.

Later, we got them together and told them both they’d best play nicely if they expected to keep receiving the bennies & perks from their owner (me) that they were getting used to. No words were spoken, but Betty and I think an uneasy truce might have been struck this week.

So far, no backfires, failures to start or sudden antifreeze messes on the floor. There finally seems to be some peace in the valley again. One can only hope.

Steve Hulse

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