Deeply Moved By Texan Hospitality
Four of us, English students, bought a rusty 1955 Chevy station wagon to take us around North America in our summer vacation back in 1962. David and Fiona found it in Boston and knew it had some handicaps, but the price was right. The floor behind the driver’s seat had rusted through so we could see the road until we put a piece of plywood and newspaper over the hole.
We knew the brakes needed relining, but since we only wanted to use it for a month, we decided to use the gears to slow down unless it was an emergency situation. Three of us remembered, and would call out in unison “Feeohna” when the 4th forgot.
The car had a few other quirks which we discovered during our 11,000 mile trip as we spent 5 full days in repair shops. We had 4 punctures and 3 blowouts, but only ever bought retreads.2 of us would hitch a ride to the nearest town taking a tire in need of repair or replacement leaving the other 2 by the roadside with the car. We all became expert in changing tires.
Deeply Moved By Texan Hospitality.
The car burned a lot of oil. We had to stop twice as often to fill up with oil as with gas. So, when we saw a Montgomery Wards just off the highway near Detroit, we bought 4 drums of oil we heaved up and tied on to the roof rack. When we reached Gary, Indiana we stopped at a shopping mall where Sears were having a sale on oil, so we returned 3 drums to Wards, and went across the Mall to buy 3 from Sears at half the price.
The most memorable of all the repairs occurred when we were approaching Wichita Falls in Texas. We had a wheel bearing in need of replacement, and with the grinding noise we slowed to a crawl on the main Interstate. It was overheating and every few miles we would get out and throw water on it to cool it. When the water hit the wheel, it would evaporate immediately with a loud “SHSHSH” and we would stand back to escape the steam.
We were concerned we might run out of water before we got to a garage. About the third time we stopped, we were joined by a broad-shouldered Texan wearing a wide-brimmed Stetson and brown leather pointed steel-toe cowboy boots. He had pulled his sizable white truck on to the shoulder in front of our car when he saw us.
We were concerned we might run out of water before we got to a garage.
He tipped his hat as he leant froward to see what we were looking at.
“Can I help?” He offered.
He did help, a great deal. He ended up towing us to Wichita Falls which was further than we had anticipated. David and Fiona joined him in his truck leaving Mark and I to stay in the car.
We landed up at his one acre lot, which had a variety of vehicles, boats on trailers and motorhomes scattered around it. His job was to re-possess vehicles for banks when the owners had defaulted on their loans. He stored them on his property until they were sold or he took them to an auction. His house was very small, probably less than 700 square feet, but he told us he could put us up for the night in a long, long trailer. He wouldn’t hear of us camping in our tent or sleeping in the car.
He unhooked our car and, even though dusk was quickly turning to night, suggested we go to find replacement parts in a junk yard tonight. At the first, the owner was just locking up and seemed annoyed when our friend asked, “You got a back axle for a ’55 Chevy wagon?”
It rained heavily in the night, huge raindrops characteristic of Texas where everything is larger than anywhere else.
I don’t think he would have admitted it if he had one. The second place was already locked up with no outside light. Hank rapped loudly on the door. An upstairs window was thrown open and an irate man put his head out and said he would call the police if we didn’t get off his property.
So we retreated and agreed to try again in the morning. We went to bed that night in more luxurious surroundings than our sleeping bags had seen before. We had 2 bedrooms and a living room in the trailer. It rained heavily in the night, huge raindrops characteristic of Texas where everything is larger than anywhere else. We emerged into a sea of red mud and thanked Hank for saving us from camping. He had gone out early, returning with sweet rolls for all of us for breakfast, after which we all climbed into his truck to do the rounds of junk yards. All the time, the rain came down in buckets.
We would hear the question, “You got a back axle for a ’55 Chevy wagon?”often. He told us he would tow our disabled car to a shop where his friend would be able to just “tap it out” and replace it with the secondhand one he was sure we would find. Eventually, we did and headed over to his friend’s place. Fortunately, he was not too busy to work on the job right away, but we had driven it too long and pretty well welded the old axle and wheel bearing together, so “tapping it out” took many hours using heavy-duty muscle power.
Deeply Moved By Texan Hospitality.
Hank was so concerned to see us taken care of, that he insisted on taking us everywhere and remaining until the job was completed, and he judged we would be safe. We paid for the part and the labor for replacing it, but Hank refused to let us pay him for all the time and trouble he had taken.
“It has been my pleasure to help some English kids.” he said.
We found out what Texan hospitality meant and were truly grateful for it.