In 1969, when I was about nine years-old, we packed up the ’64 Chevy station-wagon, left Chicago and moved to San Francisco, California. On the way there, somewhere in the middle of Nebraska, we had a flat tire. We had no lug wrench, and no way to get the tire off. There was nothing around there at all- except for cornfields, and a cemetery. It was amazing to see how my dad solved the problem.
With my help, my dad drag everything out of the car, opened every panel and looked under the floor-mat in back, but he couldn’t find a lug-wrench. We had a jack though. He didn’t cuss or anything. He just looked around like the answer was nearby. On the left- corn. Straight ahead and behind- more corn. To the right- a small cemetery that looked like the most recent guest was planted around 1950.
The cemetery had a small tool-shed, and that was it. There were no other buildings, and certainly no people anywhere around. This was during the days before Interstate highways. It was a 2-lane road in the middle of nowhere. Me and my dad walked over to the shed, and he asked me if I thought there would be a lug wrench in there. I thought, shovels, picks maybe, but no lug-wrench.
My dad busted the lock open with a rock. It was our only hope. I didn’t think it was even worth a try. But he did. He had to try something, and that was the only option.
What do you think are the odds of there being a lug wrench in there? Well, there was!
He changed the tire and we left- keeping the lug wrench of course, just in case.
Later in life, I would learn to make due with what I had, and to find solutions with meager supplies. This was the first of such life-lessons, and a day to remember forever.
My dad wasn’t very mechanically inclined. He wasn’t the kind of guy to even have tools at all. Growing up, I used to fix my bike with a pipe-wrench and pliers- that was all we had. That, and a hammer. But looking back on that day, he knew exactly what to do, and it didn’t even take a lot of time. We were back on the road- three kids, my mom and dad, and a dog- plus everything we owned in the world cramped into that old station wagon.
Two days later, the day we arrived in San Francisco, I met Little Richard! But that’s another story…