You’ll Never Make It

Forty years after opening it the shop is booming, and Jack’s oldest honorary son took the helm. He is also an amateur radio operator that has machining skills and is as brilliant as the best men. Also, he was a bit difficult for Jack because Jack is also ‘difficult’. A lot of grace, some great counsel and the shop, now twice the size it was and heated with waste oil. Many upgrades to the tools and infra structure were done. Upgrades to both the inner men too.

Jack and his family are doing pretty well. And the blessings and amazing changes continue to happen. The youngest son has built a wood shop where his skills are very evident. The usual upgrades that come with time.

At the beginning of Jack’s life on the old farm, it was early and Jack was just getting ready to drive to his job at the rail yard. The day before was rough and he could feel some pain already. When Jack sat down, he fell to the floor in agony and could not get up. His back had ‘gone out’ He was trapped on the floor and the nearest phone was a new one up on a shelf by the bed. Jack crawled back in the living room and wondered what to do. After a time, he began to read the newspapers by the wood stove. This went on for a few days. His thirst began to be an issue. The cat water in the kitchen helped for a short time.

Only reading the Sunday comics would take his mind of the images of a bad end. His favorite comic was Zippy the Pinhead. Jack had a great idea. Taking his clothing out of the bottom drawers, Jack made a ramp to roll up to the bed and grab the phone. Help came and a time in hospital got Jack on his feet. L4 and L5 seemed to be in poor condition. His nerves to his feet never recovered to this day. At least the hospital bill was paid and his new foreman got his comeuppance for the way he abused Jack with impossible work. Jack has had to deal with thoughts about that man.

It was logical, Jack had to get a new job or create one. After the railroad injury, there was no going back to the job of shovels, sledgehammers and spike mauls. There was a little bit of workers comp, but it wasn’t going to last long and the mortgage was looming every 1st of the month. Food was OK and the power was still on. Phone was iffy but still had a dial tone. The locals knew what had happened to Gator, and there was grace in this rural area. Even from supposedly hard nosed utility companies. One of Gator’s new friends climbed the power poles for a living and he knew what had happened. People stopped by to see if there was something they could do for Jack. Meals, friendships solidified and new friends even brought Zippy comics to show they knew the story. Jack was amenable to a roommate of a local fellow. That smiley, pleasant man now lives a few miles away with his wife.

Those are some of the reasons why moving to the area was attractive, and scary. The VA loan was the first big loan that Jack had ever had. His new friendships made it work. Wood heat, gardening instructions and help for Jack, a converted swampy. Jack bought a bicycle to exercise his injuries. On a trip to the big cities old neighborhood, Jack got hit by a car in a crosswalk. Spun him off the bike. Rehab setback for a bit. Somehow that neighborhood had lost a bit of glitter for Jack. It seemed Too busy and now the constant roar of traffic was heard. Nothing had changed but Jack. Back home with the old blue 1941 Ford that Jack had put a new engine in with a friend and a chain hoist on a tree. The usual activity for a Jack Pine Savage. That’s how the locals refer to enthusiastic young people. (Jack pines are real trees and there are a lot of them 15 miles north of Jack’s place.)

Living in an old farmhouse was ‘challenging’ Another new friend installed a masonry chimney and Jack got a chain saw for the firewood. His back was healing and it was time to work on rural survival. Splitting mauls, an old Ford pickup and firewood permits up North in the state forest. Plus the dry stuff on the 30 acre farm.

Wood heat was better than the fuel oil heater but the cat water still froze to the kitchen floor when it was a bit cold. The old well in the barn and it’s pump jack did pretty good as long as it was protected from cold. It did not freeze like the cat water did. Hay bales around the foundation worked a bit and the cat took care of the mice. The workers comp and a small settlement from the railroad were running out. Jack got hooked up with a local country western band. Playing fiddle in a four piece band in most of the bars within 40 miles. Some of the gigs phone notes from the band leader are still visible on the kitchen cupboard uprights. Jack was in a hurry and scratchpads had not been invented yet. (The Bakelite phone was on the wall next to the cupboards.)

A new job was needed, a career. Gator decided to open a foreign car repair shop, right in his garage. Jack was told more than once; “You’ll never make it!” foreign cars in this part of rural America was a non-starter. Perhaps an old VW bug or transporter was part and parcel of the local transportation. It seemed a nitch to exploit and Jack opened shop. The old garage with sliding wood doors, and no heat, and pathetic electric power were a few obstacles to deal with. The local tool truck guy gave a proposition to Jack. “Rebuild the engine on my Nissan 280Z and I’ll give you the tools you need to do it.” It was a beginning of sorts and the word got out of Jack’s confidence and skill. After all, Jack is an amateur radio license holder and electricity and wiring diagrams are not too intimidating. Slowly things began to come together for this independent Gator and updates for everything began. Setbacks and Updates seem to be relatives.

Decades afterward, Jack met his wife on a bicycle as Jack still rode for fitness. She heard about him out in Washington state at a bar! The bartender was an old friend of Jack’s. She tossed the bartenders note when she got back to the area and a local pastor that Jack rode with, met Greta on her bicycle when he was out riding. Seems like bicycles had a part and parcel in their lives. Jack called Greta after the pastor told him about her. He told Jack she was a good rider and rather attractive with a good smile. He also said she only lived a few miles away at a church camp she managed. Jack picked up the old black wall phone and called, her number was easy to find. She answered the phone with an astonished, “It’s that guy!” They arranged to meet riding towards one another and they met at the driveway of the bartender’s Grand parents. Just another ‘coincidence’ in their lives. As the saying goes, it was Kismet. They like to refer to the marriage broker as Jesus stepping in with undeniable direction. It was years later that Jack realized his role in that fulfillment, for a life that brought joy. Jack and Greta began chasing after this incredible man that created all things that were created. Jack’s new job is working for this man when asked to do so. Jack and Greta both talk to Jesus a lot. They sing and play to him too, more joy!

The parking lot has doubled in size as has the repair shop. Beauty abounds around them and it is so beautiful, the Gators realize that prosperity has landed upon them. The opportunity to work, for all of them. Gardens overflowing with good veggies along with machinery inherited to maintain it all. They are not so much gifted in Gold and Silver. Just those aging colors of their hair and Jack’s beard.

Three boys, and they doubled the size of the house too. ‘I don’t deserve this’ Jack says and knows. Jesus tells him that is correct but there is another ledger that says it’s OK . Forgiveness for Jack and Greta’s ‘checkered’ past is a big part of responding to the call of life with Jesus. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

(to be continued)

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