In my travels, I often come across old rusting wrecks of “steel” sitting proudly in the front yard of people I will never meet. The prominence of placement often echos a sad story of remembrance, hoping to be forgotten, but too painful to let go. Each seemingly tells a story of a long past important story or event, asking the world outside to also remember. It is as these old wrecks are offered as trophy’s or monument to the world. “This is my badge. I wear it, as much as in honor as in pain. Here is my proof. Here is my story”. As I ride by, each begs it’s story to be told to all who would stop. I am one who listened as the rust spoke. These are the stories each forgotten piece of iron has told me as I capture their imagery.
“On the pipeline, young boys were forged, by the hammers they wielded, into men of steel”
Most of us were just regular fella’s from across this great land. Soldiers, cowboys, city folk, plow hands, sailors. I had come from the shipyards in Hamburg, with Frederick, my younger brother. I was both strong and skilled with a hammer, capable of leading men to the task. Frederich would have to learn. It was 1907, and we were looking for opportunity, any opportunity, wherever we could find it. Men of all ages came by the hundreds to pound plates of iron into pipes, that would carry water from the mountains to some far off growing city they called Los Angeles. They said it couldn’t be done. Many of us had just come from the old country. We didn’t quite understand his words, but we knew what he wanted. We knew it would be hard. We knew we could build his pipeline. He asked for our backs, we gave him our lives.
We toiled for twelve hours a day, six days a week, for five long years, most often in the hot sun, bare backs, sweating, burned, and always thirsty. Blisters and sore muscles were standard fare, especially for the tenderfoot. We knew the task we were entrusted to complete, brought life to the city many of us would soon call home, so we worked on, through the pain and fatigue wielding a ten pound hammer would bring daily. The dream of fame and riches for the men who would bring life to a parched earth, kept us going, but I knew, some would never survive this grueling feat of engineering, he said would be the greatest man-made wonder of the modern world. It didn’t matter, I had a task to complete. I gave him my word. The pipeline would be completed, on time…
That very next year, I laid my brother to rest in the shadows of Mulholland’s pipeline. He would have been fifteen.
Oh…if it’s the truck you’re interested in, it’s not for sale. What? Just a photo. No harm I suppose. That’ll be OK. Just don’t climb inside or nothin’.
It was my pops. ‘34 Chevy ton and a half. Biggest damn hauler in town…..at the time. It was the first “new” truck in these parts, cause of the depression and all. Well it was ‘bout six or seven years old when he bought it from a lady down in Lewiston. Her husband got killed at the mill down in Bovill. It’s the other side of town. It’s closed now. I worked there myself, thirty-five years. My pop got it real cheap since nobody had any money back then. He’d only drove it a year before he went off to the war. WWII! The big one. Fought the Jap’s. Before that he was the only hauler in town. Carried just about anything up from Lewiston. Even hauled a bunch of military hardware for the navy, to some lake up north. After the war I found out they were doing submarine testing up there. Real top secret stuff. Right after that dad shipped off. I guess that’s why dad joined the navy, cause he was already workin’ for em. Naw, dad never came home. He was killed at Midway.
I never even met him. Mom was pregnant with me when he left. Mom told me how he loved driving that truck, so I kept it, made me feel kinda close to him. When I was a kid, I used to sit inside and talk to him ‘bout all sorts of stuff. Dad and son stuff. Drove it myself for a couple of years, after I grew up, you know ….just for fun. Not too much cause of how old she was by then.
When I had my boy, I figured we’d fix her up, you know, just for fun. We started on the engine when he was just seventeen, and then one god damn day, my kid, he goes and joins the “God damn Marines.” I was so pissed, cause of how my dad died and such. I didn’t even say goodbye when he shipped off. Six months later he goes MIA in Nam. That was back in ‘68. The day they came by to let me know, I just pulled her out of the garage and parked her there so he’d know he was welcome home. To let him know I still loved him. You know, to say I’m sorry. It’s been there ever since. I’d figure to move the damn thing when he came home cause it’s such an eyesore. Piece of junk just sitting there in my front yard. They never found him.
No……it’s not for sale. My son and I are gonna fix it up… when he comes home.
“For darn near forty years, I drove that ole Ford to an from the Canyon… delivering supplies an fixins’ for all them city slickers that come up to the rim to take a gander over the edge. The Canyon…The Grand Canyon. It’s deeper from this side, and higher up the hill, long way to drive four times a week. Aahh, I don’t know, I guess I carried all kinds of loads; bread, tires, tried ice once. That didn’t work. Showed up with water. Hauled up eight trunks fulla hell who know what, for some Hollywood big-shot and his little blonde mistress so they could see the canyon one night! She was some looker. Think her name was Eva. Then one day she just quit…the Ford I mean. I had to tow her down myself cause no one would even try since she was so darn heavy. She’s a big-un that ford, bigger than the tow-mater down at the garage that showed up to pull her home. Cost me fifty bucks, Jez..us, to get him up on the hill, an he couldn’t even pull her out. I hadta rent one of them big rig haulers from over in St. George to get her. This is where I dropped her. She’s been here ever since. I just couldn’t give her up to the scrap yard, not after all them years. She took care of me, many a times. saved my life morn’ once. I just couldn’t let her go. No…I don’t drive Fords any more, kinda like and old girl friend I use to have. Redhead! I never dated a redhead again either…you just don’t go back….ever!” Not to Ford, not to redheads. If they ever let you down…Nope. Never married. Why’d you ask?