This has sure become  a complicated world. If your car or truck won’t start and you have amps in your battery to turn over the engine, don’t bother to lift the hood. There is nothing under there that you can simply fix. Call the tow truck and take it to a computer for analysis to even tell what needs to be done.
We used to tune-up cars with screw drivers, pliers and a thin metal gauge. Of course we put in new spark plugs about every 15-20,000 miles, today they go for the life of the car.
I once sold a brood mare, a colt and a saddle horse and borrowed a one-ton truck from a friend to deliver them. En route from Winslow to Pea Ridge, I blew a spark plug out of the engine around Lowell. It sounded like I’d thrown a rod and my heart stopped. 'Why, it would take all those horses bought and more to get him a new engine,' I thought.
Hood up, I discovered the missing plug. I set out on foot to the auto parts place up the road. I bought a new plug, had it gapped, and with a borrowed socket set, was feeling very relieved and was back on the road in no time. So the horses were delivered, and I returned the truck intact.
My friend after that carried a socket and some extra plugs in the glove box; lucky for him 'cause it did it to him later too, of course it was on some isolated road at night… those were the pre-cell phone years.
My partner and I had a 1950 Dodge one-ton truck we hauled hay, cattle and livestock in. Nothing fancy, it was over 10 years old with a noisy straight pipe. Along with my brother-in-law we’d gone to a sale in Alma looking for some rough calves to summer. There used to be lots of them, folks would get them weaned and taken to the auction. Most were part dairy crosses, some straight dairy. Never mind the breeding, we wanted cheap ones to turn out on grass.
 Coming up Old 71, before you get to Mountain Gaylor the highway is steep. That trip something fell off our calf-loaded truck going up… so we stopped, used rocks to block the wheels and one of us walked back and fetched a generator. We soon discovered it had come from our truck. The expender deal that set the tightness had broken, and the screws fell out.
Lucky for us, there were some nuts and bolts and pliers in the glove box. So the generator was soon back in place, but how to keep the tension on the fan belt and make it home was our next problem. My brother-in-law experimented with some green hickory until he had the size thick enough to wedge in two pieces, each in a U-shape between the block and the unit, and keep the fan belt turning.  We drove on to the ranch without a hitch.
In the late summer of 1960, my partner Monty Smith and I were in northwest Arkansas looking for school teaching jobs so we could live on the ranch. Anyone who graduated college could teach school in those days. We talked to several school superintendents and found no encouragement, so we decided we’d go back to Arizona and work construction until the following spring.
 We drove a  nice four-year-old Ford pickup, that was tuned to a tea, new brakes, good nylon tires. So when the starter went out we stopped at an auto parts store in Fayetteville and I went in to price one. He wanted $30 for it. I told him I could buy one rebuilt in Phoenix for $4. He said 'you aren’t in Phoenix.' How true.
So we simply parked it on a high place, put 'er in gear,  pressed in the clutch and zoom, it started when it started to roll. We did just fine until somewhere out on Highway 66. We pulled off down in a service station and shut off the engine. Gas was 49 cents per gallon – average price elsewhere was 29 cents. We filled up, paid him and asked him for a push. He said that would be $5.  I said I had $5. He gave us a small push, the truck started and we left.
Someone asked me, 'what if the truck had died?' I’d probably have had to pay him after the fight. By the way, Huntsville did call us back to teach and that’s why I taught some of you all's grandfathers and grandmothers in school. Life sure was a lot less complicated back then.
Hey, get a copy of my latest novel, “The Sundown Chaser” on sale now.  And I sure hope you’re getting some hay put up.
Western novelist Dusty Richards and his wife Pat live on Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas. For more information about his books you can email Dusty by visiting and clicking on 'Contact Us' or call 1-866-532-1960.


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