“God takes care of fools and little children!”
The year was about 1990 and I wore a younger man’s clothes. The local boy scout troop was in need of a fundraiser. Jack Algeo, what was involved with the scouts for years, agreed to donate a bunch of Christmas trees to the cause. The problem was the trees were growing in a patch in far northern New Hampshire. He asked me if I could help getting a truck capable of bringing them to Litchfield for sale. I asked local farmer and town police chief David Campbell if we could use one of his trucks. He agreed. I then approached Will Jewett to be my partner in getting the trees. (Thank goodness I did.) I think the vintage of the truck was of the fifties or sixties. That suited me fine because that old truck reminded me of the trucks I drove during my youth on the farm in the Midwest. David reminded me the truck had a few “issues” including the fact that the gas gauge did not work. That didn’t bother me. So Will and I set out early one morning in David’s ancient box truck. The trip north was uneventful but seemed to take forever. Jack’s patch was up near the Canadian border. As we neared our destination town, we had to go down a long sloping hill. At the bottom of the hill railroad tracks crossed the road at a major intersection with traffic signals. About halfway down the hill I put on the brakes to slow down the truck. The brake pedal went to the floor….WE HAD NO BRAKES! I said to Will, “We don’t have a bit of a brake!” Never to be rattled, Will
said, “Well, you better start shifting down!” So I did. Now that old truck didn’t have a tachometer, but if it did I’m quite certain it would have hit the redline. I went from fourth to third to second to first, but it became obvious we were not going to stop. There was no train, but our light was red. There was traffic crossing in front. At the last possible moment the light changed to green and we skated through the intersection at about twenty five miles per hour. When we were finally able to stop I pulled over and Will crawled under the truck. He found a broken brake line….and we had lost all our brake fluid! Jack’s field of trees was just ahead. My heart was in my throat as we gingerly nursed the truck toward our destination. We pulled into a shop along the way to see if they could fix the truck. They couldn’t right then so Will asked if he could borrow some tools. Now if you never met Will you probably wouldn’t understand, but he had the face and demeanor of a man who anyone could trust. He promised to bring them back in a couple of hours. The owner agreed to lend him the tools he needed. We tiptoed on very carefully to the field. When we pulled in we met Jack with a bunch of scouts. They had been busy cutting trees for us. As Jack, his son Patrick, and the other scouts and I loaded the truck Will crawled under the truck and began to work on the brakes. Will was an old man even then, but was so capable. He had spent a twenty plus year career in the Navy fixing things aboard ship. We loaded about forty Christmas trees in the truck. By the time we got loaded, Will had the brakes
fixed and was ready to bleed the brakes. In no time we were able to get started with brakes. We returned the tools, thanked the owner (Will gave him a couple trees for his trouble), and headed south.
The trip home was pretty uneventful. I couldn’t help myself from trying the brakes every so often just to reassure myself. When we arrived back in town, Will’s wife, Pat Jewett, when told of our odyssey said, “God takes care of fools and little children!” Will and I delivered the load of trees to the scouts who set up shop at the Middle School circle. There was a Women’s Club function going on in the cafeteria and they did a booming business. At the end of the day they had about a half dozen trees left over. Since Pat was the Selectman in charge of welfare, she gave us a list of needy families in town who couldn’t afford a Christmas tree. That evening we set out to deliver the leftover trees to those families. In all the hubbub of the brakes, I had forgotten all about the gas gauge that didn’t work and hadn’t filled the tank. You guessed it….we ran out of gas….right on Rte. 3A (Charles Bancroft Highway) in front of Dick Jefferson’s house (some know it as the Pelkey house). When told of our plight, Dick said he had a can in the barn with gas. I poured it in the tank. The old truck fired to life and we continued on our errand. The truck ran fine, but it smoked like a WWII destroyer putting out a smoke screen. Apparently Dick’s gas can was filled with chain saw gas mixed with two cycle oil. So all the while we were delivering the trees the truck was smoking to beat the band. We left a smoky trail everywhere we went! Well, we got the trees delivered to the thankful families. The next day I drove and got a tank of good gas and the truck was back to normal. When I took it back to David, he just smiled and with a twinkle in his eye thanked Will for fixing his brakes!
We have lost Will, David, and Dick but Jack and I are still around here in town.
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