Grandfather & the Hurricane

WITH SEPTEMBER BEING THE PEAK OF HURRICANE SEASON I AM REMINDED OF AN
OLD STORY THAT MY GRANDFATHER TOLD ME THAT I AM SURE YOUR READERS WILL
VIEW WITH A SMILE AS WELL AS ABSOLUTE ASTONISHMENT.


MY MOTHERS FATHER, KENNETH HATHCOCK, WAS AROUND 27 YEARS OF AGE IN THE
EARLY THIRTIES WHENEVER HE SECURED A JOB WITH MALBIS BAKERY, IN BALDWIN CO., AS A DRIVER OF AN OLD MODEL T PIE WAGON BREAD TRUCK. FOR MANY YEARS THE FORD MODEL T SERVED OUR COUNTRY WELL AND AS WAS CUSTOMARY IN THAT ERA, MY GRANDFATHER WAS A RATHER GOOD MECHANIC. ONE SEPTEMBER, I BELIEVE IN THE 1930 TO 1934 ERA, MY GRANDFATHER HAD ARRIVED AT MALBIS AROUND 3 AM, TO LOAD HIS TRUCK WITH BREAD SO THAT HE COULD START OUT FOR MOBILE TO DELIVER HIS FRESH CARGO.

ON THIS PARTICULAR DARK MORNING IT WAS RAINING HEAVILY AS MY GRANDFATHER STRUCK OUT FOR MOBILE DOWN HIGHWAY 90 THROUGH SPANISH FORT AND ONTO THE NOT SO OLD CAUSEWAY, (WHICH I BELIEVE WAS FINISHED IN 1926). WHEN MY GRANDFATHER GOT TO SPANISH FORT A STATE TROOPER HAD HIS PATROL CAR BLOCKING THE ROAD AT THE TOP OF THE HILL AT THE EDGE OF THE BLUFF OVERLOOKING MOBILE BAY. THE TROOPER WAS WEARING A RAINCOAT AND HAT IN THE SEVERE RAINSTORM AND TOLD MY GRANDFATHER THAT THE CAUSEWAY WAS CLOSED TO TRAFFIC BECAUSE A HURRICANE WAS COMING AND THE TIDE WAS ALREADY OVER THE CAUSEWAY. WELL, IT IS GOOD FOR THE READER TO REALIZE THAT THIS WAS THE HEART OF THE DEPRESSION WHICH WAS AS DARK AS THE SKY THAT MORNING. NATURALLY MY GRANDFATHER TOOK HIS JOB VERY SERIOUSLY BECAUSE JOBS WERE MORE SCARCE THAN THOSE PROVERBIAL HENS TEETH. HE ADVISED THE OFFICER THAT THE BREAD MUST GO THROUGH. PERHAPS MY GRANDFATHER CONSIDERED HIMSELF A CANADIAN MOUNTIE (SMILE). FINALLY AFTER A CONSIDERABLY FORCEFUL TETE-A-TETE, MY GRANDFATHER GOT THE OFFICER TO AGREE TO LET HIM GO DOWN THE HILL TO TAKE A LOOK. MY GRANDFATHER ALSO SAID THAT THE LAST THING THE OFFICER SAID WAS "IF YOU GO, YOU GO AT YOUR OWN RISK." MY GRANDFATHER, WHO COULD HAVE BEEN APTLY NAMED MR. SPUNKY, MOTORED DOWN THAT HILL ONTO THE SUBMERGED CAUSEWAY. FOR THOSE READERS WHO DO NOT KNOW, ROADS ARE BUILT CONE SHAPED, THAT IS, THEY PEAK IN THE MIDDLE AND ARE INCHES LOWER ON THE OUTSIDE EDGES SO THAT RAINWATER WILL IMMEDIATELY FLOW TO THE SIDE. WELL, HIS YOUTHFUL EYES WERE ABLE TO SEE THAT EVEN THOUGH THE CAUSEWAY WAS UNDER WATER, THE RHYTHM OF WAVES ALLOWED HIM TO SEE THE CENTER LINE ON THE BACKSIDE OF THE LAPPING WAVES SO HE STRADDLED THE CENTER LINE AND ADVANCED HIS DAILY CARGO INTO THAT BLACK ABYSS. FOR THOSE READERS WHO DO NOT KNOW, THE MODEL T PIE WAGON HAS NO DOORS AND MY GRANDFATHER SAID THAT IT SEEMED THE RAIN WAS BEING BLOWN HEAVILY FROM LEFT TO RIGHT AND UNLESS IT SLOWED DOWN, IT WOULD NEVER FALL TO EARTH'S SURFACE. IN FACT, HE SAID THAT EVEN THOUGH HE HAD BEEN PREPARED BY HAVING GALOSHES WITH RAINCOAT AND HAT, THE FORCE OF THE RAIN FLOWING THROUGH THE CAB OF THE TRUCK THAT NIGHT HAD HIM SOAKED. WELL, BEING SOAKED WAS THE LEAST OF THIS WAYFARERS WOES. FOR THOSE OF YOUR READERS THAT REMEMBER MODEL Ts OR WHO HAVE SEEN SAME IN CAR SHOWS, THE HOOD ON MODEL Ts HAS LOUVERS ON THE SIDE TO ALLOW AIR TO CIRCULATE AND HELP COOL THE MOTOR. THE TRUCK, TRAVELING AS SLOW AS IT WAS, NOW HAD WATER FLOWING THROUGH THE ENGINE COMPARTMENT AND, AS CAN BE EASILY IMAGINED, IT DROWNED OUT THAT OLD FORD HALF WAY ACROSS THE CAUSEWAY. MR. HATHCOCK WAS RESOURCEFUL AND THE FETTERED ENGINE WAS ONLY A MINOR SET BACK, SO IT SEEMED. THE READER WILL RECALL THAT THE RAIN WAS BLOWING FROM THE BAY AND GULF SIDE, LEFT TO RIGHT. AGAIN, IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE TECHNOLOGY IN THAT DAY ALLOWED THE HOOD ON A MODEL T TO BE OPENED FROM EITHER SIDE. THUS, MY GRANDFATHER SLID ACROSS THE SEAT AND WENT TO THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BREAD TRUCK AND LIFTED THE HOOD ON THE RIGHT SIDE SO THAT THE LEAST AMOUNT OF RAIN WOULD BE BLOWN INTO THE ENGINE COMPARTMENT. SINCE MOST MEN IN THAT ERA WORKED ON THEIR OWN CARS,
MY GRANDFATHER WAS A GREAT MECHANIC IN HIS DAY. HIS DIAGNOSIS WAS IMMEDIATE AND SIMPLE. THE BLINDING RAIN HAD WETTED THE DISTRIBUTOR AND
GROUNDED OUT THE POINTS. THE SOLUTION WAS EQUALLY SIMPLE, DRY OFF THE
POINTS. BUT ALAS, WHERE DOES ONE FIND ANYTHING DRY ENOUGH IN THIS OCEAN OF FLYING WATER? ONCE AGAIN, TO MY GRANDFATHER THE SOLUTION WAS SIMPLE. THE ONLY GARMENT ON HIS BODY THAT WAS DRY ENOUGH TO PERFORM THE NEEDED TASK AT HAND COULD BE FOUND INSIDE HIS BOOTS i.e. HIS SOCKS. HOWEVER, CONSIDER THE TASK OF REMOVING SAME IN THIS HORRENDOUS CASCADE OF WATER THAT WOULD DRENCH ANYTHING INSTANTLY. ALAS, NO WEAK LINK IN THE CHAIN OF LOGIC THAT MY GRANDFATHER WAS USING COULD BE FOUND BECAUSE, HERE AGAIN, THE SOLUTION WAS SIMPLE TO THIS RATHER PRAGMATIC YOUNG MAN. FIRST, MY GRANDFATHER PUT HIS LEFT FOOT ON THE RUNNING BOARD, GRABBED THE WINDSHIELD FRAME WITH BOTH HANDS AND LIFTED HIS RIGHT LEG OVER THE RIGHT FRONT FENDER INTO THE ENGINE COMPARTMENT. THE HOOD PROVIDED ENOUGH PROTECTION THAT HE WAS ABLE TO TAKE OFF HIS BOOT AND SOCK, DRY OFF THE POINTS, REPLACE THE DISTRIBUTOR CAP AND START THE ENGINE. I BELIEVE MANY OF THE LATE MODEL Ts HAD STARTERS BUT I ALSO BELIEVE THEY WERE ALL EQUIPPED WITH HAND CRANKS SO I APOLOGIZE TO THE READERS FOR NOT ASKING MY ANCESTOR IF HE HAD TO HAND CRANK THE ENGINE BUT HERE IS WHERE OUR STORY FINDS THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF THIS INCREDIBLE TREK. SAID PIE WAGON STARTED, SPITTED, SPUTTERED AND LURCHED BUT IT SOON FOUND THAT BEAUTIFUL RHYTHM TO RUN NORMALLY AND CROSS THE OLD SUSPENDED STEEL BRIDGE PAST ARGIRO'S (?), FINISHED TRAVERSING THE CAUSEWAY AND WENT OVER THE OLD COCHRAN BRIDGE. MY GRANDFATHER SAID THAT NO ONE COMPLAINED OF THEIR BREAD BEING LATE.

DEAR READERS, DON'T YOU EVER TRY A TREK LIKE THIS ONE TOLD HEREIN. I WOULD
NOT RECOMMEND SUCH FOR ANYONE BUT THIS IS HOW THE STORY WAS RELATED TO ME AND I AM VERY PLEASED TO PASS IT ON. WE ARE NOW LESS THAN ONE YEAR AWAY FROM THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF HURRICANE FREDERICK. BE SAFE. BE HAPPY.

09-04-03

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