Barley is just barely peeking up through the ground. It’s November fourteenth. Nearly half way through the month and still no real freeze. We’re thankful for that. If we could, Lord willing, get another ten days in before any kind of hard freeze, we’d be doing really well. Hasn’t been much sun to speak of for most of this month, but we did get a good soaking rain last week, so the barley hopes just like we do.
Our summer sweet potato crop is mostly “in the barn,” curing and waiting to be sold and delivered. I was supposed to be delivering the first batch today… but we hit a snag. On Sunday night the car started having a problem. As I said, it’s been cloudy most of November, so we haven’t had much solar power. We don’t need it for our “normal” life, but I do need solar power to do my writing and research work. So on Sunday I had the car hooked up to the solar batteries to charge them. The car started making a hell of a racket so I shut it down. By the gloomy light of the morning, I could see the serpentine belt was AWOL, and there was oil sprayed everywhere. It was our only vehicle we could use to go off-property.
In a way this was an answer to prayer. I knew the car had problems. There was a thud-knock in the suspension that started as a faint pop when we first got the car, and it was getting worse. On Saturday when I was driving the car down to the office, that thud-knock sounded like the wheels might come off. Then there was the oil issues. The car was using oil and the check engine light was on. But we didn’t have any money to get it looked at, so we waited and hoped. Any one of these problems, if they happened on the highway, could have been catastrophic. So things were coming to a head and the way that it went down was probably for the best.
Now we have to get the car fixed.
I don’t trust shops or most mechanics, and we’ve had bad experiences in this area. 7 or 8 years ago we took a van we had into a local shop. The van was a beater, probably not worth $1000 if it ran well. We told the mechanic “don’t fix anything until you run it past us. We’re not going to spend a lot of money on this thing.” We told a neighbor, who was dealing with the mechanic, to make absolutely certain the guy wasn’t going to fix the car without our approval. The neighbor swore up and down this guy was trustworthy and that he’d make sure of it. Well, next thing we know, we get a bill for way more than the car’s worth. The guy never told us what was wrong, or asked us if he had our permission to fix it. I don’t sue people, but I sure could have.
So, I called my friend Gerald. He’s my farm partner in the sweet potatoes, and asked him what I could do. He has a nephew who I’ve met who has started his own mechanic shop, and is good at it. He’s a young man with five children, and Gerald says he’s a good man. That’s good enough for me. Gerald came over with his trailer and then we had to figure out how to get the car onto the trailer. It would have made a good comedy reel.
The car wouldn’t start because the serpentine belt turns the alternator which charges the battery. Gerald’s car needed to be hooked to the trailer hitch or trying to drive the car up the ramps we would have just pushed the trailer down the road. But we needed his car to jump start the car. So we unhooked the Toyota, drove it back to the Taurus, jump started it. Then we took the Toyota back and attached the trailer to the hitch.
The car was running, but none of the electronics worked. Wasn’t enough power in the battery. That means I couldn’t get the Taurus out of Park. It has a sensor that reads the brakes to make sure you have the brake depressed. Next idea. We’d hook the Toyota up to the Taurus with cables, start the car, and while the Taurus is still hooked up, put the car in Drive. Then unhook the Toyota and hook it back up to the trailer. Easy Peasy.
Car died before we could get the Toyota hooked up. Next idea: hook up the Toyota to the Taurus with the cables and let it charge the battery for thirty minutes. Hopefully that will put enough of a charge into it that we can do the whole process. Wait thirty minutes.
Bam. It worked. We hook the Toyota back up to the trailer, I drive the Taurus up the ramps. Next problem. The car has MAYBE an inch clearance on each side. Maybe. It’s very tight. We get it loaded and then realize I cannot get out of the car. The car doors won’t open. The car is now dead, and the window is down, but guess what? I’m 6’3″ and 250 lbs. and there is no way I’m getting out through that window without breaking something. So my wife said “just go through the trunk. You can squeeze through the back seat, which lays down, and there is a pop-trunk wire in there so you can get out. Easy right?
Well, I am about 6 inches wider at the shoulders than the hole that’s available when the seat is down. I panicked a little. I don’t like tight spaces. But I was able to just… barely… squeeze through. My daughter Jennifer, prodded by her sister Tracy in Arkansas caught some of it on video. There is a few minutes missing when Jennifer stopped taping, then her sister screamed “Keep recording! This is gold!” So you get the scene of me finally making it out of the trunk…
Michael Bunker and Family