|Or something similar . . .|
Maybe that doesn't sound like earth-shattering news to you, but we lived a half-hour away.
When the roads were good.
This was an event.
Mom piled us six kids into the car.
Inquired as to bathroom status.
And started out.
I should mention, here, that the roads into Milk River were never great.
In dry conditions, they were a narrow, dusty, dirty track between two deep ditches.
In wet weather, they were a narrow, greasy, slippery amusement-park ride.
That was anything but amusing.
And they had to be navigated with utmost care and caution.
Picture my Mom's 1964 Envoy hurtling along at 65 MPH.
With six kids rolling about like dried peas.
But we were safe.
Mom had both hands on the wheel.
She would put out her arm if she was applying the brakes.
All was well.
Suddenly, we reached a stretch of road that had been 'graveled'.
I use this term lightly, because said gravel was uncrushed.
Fist to shoe-size. It would probably be more accurate to say it had been 'rocked'. Or 'bouldered'.
Mom slowed down, but rocks still spun and bounced, hurtling off into the ditch or hitting the underside of the car with deadly accuracy and vicious intent.
Finally one rock, a little larger than the others, hit with a metal 'clang' that shook the entire car.
Mom applied the brakes.
And deployed her patented arm gesture.
We all got out.
The smell of gasoline was strong in the dusty air.
We leaned down.
The last rock had put a hole in our gas tank.
Precious fuel was escaping, even as we looked.
Mom straightened. What to do? What to do?
My oldest brother's jaws were moving, rhythmically.
For a moment, Mom stared at him.
Then she pounced. "Jerry! Are you chewing gum?"
My brother froze.
In our family, one wasn't allowed to chew gum in the car.
"Is anyone else chewing gum?"
We all stared at her.
She turned back to my brother. "Spit it out!"
"Um . . . why?"
"We can stuff it in the hole and fix the tank!"
But Jerry complied. Spitting a large wad of pink gum into his hand, he wriggled under the car and applied it.
We all bent down and looked.
It seemed to be working.
"Everybody in!" Mom said.
We lost no time, but scrambled back into the car and resumed our journey.
When we reached town, the car slid to a stop and we all piled out and bent over to look.
The gum had worked!
No more leak!
"We patched our gas tank with gum!" I proudly told curious passers-by.
They glanced at Mom's red face for confirmation.
Gum saves the day!
There is a codicil.
The shop that could have repaired our tank was closed for the weekend.
They used to do that in the early 60s.
Mom had to drive home with her gum-patched tank.
Then drive back into town the next day for Church.
And back to the ranch again.
Then into town on Monday to finally effect repairs.
That gum not only got us into town, but it got us back home, back in, back home and back in.
I defy duct tape to perform as well.
Or taste better.
The perfect repair material.