|1965 Ford Econoline truck|
A week ago today my father Robert G Graham passed away in Roanoke Virginia in the same hospital where my little sister was born decades ago. At the service I told a story:
In December of 1974, about a month before my fourth birthday, my Mom was stressed that she hadn't managed to drag out any of the the Christmas decorations. My little sister was about six months old and had been sick a lot. My mom was wrung out. She felt it was her job to make the house homey for the holidays and couldn't manage it. To help my dad said he'd take me off her hands and go buy a Christmas tree.
A few months before he'd bought a '65 Econoline truck in red for seven-hundred bucks. It was a cabover design with the 144 cubic inch straight six cylinder engine encased in a metal shroud called a 'doghouse' between two bucket seats. It didn't have power steering or power brakes and had a manual transmission with a column shift - also called 'three on the tree'. My dad liked cars and said he'd get the truck to haul stuff around as needed. But mostly he wanted something to tinker on. So that late-winter afternoon he helped me get my hat and gloves on and pitched me in the passenger seat of that strange little truck. He didn't buckle me because the truck didn't have seat belts. They'd been removed at some point and didn't seem essential.
We drove from our house on Kennedy Street just off of Williamson road out toward Blue Ridge Virgina. It was dusk when we pulled into a gravel lot of a cut-your-own tree farm. We hustled down the rows and he found a tree while there was still enough light to see. He laid on his back in a skiff of snow and reached under the tree with his saw. Pretty soon the tree fell over and he hefted it by man-handling the middle of the trunk in one hand. I grabbed a fistful of branches to feel like I was helping and had to run to keep up with his long stride. He paid, pitched the tree in the bed of the truck and we piled back in.
He edged up to the road and revved the engine. Dad was a Nascar fan, he'd even been on a pit crew for a sponsored stockcar that ran at Daytona when they still raced right on the sand. There wasn't a lot of traffic on the two-lane, but he wanted to have some fun and he liked to drive everything like it was a muscle car. A big delivery van was coming and he shot the little truck out in front of the van, arced us into the far lane. My passenger side door came open. I guess I hadn't closed it right or I grabbed the handle and pulled it open myself. I don't recall that part. What I do remember is slipping off the seat. I was still in a seated position, but I was out in space, nothing holding my body up.
|Robert G Graham. Air Force upon completion of basic training.|