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Thread: The Wanderer

  1. #226
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    Mrs. Murphy walked out into the driveway with Carl and Emma, peered under the huge Suburban, and let out a gasp. There was an enormous puddle of goop covering the driveway all the way down to the street. And the stench was awesome!
    Emma started moving small items out of the Suburban into the Bronco, while Mrs. Murphy stared dumbly at the brooding bulk of The Whale and the slimy driveway. A loud bang startled Mrs. Murphy out of her near-stupor. Emma came out of The Whale, coughing and gagging, with smoke pouring out after her. "Cough. Wheez. Gag. Darned microwave blew up again. All I did was brush up against the door. But don't worry, I put the fire out.
    Oh well, at least the fire isn't as bad as when the air condi¬ tioning unit melts down. Then it smells like someone set a wet goat on fire."
    Mrs. Murphy backed up a few feet and nervously eyed the thick smoke filling up the interior of The Whale. "Uh, say you folks wouldn't want to buy this... uhh... thing back, would you? I mean for a real good price?" Carl started to speak and Emma gave him a sharp elbow to the ribs. "No thanks, dear. We don't have much money left since we've owned The Whale. But we might trade you a few things for it."
    Mrs. Murphy looked relieved beyond words. "Yes, yes... I mean, what do you have?" Emma furled her brow and pushed her glasses higher up on her nose. "Well, Carl has a nice collection of guns and fishing gear. I suppose we could give you that. It must be worth thousands." Carl wanted to protest loudly, but Emma had a section of fat on his side grasped firmly in her hand, and she was twisting it. The more he tried to talk, the more Emma twisted. Since her hand was behind her back, Mrs. Murphy did not notice.
    But she certainly was ready get rid of The Whale. "I'll take it! The guns and the fishing rods, that is. Just lean them against the garage door and I'll get that title back for you."
    While Mrs. Murphy hustled off to the house, Carl and Emma unloaded the six shot-guns, four 22s and the elephant gun, and leaned them against the garage. Next, 17 fishing rods, varying in length, joined the guns. A small tear coursed down Carl’s cheek. "What the... how did you... I mean..."
    Emma noticed Mrs. Murphy coming back, title in hand, and snapped, "Hush up! I'll explain everything later!"
    ***
    One hour later, Carl and Emma were sitting in a small country bar, north of Vegas. Carl had slammed down three quick long-necked Buds before he could even bring himself to speak. "Ya know, Emma... I'm more than a little bit ticked off that you traded my guns and fishin' stuff, but I guess if we got The Whale back, it's worth it. But what I don't understand is how you got The Whale to leak oil and spit smoke out?"
    Emma crinkled her mouth up into an evil little smile. "Easy. I pulled the dump handle on the toilet on the way in to her house. It's a good thing, too. That thing hadn't been emptied for the better part of a month."
    Carl still looked confused. "But how did you make the micro-wave oven catch on fire?"
    "Easy as pie. I put a stack of your World Wrestling Federa¬ tion magazines on the stove and turned the flame on." "What! You burned my WWF magazines? I hope you didn't burn the April issue with the story on Jake the Snake Roberts." "Carl, they're all gone. Even the April issue. They were the only things handy, and we did manage to get The Whale back, so just back off, buster!"
    Carl was quiet for a while, the silence broken only by the sound of him eating two bags of BBQ chips, a half dozen pickled eggs, four Slim Jim sausages and a bowl of peanuts. Carl sighed, then brightened. "Well, at least this means that we not only got The Whale back, we can sell the new Bronco and we're big money ahead. Somebody out there probably wants a Ford, right?"
    Emma clenched her tiny fists. "Yes. This somebody. I like this Bronco and I think I'd like to drive it around for a while. So why don't you just drive your precious old Whale around behind my shiny new Bronco for a while. Or better yet, sell it and have a passenger seat in my Ford."
    ***
    What's this? Mutiny? Could it be that Emma just got a real dose of Womens Lib? Will they be wandering separate, but equal, from now on? Things are getting confusing, but with any luck at all, we stand a chance or sorting things out next month. Maybe.
    This too shall pass
    on a tow truck

  2. #227
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    ORC NOVEMBER 2000 THE WANDERERS



    HEADLINE: THE WANDERERS

    SUBHEAD: THE WHALE MEETS THE PINK FLAMINGO

    BYLINE: BY RICK SIEMAN







    Carl and Emma live the good life. Carl, a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer, drives a huge 4WD Suburban all over the country to explore off-roading areas. The Suburban, nick-named The Whale, is loaded to the max with every goody known to man. Emma, a very patient lady, tries to keep the short-fused Carl out of as much trouble as possible.

    ***

    When we last left them in Las Vegas, Carl had lost the title to The Whale in a high stakes poker game to a little white-haired old lady. Then Emma saved the day by winning a new Ford Bronco on the Big Bertha slot machine. Somehow, they managed to wangle The Whale out of the little old lady , mostly due to cleverness on the part of Emma.

    At this point, Carl was ecstatic and figured they’d just sell the Bronco and party-hearty with the extra money. But Emma had other ideas. We join them now, as their little “discussion” takes place:

    Carl was very red in the face, but kept his voice low and even. “Emma, now you listen up. Howzit gonna look if we’re wanderin’ all over the place, and I’m drivin’ The Whale and you’re behind me in a — dare I say it? — a Ford Bronco?”

    Emma clicked her purse shut rather firmly. “Simple. It’ll look like a Ford and a Chevy, rolling down the road. I think it happens all the time in this country, and very few riots are caused by the sight. Now, quit fuming and let’s get over to that Ford dealer so I can pick out my new Bronco.”

    ***

    Twenty minutes later, Carl pulled The Whale into the dealer*ship parking lot. A broad-smiled salesman came out of the office and ambled over. “Hideedoo there. I see you folks are here to take advantage of our Beater Truck Deal.”

    Carl looked puzzled. “Beater Deal? What’s that?”

    “Why, that’s where we give you a thousand bucks for any Beater Truck that you bring in. Push it in, drag it in, drive it in. We don’t care how it gets here, but we’ll give you a cool thou*sand dollars for it when you buy a new Ford truck. Boy, that sure is one strange looking GMC.”

    Carl clenched his fists and his nostrils flared. “GMC? Why, you pinhead, this here’s a Chevy!”

    The salesman smiled even broader. “ Hey, big guy. ‘Scuse me. I stand corrected. That is one strange looking Chevy. But no matter. We’ll still give you the Beater Truck Big Bucks Deal.”

    Carl took a deep breath and a large vein started to throb in his neck. Wisely, Emma cut in. “Oh, no. We’re not here to sell our Suburban; we’re the winners of the new Ford Bronco from the Whacky Cactus Casino. We’re here to pick it up.”

    The salesman kept his smile locked in place. “Hey, great. Let me take you folks over to new truck sales, and you can have your choice. But when you get your new Bronco, you sure won’t want that old pile any more. Lemme take a look at it, and see if we can give you close to low Blue Book on it. What year is it, anyway? A ‘74 or ‘75?”

    Carl’s eyes widened. “What! It’s a 1992 model! And it’s in perfect shape!”

    The salesman smiled even wider. Emma thought his face was going to crack in half. “Perfect? Well, let’s take a look. We just love to have good solid trade-ins. There’s always a market for used trucks and sports-utility rigs, even if they’re not Fords.”

    The salesman walked around The Whale, kicked the tires and peered inside. “Hmmm. Not too bad. Lottsa junk hanging all over it, but that can be taken off. Mileage is in the ball park, and all that camping stuff inside might appeal to someone who can’t afford a VW Westphalia. So if we take those big dumb tires off, put some stock rubber on, we might be able to move it. Tell you what... I can let you have $4400, tops. That cash on the spot, big fella. And I’d be taking a beating on the deal, but we do this kind of stuff just to keep our customers happy. So, whad*daya say?”

    Carl just stood there like a statue, virtually stunned into immobility. His jaw hung open and a fly landed on his lip. Emma sighed. “Carl, close your mouth. You’re drawing flies. Now let’s follow this nice man to where the new Broncos are. If you want to sell your funky old Suburban, you can do it later on, after I get my Bronco.”

    Carl followed Emma and the ever-smiling salesman to the new truck showroom with all the enthusiasm of a man going to the electric chair with wet shorts on.

    ***

    The showroom was massive, and a triple line of new trucks and sports utilities were there to dazzle and titillate customers. Emma walked around the Broncos like a child in a toy store, eyes gleaming, hands trailing over fenders and hoods.

    “Ooooh! I think I’ll take this blue one. No, that metallic green one looks even better! No, wait a minute, that black one with the dark blue trim is gorgeous! Wait, I changed my mind!!! I just have to sit inside that tan-colored beauty over there.”

    The salesman dropped his smile about two notches. “Uhh, that tan one is an Eddie Bauer model, which is our top of the line unit, and unfortunately, those are not part of the casino prize deal. All of the XL models, and there are ten of them here, well, you can have any one of those.”

    Emma opened the door of the tan Eddie Bauer model and clam*bered up inside. “My oh my. This interior is positively magnifi*cent! It’s positively obscene! I love it!!! How much differ*ence would it cost to get an Eddie Bauer model instead of the regular one?”

    The smile on the salesman widened up four notches. Well, now. Let’s whip out the old calculator and see what we can come up with, shall we?”

    With that, the salesman punched buttons madly for a minute, with his brow furrowed, then brightened and showed the display on the hand-held calculator to Emma. “Howzat, little lady? Think we can make a deal here?”

    Emma peered closely at the numbers on the calculator, then shook her head sadly from side to side. “No, our bank account will take a pounding just from paying the taxes on the Bronco, and I don’t think we can afford to pay that much difference. I guess I’ll just have to settle for a regular model instead of the nicer model.”

    Carl snorted. “Hells-fire, woman. It don’t make no never mind. I can’t see a nickels worth of difference between that Teddy Bear model and the regular one. Just get a color you like and let’s get out of here.”

    Emma sighed audibly. “It’s Eddie Bauer, Carl. Not Teddy Bear.”

    The salesman nearly frowned for a moment, then brightened like a light bulb just went on over his head. “Uhhh, miss... I just might have the answer to your problems. I think we have one Eddie Bauer model Bronco that we might be able to let you have, at no additional cost. Let me check with the manager first. By the way, the color is not a real important thing, is it? I’ll be back in just a minute.”

    He scuttled off, and Carl relaxed a bit. “Well, Emma. It looks like you just might get your way here. They probably got some hard-to-move color Bronco, but my advice to you is to just grab it, and get it painted later on.”

    The salesman was back in less than five minutes. During that time, Carl amused himself by spitting little brown wads of tobac*co on the windshields of several of the new trucks.

    “Miss, if you’ll just follow me out back, we’ll show you your new 1992 Bronco Eddie Bauer model.”

    ***

    The trio rounded the rear corner of the building, and Emma let out a gasp. Carl started laughing, and the salesman pretended he was brushing some lint off his jacket sleeve.

    Carl roared. “Hey, Emma. Lookit that! The damned thing is pink. Hooeee! I never in my whole life ever seen a pink truck before. No wonder these geeks couldn’t get rid of it. And look! The inside is all pink, too. Pink carpeting. Pink floormats. Pink seat covers. Wow, what a goofy-looking rig. Hey, how’d you guys ever get a pink truck?”

    The salesman looked embarrassed. “Well, the wife of the owner ordered it while he was out of town. She called the factory and had a special order unit. I have to admit it is a bit differ*ent.”

    Carl hooted. “Different? I’ll say it’s different! Why don’t you just hang a ballet skirt on the roof, and maybe put some doilies on the dash? Hoo hah! And maybe you can hang some frilly curtains around the windows. Hee hee.”

    Emma spun around faster than Carl thought possible and fixed Carl with a genuinely mean stare. “Laugh all you want, Carl, but I’m getting this truck. And I’m not going to change the color. In fact, I love the color.”

    With that, Emma got up inside the bright pink Bronco and wig*gled the steering wheel from side to side, making ‘vroom-vroom’ sounds.

    She leaned out of the window with a bigger smile than the salesman. “Carl? Guess what? I’ve even got a name for my new Bronco, and I think I’ll have it lettered on both sides before we leave Las Vegas. I’m naming my new Bronco “The Pink Flamingo.” Isn’t that wonderful, Carl? We can drive down the roads and the off-roads of life together, with you in The Whale and me in the Pink Flamingo. Carl? Carl? Will you quit banging your head on that new Explorer?”

    ***

    Whoa! What’s this? Dueling sports utilities? It sure looks like it. How will Carl and Emma handle wandering with two rigs, when they could barely cope with one? Strange times ahead!
    This too shall pass
    on a tow truck

  3. #228
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    Let's bring you up to speed on what's been happening. While visiting Las Vegas, Carl lost the title to The Whale in a high-stakes poker game. Emma, in a desperation move, won a brand new Bronco in the Big Bertha slot machine. Then, with a clever ploy, Emma got The Whale back. When they went to pick up their new Bronco, Emma chose a pink one, driving Carl bananas in the process. Not only that, Emma insisted that she wanted to drive her very own Bronco - nick-named The Pink Flamingo - as they wandered around.
    ***
    We join them now as they're fueling up both vehicles and getting ready to head north out of Vegas, and wander in the general direction of Canada.
    Carl screwed both gas caps in the side of The Whale and looked over at Emma, who was still pumping gas. "Hey, woman. How many gallons is that stupid Ford gonna take?"
    Emma whipped out the shiny new owners manual. "Let's see here... I've got the big optional 32 gallon tank, and the salesman said that I've got the 302 fuel injected engine. He says if I cruise properly and avoid jackrabbit starts, I'll get over 20 miles per gallon. That should give me a range of... oh ... 650 to 700 miles. How much gas does The Whale hold, Carl?"
    "Uhh, about 100 gallons."
    Emma smiled sweetly. "And how many miles per gallon does The Whale get, dear?"
    Carl scratched his chin. "Well, when I'm on the gas hard, about 5 1/2 miles per gallon. However, if I just cruise along, mebbe seven or eight."
    Emma shook her head from side to side. "You mean that my ittsy-bittsy Ford gets at least three times the mileage that your big bad Chevy does?"
    Carl got very red in the face, but restrained his comments. "Enough jabbering, woman. Let's take a minute to go over these here radios I got installed in both rigs."
    "Oh, you mean the CBs?"
    "Emma, these here things ain't CB radios. These are the same kind of radios the off-road racers use. They're called FM-business band radios, and they got a whole lot more range. You see, with a CB, you got mebbe 5 or six miles range, line-of-sight. With these here babies, you can sometimes get up to a hunnert miles. These are Unidens, and I bought 'em off of some guy named Radio Bob last summer. Never had no need to use 'em up until now.
    "Now here's the deal. We got all these channels we can get by turnin' a knob, but let's stick to channel one. When you want to talk - or in your case, jabber - then you hold this here button down just like you would on a cheapy CB unit. OK, now I tole you how you're supposed to talk on the radio, so you drive over to the other end of the parking lot and let's run through the drill once before we hit the road."
    Emma gingerly drove her new Bronco over to the far end, and clicked on her shiny black Uniden. Carl clicked his on and thumbed the mike. "This here is The Whale base. Do you copy, dumb butt Ford?"
    There was a little squawk of static. "Well, I'm not going to answer unless you call me by my correct name, Carl. This here is The Pink Flamingo and I'm going to hang up if you don't get some manners."
    Carl groaned. "OK, OK. But pu-leeze, use real radio talk. You don't say 'hang up', you say 'out'. And you don't say 'understand', you say 'I copy'."
    "Okey-dokey, dear. I think I have that straight. Roger, wilco, over and out and copy."
    Carl shook his head slowly from side to side and bit his lip. "Alright, enough of that. Now let's hit the road. I'll git behind you and keep an eye on that stupid Bronco. That way, if a wheel or two falls off, I'll get on the Uniden and contact you. Otherwise, you'd probably just drive all the way to Canada and not even know it. This here's The Whale base, out."
    A giggle came over the radio. "This here is The Pink Flamingo and I'm done talking for now. Roger, wilco, 10-4, copy, over and under. What's your handle, Smokey? Catch you on the flap-jack and the flip-flop. Can we go down the road now, dear? Signing off for now."
    ***
    The duo headed north out of Vegas on Highway 93, with the pink Bronco in front, followed by the giant Suburban. Carl figured this route would be ideal for Emma to get used to her new rig. After all, traffic was almost non-existent, the road flat and smooth and surrounded by sparse desert.
    Carl had to admit that Emma was driving the Bronco smoothly. But then, how could you not be driving smoothly when the truck was sailing along at a majestic 38 miles per hour?
    Carl got on the Uniden. "Emma? Do you think that maybe you could speed it up just a little bit? Or are you drafting a butterfly that I can't see?"
    "Well, if you insist. Let me see... the speed limit is 55. I'll go 45. Will that be OK, dear?"
    Carl got very, very red in the face and spit a wad of tobacco juice out before he answered. He possibly should have considered rolling the window down before he spit. A large brownish stain splattered over the glass and down the upholstery. Carl swore some truly awful Navy curses.
    Emma clicked on the radio again. "Carl? Do you think you should talk like that over the radio? I mean, you could be violating some sort of AFL-CIO rule or regulation."
    Carl groaned. "You mean FCC regulations, Emma. Now just shut up for a minute while I clean up a mess. And while you're at it, get that gawd-awful stupid Ford up to speed. Do like I do; go exactly three miles per hour over the speed limit. No cop will pull you over for that."
    Emma came back. "Oh, I couldn't do that! Maybe you can break the speeding laws and sleep at night, but not me. I'm going to drive at exactly three miles under the speed limit, to play it safe."
    Carl nearly swallowed his chew, but managed to stifle a retort. True to her word, Emma accelerated the pink Bronco up to exactly 52 miles per hour. Emma assumed the classic position of the terrified woman driver: shoulders scrunched over, nose next to the wheel, arms tucked close to the torso and a white-knuckle death grip on the steering wheel.
    ***
    The Wanderers planned to take a wandering (what else?) route northward, and cut off to the west on highway 375, heading through the Penoyer Valley. They peeled off northeast and spent a half-day in the Humboldt National Forest. That night, Emma left her Bronco and slept in The Whale at the top of the Quinn Canyon Range.
    They caught 379 north the next morning and headed toward the Old Mining Camp at Eureka. Like most tourists, they bought some souvenirs. Carl bought a plaque that had a trout being caught at the Fish Creek Range that was bigger than the boat. Emma bought a pillow that said 'I'VE BEEN TO PANCAKE SUMMIT'.
    Keeping to the side roads, they took 278 north, then darted left to Cortez Ghost Town. From there, the headed north and caught Highway 80 heading to Winnemucca. Carl and Emma figured they'd catch a motel there and stretch their limbs a bit.
    This too shall pass
    on a tow truck

  4. #229
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    While stopping for food, Carl talked Emma into picking up the pace a bit. "You know Emma, you are pretty much driving me nuts. I simply cannot drive at about the same speed as a lawn mower. Please get it up to at least 70, or I will make you park that stupid Ford and get inside a real truck with me. By the way, Emma, do you know what FORD stands for?"
    Emma looked puzzled. "Why, I thought it was just named after Elvis Ford."
    Carl snorted. "You mean Edsel Ford. But, no, the letters FORD stands for Found On Road Dead. Or somebody else said it means Fix Or Repair Daily. Haw, haw! Get it?"
    Emma folded her arms over her chest. "Well, you can make all the fun you want to. This is my truck and that one is yours. Now let's hit the road, fat boy, and watch out I don't ram you!"
    They hit the road, Carl in front driving The Whale, with Emma discreetly placed behind him. Carl figured he'd play some games with Emma. He got up to 70 mph, and noted that Emma was maintaining pace. Carl smiled and squeezed gently on the throttle.
    The speedo read 71, 72, 73, 74 and eventually 80 miles per hour. Carl peered into the rear view mirror and noticed that Emma was nearly bug-eyed as she drove over the speed limit. Carl chuckled, and pushed down a bit more on the throttle. He kept a very careful eye on Emma in the rear view mirror, making sure that she didn't wander out of her lane, or do something stupid.
    In the process of keeping very careful track of Emma, Carl never noticed the huge old coyote ambling across the highway. The coyote looked up and saw the Suburban bearing down at about 82 mph, and darted to the left.
    Carl saw the predator and yanked the steering wheel to the right. The coyote, possibly confused, also went to the right. Carl steered left, and the coyote darted left. Left, right, left, right... it was inevitable. Whammo!
    The old coyote made contact with the grill of the Suburban at exactly 83.49 miles per hour. Not a good move.
    The grill caved in first, then went through the radiator. The radiator buckled, and nailed the fan blade, causing all sorts of grief.
    The Whale ground to a halt, with steam blowing out from under the fenders and hood. Carl somehow managed to bring The Whale to a halt on the shoulder of the road.
    A tick-tick-tick sound emanated from the cooling engine as Carl got out of The Whale and walked around front to check out the damage. A long, stiff brown tail poke out of the center of the radiator. Coyote entrails were splattered all over the 454 block. Trouble ahead, trouble behind... to quote an old country song.
    Carl sighed and slumped his head against the steering wheel. He lifted his head and looked down the straight road. Not a vehicle in sight.
    Reluctantly, he picked up the mike on the radio and thumbed the switch. "Pink Flamingo? This is The Whale. We got us a sort of problem here. Come back."
    The radio squawked. "Over and out. This here's Emma with a copy on your wilco 10-4. Roger your copy and come back to your 20. Spit it out, buster!"
    Carl sighed. "Emma? Knock off the radio crap and listen up. I sort of ran into a critter here and The Whale is down and out. Get that goofy Ford up here. We got steam blowing out of the radiator and parts rubbin' up against other parts. And make it quick!"
    A few minutes later, the pink Bronco rolled into view, and Emma pulled up in front of The Whale and hopped out, eyes wide. "What happened?"
    "This stupid critter tried to occupy the same spot as my Suburban and he came in second. But The Whale is hurtin' big-time. Take a look. The grill is pushed through the radiator, and the radiator wrapped the fan around the front of the block. There's no way we can drive this. Look, Emma. We're only ten miles from Winnemucca, so you'll have to tow me in. I'll let out the winch cable and hook it up to your trailer hitch."
    ***
    Thirty minutes later, the pink Bronco pulled into Friendly Fred's Auto Repair and Septic Tank Service with The Whale at the end of the winch cable. Friendly Fred wipe his hands on a shop rag, turned to his assistant Homer, and smiled. "Looks like we got us a tourist, Homer. Make sure the dog is chained up in the back and put that bottle of Jack Daniels away. I smell some money!"
    ***
    Whoa! A wounded truck and a roadside repair place? This could be a bad combination. Let's keep a close eye on this one, folks.
    This too shall pass
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  5. #230
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    Let's update you. Carl and Emma were wandering north of Las Vegas in their respective vehicles. Emma was behind the wheel of the new pink Ford Bronco that she'd won in Vegas, and Carl was at the controls of The Whale, quite possibly the biggest and most equipped Suburban on or off the roads.
    About ten miles from Winnemucca, Carl hit a very old and very large coyote head on. The coyote was crossing the road; Carl was driving down it; neither one was paying attention. The Whale had the entire front grill, clip, radiator and fan pushed into the block. Coyote innards were everywhere.
    Carl let out his front winch cable, hooked it up to the trailer hitch on Emma's Bronco, and let her tow him into beautiful Winnemucca, Nevada. As the pair pulled into Friendly Fred's Auto Repair and Septic Tank Service, Fred wiped his hands on a shop rag, turned to his assistant, Homer, and smiled. "Looks like we got us a tourist, Homer. Make sure the dog is chained up in the back and put that bottle of Jack Daniels away. I smell some money!"
    ***
    "Hideedoo there. My name is Fred. You folks have a spot of trouble there?"
    Carl slipped The Whale into park and got out. "Yeah. Dumb coyote got in the way. I'm gonna need some repairs."
    Friendly Fred peered under the wrinkled hood and made ooohing and aaahing sounds. "Boy, she's a mess! Lookee here... the fan is wrapped around the front of the engine like it sorta melted there. Good thing that Bronco stopped and towed you in. Is that one of those girls from that bordello down the road?"
    Carl snorted angrily. "That's my wife in that dumb pink Bronco!"
    Homer ambled up, busily wiping his nose on a greasy red shop towel. "Your wife works down at the Cherry Patch Mustang Ranch? Boy oh boy, I ain't never met a woman of the night before!"
    Carl poked a stubby finger in Homer's face. "I'm gonna say this real slow, Gomer..."
    "The name is Homer."
    "That's what I said. You got grease in your ears, too? Now listen close. That lady in the ugly looking Bronco is my wife, and she does not work in a cathouse."
    Homer looked real puzzled. "'Scuse me, sir. But I'm confused. Don't mean to pry, but how come y'all are drivin' two different trucks? Most couples travel together in the same vehicle."
    Carl sighed. "Never mind. It's a long story, but I'll make it short; Emma won the Bronco on the slots in Vegas."
    Homer nodded and smiled. He could understand things now. All was correct with the universe.
    Friendly Fred put both hands on his hips and shook his head sadly from side to side. "Looks pretty ugly under there, mister. You want me to fix it up, or what?"
    "Of course! What else am I gonna do, push it down the road all the way to Canada, and then look for a town full of beavers who know how to use tools? What's it gonna cost me? And how much time will it take?"
    Friendly Fred scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Lemme go inside and git me a note pad and a calculator."
    Fred went inside his grubby shop, quickly picked up the phone and dialed. "Lester? This here is Fred down at the shop. How much did you want for that bass boat you been tryin' to sell me for the last two years or so? Give me the bottom line price? How much? Fifty-two hundred bucks? Does that include the trailer with the wind-up winch? OK. I'll get back to you later on."
    Friendly Fred grabbed a clip board and went back outside. He pried the hood up and let out a low whistle, then punched some numbers in the calculator. Then he slid underneath, whistled again, and punched some more numbers in his hand-held calculator. After a solid 20 minutes of whistling, button punching and considerable head shaking, Fred appeared to be done. "Lemme total this up here. Let's see... add for labor... then tax... and we got... uuummmm.... right about $5200."
    Carl looked startled. "That much? Wow!"
    Friendly Fred held up his index finger. "Mister, have you priced replacement parts as of late? I thought not. You go pick up a new grill, couple of fenders, clip, radiator and such, and you're looking at a piece of change. You're getting quite a bargain. Why, I doubt if I'll clear a couple hunnert bucks by the time the smoke clears."
    A sad look came over Carl's face. "Does that include the paint job?"
    Friendly Fred laughed real loud. "Haw, haw! Hey, what's that sign up there say? It says Auto Repair, don't it? It don't say Auto Painting. Nope. You'll have to paint 'er somewhere else. My job is to get you rolling down that road again."
    Carl peered at the sign. "It also says septic tank service."
    Friendly Fred smiled. "It pays the bills every now and then. Well then, you want this thing fixed or what?"
    Carl let out a sigh. "Well, guess I ain't got much choice. How long is it gonna take?"
    Fred scratched his chin again. "Better part of a week, I suspect. Depending on how quick we can get the parts. There's a couple of nice motels real close to here. I'll need a small deposit... maybe a couple hunnert bucks, cash preferably."
    Carl peeled off two C-notes and Fred wrote him out a receipt. "I'll just get some of my things out The Whale and hop in that goofy-looking Bronco. Then I'll give you a call later tomorrow and see how you're progressing.
    While Carl was getting his stuff out of The Whale, Friendly Fred took Homer inside of the shop and gave him the two hundred dollar bills. "I want you to run down to Lesters place and give him this money. Tell him it's a deposit on the boat. Then git your butt back here real quick, because I want you to go on out and steal us a Suburban tonight. Then we'll burn some midnight oil and strip the parts off it. You can keep the motor and the trans... that'll be your share ... then we'll push the rest of it off a cliff. Now hurry it up, while I go out and jabber some more with that hick bozo. Man-oh-man, I'm gonna make enough off this one job to git me that bass boat. Hoooeee!"
    ***
    What has Carl stepped into now? It appears that Friendly Fred is a crook of the first order. Things could get complicated. In fact, bet on it!
    This too shall pass
    on a tow truck

  6. #231
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    Let's bring you up to speed. After hitting a coyote smack-dab in the middle of his grill, Carl was forced to get towed in to Winnemucca, Nevada for repairs on The Whale. As luck would have it, the first place he and Emma saw was Friendly Freds Auto Repair and Septic Tank Service.
    Fred calculated what it would cost to repair The Whale, and strangely it was just exactly what it would cost him to buy that new bass boat he'd been looking at. Stranger still was that he took his assistant, Homer, off to one side and... well, you
    can eves-drop: "I want you to run down to Lesters place and give him this money. Tell him it's a deposit on the boat. Then git your butt back here real quick, because I want you to go out and steal us a Suburban tonight. Then we'll burn some midnight oil and strip the parts off it. You can keep the motor and the trans... that'll be your share... then we'll push the rest of it off a cliff. Now hurry it up while I go out and jabber some more with that hick bozo. Man-oh-man, I'm gonna make enough off this one job to git me that bass boat. Hoooeee!"
    ***
    Carl and Emma hopped in the pink Bronco, with Emma at the wheel. It only took them a few minutes to find a motel. Carl pointed with a stubby finger. "Pull in there. That looks like a good one."
    Emma looked confused. "How can you tell, dear? They all look the same to me."
    "Easy, woman. That sign over there says $17.95 per night for a double and then underneath it in small letters it says cable TV. That's all I need to know."
    Emma peered up at the sign. "What a funny name for a motel. It's called Motel 5 and 7/8ths. I wonder why?"
    Carl walked inside and rang the bell. An enormously fat woman waddled up to the counter. Carl almost did a double-take. She had a burning cigarette stuck in her right ear.
    "You want a room, or what?"
    Carl pointed and stammered. "Uhhh, that is... uhh... well... could I ask you why you got that cigarette in your ear, miss?"
    She reached up, pulled the cigarette out and took a deep drag. "Thanks. I wondered where I had put that damn thing. And I thought the sound was goin' bad on the TV. Good thing you mentioned that. Might have caught my head on fire and ruined a perfectly good permanent. So, you love birds want the three hour rate? Or just the half hour quickie?"
    Carl bristled. "Wait a minute, Cindarella. This here's my wife."
    The fat woman leered. "Sure. And that pink Bronco out front belongs to the local scout troop, right? Anyway, it don't make no never mind to me. And you can just call me Peanuts. So what'll it be?"
    Carl, amazingly, restrained his temper. "We'll be here for three or four days, maybe even a week, Peanuts."
    Peanuts raised one puffy eye-lid. "Ooooh, what a stud!"
    Carl sighed. "Look, Peanuts. Just give us a room key and keep the comments to yourself. Just one question. How come this place is named the Motel 5 and 7/8ths?"
    Peanuts took another drag on her smoke. Carl noticed that the cigarette was a Virgina Slim. "Well, we didn't want to be accused of copying that big chain, ya know, Motel Six? So me and my sixth husband came up with this idea."
    Five minutes later, Carl and Emma were in the room, unpacking. Carl flipped on the TV and thumbed through the channels. Two stations came in clear and there were four fuzzy ones. After fiddling with the controls, he grabbed the phone and buzzed the desk. "Hey, this here's room 108. I been runnin' through the channels on the TV and can't find any cable stations. Your sign says cable TV, right?"
    Peanuts fired up another smoke. "Yep. You'll find a cable right on the back of the TV. It keeps the guests from stealing the damn things. Hey, what you want for $17.95 per night? The Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing you to sleep? Gimme a break. And try not to bother me again for a while. Bowling for Dollars is on and Zsa Zsa Gabor is trying to pick up a spare."
    Click.
    ***
    Carl and Emma eventually settled down to sleep, and while they sawed logs, Friendly Fred and Homer were mightily busy stripping a Suburban for body parts. They sipped on a 50/50 mixture of Yoo Hoo Chocolate Soda and Jack Daniels, and whistled while they worked. The bright red Suburban rapidly shed parts and the pile of goodies grew.
    By two AM, they yanked the engine and trans and lowered it in the back of the clapped-out old VW van that Homer drove. After one last nightcap, the two clapped each other on their backs and then broke into wide, evil grins under their red-rimmed eyes. A nights work well done, they agreed.
    ***
    During the next few days, Friendly Fred actually worked quite hard removing the old damaged parts and replacing them with the new parts. While he was doing this, Carl and Emma spent most of their time exploring the area. Because this area was true high desert, they had a chance to get up to some altitude.
    About 20 miles from Winnemucca, they drove fairly high up on Sonoma Peak, and then hit the Getchell Mines later in the day. The next day, they headed west to the Sulphur area, then darted south to Lovelock. They had a nice picnic lunch at the Rye Patch Reservoir and got back to the Motel 5 and 7/8ths before midnight.
    On the third day, they drove north through Paradise Valley, and found some neat back roads that led them into the Southern edge of the Humboldt National Forest. A drive up Granite Peak capped the day.
    ***
    By the end of the week, Friendly Fred had the front end of The Whale rebuilt. Carl had been calling the shop regularly and had stopped in a few times to check on the progress. Everything seemed to be going smoothly. Fred gave Carl a phone call and told him to stop by with the balance due, as the Suburban was ready.
    Boy, The Whale sure looked strange with the bright red front fenders and hood on the front of the silver gray body of The Whale. Carl scratched his chin. "How come you got red fenders and such? I thought the factory sent all the body parts out primer colored? "
    Fred wiped his runny nose on a greasy shop towel. "Pal, you're lucky I was able to get these here parts at all. When I asked 'em for gray or primer, they just laughed at me and said 'take it or leave it', so I took it. Just to get you on the road quicker, like you wanted. Hells fire, I barely made enough off this job to pay for the electric bill. Anyways, you're gonna get the whole thing painted, so what's it matter? Right?"
    Carl shrugged. "Yeah. Guess you're right. Well, here's the balance. Hope you take cash. I had to get this wired in to me. You got a receipt for me?"
    Fred snuffled and wiped his nose once again. "Well now, why don't we just forget about the receipt and I'll forget about the taxes. No sense paying Uncle Sam if we don't have to, right?"
    Emma spoke up. "Shouldn't we pay extra Carl, and get a receipt?"
    Carl gave her a stern look. "What are you talking about woman? Why should I pay the government anything? I'm already out a bundle. Nope. Me and ole Friendly Fred here will just shake hands and call it a done deal. Now let's load up and git on down the road. I think I've seen enough of Winnemucca to last me for a good while."
    Within the hour, Carl and Emma were heading north on Highway 95 with The Whale in the lead, followed by Emma in her pink Bronco. They chatted on the radios and talked about which route they should take to Canada, then settled down to getting some miles under their belts before the day got too far gone.
    The peace and tranquility of the pleasant drive was shattered by the sound of wailing sirens. A peek in the rear view mirror of The Whale showed a big string of police cars with red lights flashing right behind them.
    Carl quickly pulled over to the shoulder to let them by. After all, it was never right to slow the authorities down when they were after lawbreakers. He rolled the window down and waved the police cars by, and was more than startled when he saw a police car pull up along side and the officer on the passenger side pointed a double-barreled shotgun right at him. "Pull over, fat boy, or I'll fill you full of bird shot!"
    One minute later, Carl was face down on the ground with his hands cuffed behind him. Carl was furious. "What in plu-perfect hell is goin' on? I wasn't even speeding!"
    Carl heard many footsteps and saw a whole bunch of shiny boots surrounding him. Then the cop with the shotgun spoke: "We got him, sheriff. We got the thief who stole your Suburban. Got him cold."
    Carl craned his neck around. "What are you boneheads talking about? This here is my Suburban!!!" The big sheriff squatted down and gave Carl a cold, hard look. "Is that so? Well then, maybe you'd like to try explaining to me how you got my red fenders and hood on YOUR Suburban?"
    Carl started babbling about hitting the coyote and getting his rig fixed in Winnemucca and so on, and the cops exchanged glances. The big sheriff thought for a moment. "Hmmm. Well, you got a receipt then?"
    Emma let out a mournful wail. "Carl! We don't have a receipt! Remember how you told that man how it was OK to cheat the government out of taxes? Ohhhh noooo!"
    The sheriff grunted. Take 'em in boys. And take the floozie with the pink Bronco, too. She might be an accessory after the fact."
    ***
    Holy smokes! No receipt? Stolen parts? What's going to happen to The Wanderers?
    This too shall pass
    on a tow truck

  7. #232
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    Let's update you: Forced to stay in Winnemucca, Nevada while The Whale was getting major front end damage repair work, Carl and Emma spent the time exploring the desert and mountain trails in Emma's Bronco.
    Meanwhile, Friendly Fred (of Friendly Fred's Auto Repair and Septic Tank Service) and his assistant, Homer, were busy stealing a Suburban and cannibalizing the parts. When they got done, the finished job looked a bit odd, with red fenders and hood on the silver-gray body of The Whale. Carl got talked into paying no taxes on the job if he didn't ask for a receipt, then they loaded up The Whale and headed - finally - out of town, due North.
    Their drive was interrupted by the sound of a siren and red lights flashing. A moment later, Carl was startled when a cop car pulled up next to him and the officer pointed a double-barreled shotgun right at him. Moments later, Carl was face down on the ground, hand-cuffed... and madder than a road-killed skunk.
    Carl heard footsteps and saw a whole bunch of shiny boots surrounding him. The then cop who had pointed the shotgun spoke: "We got him, sheriff. We got the thief who stole your Suburban. Got him cold!"
    In spite of protests and a string of curses that would curdle milk, nobody seemed to believe Carl. The big sheriff squatted down and gave Carl a hard look. "Would you like to try explaining to me how you got my red fenders and hood on your gray Suburban?"
    Carl squirmed around, trying to keep his lips out of the dirt and howled his story at the top of his lungs. But when the sheriff asked Carl if he had a receipt, he just groaned.
    ***
    Within the hour, both Emma and Carl were behind bars. Carl was furious and you could almost see smoke come out of his ears. It didn't help any that Emma was bawling like a baby peeling onions, and every once in a while, would bang a tin cup on the steel bars, and yell, "Lemme out of this joint, ya rats!"
    Carl sighed. "Emma, sit down. You're making my head hurt. It's bad enough we're in a county jail in the backwoods of Nevada, but I shouldn't have to listen to you sound like an old "B" movie. Next thing, I expect you'll whip a harmonica out and start playing 'Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen", and singing in a baritone voice. Just sit down in the corner and whimper to yourself for a while. I gotta do some quick thinkin'. And I'm not gonna rest until I figure how to get us out of here!"
    ***
    Sometime later, a trusty opened the cell and let an officer in. "That's the one you want, Deputy. The fat guy sleeping in the corner. And that's his girlfriend. She's the one who was driving the pink Bronco. Some of the guys think she might be one of those ladies of the night from that brothel down in the next county."
    The Deputy gave Carl a nudge with his shiny boot. "Let's go butter-ball. The sheriff wants to talk with you and your floozie, and if I was you, I'd play it straight. Sheriff Hooter is tough. Tough but fair."
    Moments later, Carl and Emma were seated in front of Sheriff Hooter. He propped his big cowboy boots up on his desk and gave a cold smile. "See this? I got my boots on this shiny new desk. Nobody else is allowed to do this but me. That means that I am the law here. Got that?"
    Both Carl and Emma nodded. This guy was serious!
    "Now that we got that all straight, let's get down to brass tacks. First off, I don't think you stole my Suburban. Nobody would be dumb enough to steal a bright red Suburban and stick the parts on another rig without painting 'em over. We know that somebody around here has been stealing cars and trucks for some time, but we don't have any proof. We figure it's one of three or four people, but we've never been able to get 'em in the act.
    "So here's the deal. You help us pin this guy, and you are off the hook. If you choose not to cooperate, well, we got us some prisons out here in the desert where it gets up to 135 degrees in the shade, only there is no shade. What'll it be?"
    Carl scratched his chin thoughtfully for a moment. "Well, Dirty Harry. It looks like you got yourself an undercover agent. How do we work this?" Sheriff Hooter smiled; this time a genuine smile. "Now that's what I like to hear! First off, you fill me in on how you got into this fix. Then I'll take it from there."
    Carl explained everything, from the adventures in Las Vegas, to splattering a coyote all over his grill, to stopping in at Friendly Freds Auto Repair and Septic Tank Service, to roaming around the countryside while Fred repaired The Whale, to seeing the completed Whale with red body parts, to trying to save a few bucks by doing a cash-only/no receipt deal.
    Sheriff Hooter let out with a positively evil grin. "Aha! I figured it was him, or that dumb-butt airhead who works for him. Lester something-or-other. A regular slack-jawed, mouth-breather with the IQ of bird-seed. He strikes me as the kind of a person who'll do anything for a buck. This might just be our key to nailing Friendly Fred. Before we work out a plan, is there anything you can think of that might help? Anything strange or new happening out at Friendly Freds?"
    Carl thought real hard for a moment, then spit a small wad of tobacco juice directly into the center of the office trash can, which was a good 18 feet away.
    Sheriff Hooter was visibly impressed. "Wow! Good shooting! I'm only accurate up to about ten feet. How'd you get that good?"
    Carl beamed. "Hellsfire, Hooter. I was a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy for almost 30 years. Ain't no way you can smoke while on most duty, so you learn how to chew. And if you learn how to chew, you damn well learn how to spit. Especially if you're on a carrier and you have to spit into the wind."
    Sheriff Hooter jumped up and stuck out a big hand. "Navy? Chief Petty Officer? Damn, Carl. I'm afraid I under-estimated you. I was a Gunners Mate myself. Did 20 years before I retired. Those were some great days. If I had known you were a man of the sea, I certainly would have treated you with a great deal more respect. Please accept my apologies. Listen, when we get this all over and done with, I'd like to make this up to you. Do you ever do any off-roading?"
    Carl chuckled. "Off-roading is my middle name. I had a subscription to Off-Road Magazine that dates back to about the time that Atilla the Hun hit puberty. And my Suburban is set-up for some serious off-roading. I got three Rancho RS 7000s per wheel, the best BFG tires money can buy, enough travel to drive over a Volkswagen without scraping the paint job and a motor that puts out more power at idle than most of them foreign trucks do at red line. And you ask me if I'm an off-roader? "
    Hooter shook his head from side to side. "Carl, my humblest apologies. I guess I read you wrong. The only thing I can't figure out is how you got tied up with one of those madams from the brothels driving a pink Bronco?"
    Emma jumped out of her chair and knocked Sheriff Hooter's boots off the desk with back-handed swipe. "Listen, Buster! You better watch your mouth. You are dealing with a girl from Ohio who went to Sunday school and had only two boy friends and one husband, and he was one of those boyfriends. My name is Emma and you will treat me with respect, or I will pull those expensive boots off and shove them where the sun does not shine. Is that clear?"
    Sheriff Hooter let out a low whistle. "Ma'm, I had no idea you were a lady of such quality. The pink Bronco threw me."
    Emma bristled. "And what exactly, sir, is wrong with a pink Bronco. It sure beats the hell out of a gray Suburban with red fenders and hood."
    Sheriff Hooter looked at Carl. Carl looked at Sheriff Hooter. She had a point there.
    Carl put an arm around Emma. "This here is a quality broad."
    Emma furrowed her brow, not quite knowing how to take the warped compliment. "Thank you. I think."
    Sheriff Hooter leaned forward. "Emma - might I call you by your first name? - I think you just might be the key to this whole case. You seem to be a sharp lady, and if I could ask for your assistance, perhaps we can bring this criminal to justice."
    Emma fluttered her eyelids, flattered with such attention. "Why, of course! How can I help?"
    ***
    Emma drove The Whale into Friendly Freds place and walked into the office. Fred looked up from his copy of Popular Mufflers and squinted. "Ain't you the woman who was drivin' the pink Bronco a few days ago with that guy with the huge Suburban?"
    Emma played coy. "Maybe. Maybe not. But I might have a deal for you. You recognize this machine?"
    Fred nodded. "Yup. Put the metal on myself. So what?"
    Emma emitted an evil grin. "Well, the owner of this here rig is now being digested by coyotes, I guess, and I'd like to make a few bucks off of it."
    Fred laid down the magazine. "You got a title for it?"
    Emma looked at the ceiling. "Ahhh, no. Not exactly. But I'd like to get some decent bucks out of this here deal. What's this rig worth?"
    Fred flipped through a Blue Book and sighed. "Well, Normal retail is about $7500."
    Emma displayed wide eyes. "These things cost almost $30,000, fully loaded. And this one is loaded more than normal. And it's only a few years old. $7500 seems like a low price!"
    This too shall pass
    on a tow truck

  8. #233
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    Fred shook his head from side to side. "Whoa, now, little lady. I didn't say I could pay $7500. It might be worth a bit more than that on a lot, that's arguable. But we're talking about a relatively 'warm' machine that will more than likely have to be stripped down and sold for parts. You think it's easy gettin' rid of a rig? Hell, we had to drag the last Suburban we got about four miles out in the desert and drop it into a canyon. That's a lot of work! I can give you $2500 cash for this here unit. Take it or leave it."
    Emma smiled. "You got a deal, big boy. By the way, could you say that again, a little bit louder, right into my purse."
    At this point, Fred became suspicious, and whipped out a gun. "Maybe you ought to open that purse up right here in the parts washer. What's this? A tape recorder? Little lady, you are in a heap of trouble!"
    A loud crash ripped through the building, as Carl and Sheriff Hooter kicked the front door down. Which was not really needed, as it was not locked. But it sure was an impressive entrance. Sheriff Hooter whipped out a gun the size of a fire extinguisher and pointed it at Friendly Fred. "Drop it, scumbag!"
    Fred, who was also holding a Yoo Hoo Chocolate Soda, dropped it on his shoe. A brown stain spread over the floor. "I surrender!"
    ***
    Sheriff Hooter had a happy look on his face. "Well, thanks to you folks... and especially Emma...we broke the stolen car and truck ring . Say, do you folks want to hang around here with my and my Missus for a few days and do some good, old-fashioned off-road gold prospecting?"
    Emma let out a squeal. "Oooooh! Let's go for the gold, Carl!"
    ***
    Next month: Searching for the Mother Lode.
    This too shall pass
    on a tow truck


 

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