To the fans of Gus
Wilson's Model Garage,
I would not be so presumptuous as to compare either my writing skills or my
automobile expertise to that of Martin Bunn. Though this story was not
written for profit, I have profited much from the stories of Gus Wilson in
my own years of auto repair. "Gus Wilson Takes a Vacation from
Retirement" was written for my enjoyment and hopefully you, the reader and
fan of Gus Wilson, will enjoy it also.
I hope I have
been able to capture a little bit of Mr. Bunn's style for which we all have
recognized in his 450+ episodes.
GUS WILSON TAKES A VACATION
by Dave Mantor
On a warm
Saturday morning, the wrecker moved along the road steadily and without
effort. The letters on the door spelled out "The Model Garage," and
those who were long-time residents of our town were excited to see their old
friend, Gus Wilson, back for a week while his long-time assistant who is now
the owner of the Model Garage, Stan Hicks, was gone for a family reunion.
However, his old friends weren't the only ones who were excited for him to
be here. Gus himself was relishing the week that he'd spent here after
promising Stan he would fill in for him.
"Like old times
to be here again," mused Gus. "One of the only things different is
this newer model truck that Stan has fitted for wrecker service. A hot
day like today makes me really appreciate the air conditioning."
When Gus got to
town last week, his heart was warmed to see the old 1950 wrecker that he'd
used for so many years being properly cared for. Stan didn't have the heart
to get rid of Gus' old rig so when he had the additional parts storage
building built behind the original Model Garage, he just included enough
space to be able to display the old Ford. A new coat of red paint, a
better set of tires and the new white "Model Garage" lettering really set
off Gus' wrecker.
At the moment
though, Gus was looking for the disabled car that he'd received the phone
call about. As he rounded the curve about ten miles north of town, he
saw it along side the road with its left steering tire flat and apparently
As he pulled up
in front of the car and after setting his emergency flashers and turning on
the light bar above the cab, he got out. His eyes looked back at the
long black mark on the road that showed the tire had been driven flat for
quite a ways.
"I wonder why
people can't learn to feel when there is a problem in the tires or
suspension. Maybe their radio was on too loud," was the only answer
that crossed Gus' mind as he walked to the car.
Opening the door
and lifting the floor mat, he found the keys where the owner had told him
he'd leave them. Gus reached over and slipped the front-wheel drive
car out of gear and proceeded to ready the hook-up to the wrecker.
was secure, Gus was back in the cab and after checking to see if the road
was clear, pulled out to head back to town.
"I guess the
fellow who called must have gotten a ride on to work," Gus observed as he
switched off the four-way flashers and looked for a place to turn around.
"Well, a drive
along the lake would be a pleasant part of this morning and it's only
another mile or so to the turn-off. Stan's young assistant can watch
things for a bit longer."
In just a few
moments, Gus made a left turn onto the old tar road that ran along the south
bank of the lake.
this lake brings back. Doc Marvin and I used to fish here quite a bit.
It was along here that I got my first deer, too, if I remember correctly.
Gus, you must be
getting older by the minute, bringing up all these memories. There's
where I used to keep my boat docked. I remember when Guy Adams and
Sally Bergstrom stalled Matt Bergstrom's boat out there on the island that
stormy night back in '54. Guy's mother and I almost had to threaten Matt
into being civil."
The drive along
the south shore brought memory after memory back to Gus as he slowly made
his way along the pleasant tree-lined road.
the time he was coming back over on the north side road of the lake late one
afternoon when he came upon a disabled 1957 Ford that two men were standing
by. They waved until he stopped. Then discovering the car had
its ignition jimmied, he realized he was in trouble with the two men who
were escaped convicts. He got out of that one with no more than a huge
lump over one ear after fixing their car so that it would only go a short
distance and they walloped him in the process. Jerry Corcoran's
friends on the state police caught them at a roadblock.
what a great friend he was. Serving for many years as the area's state
police officer, he often found Gus' garage to be a favorite stopping point.
He brought a number of situations to Gus particularly if they had an auto
mixed up in them and Gus would help shed light on the problem and Jerry
would get an arrest.
Gus turned the
wrecker south heading back toward the garage but not before the pictures of
his many old friends came to mind. Friends like Doc Hockenjoss, the
retired and crusty old veterinarian, Dave Rankin, a retired grocer who
enjoyed a few hands of poker on Saturday nights, Police Chief Sam Eldon,
Pete Vancourt, Mal Maloney who was the fire chief in the community for years
and Doc Wilder, an old crony of Gus'. Then there was Daisy Allen, the
lady who brought such wacky problems to Gus and Stan. Gus couldn't
help but smile at some of the head-scratching problems that Daisy would
have. Silas Barnstable, Gus' most trying customer, was always
trying to get by for the cheapest way on his auto repairs but would
invariably bring on the troubles himself.
Good old Stan.
He always believed that Gus was a sucker for helping the kids with either
their bicycles or their first cars. Many of them turned to Gus when
other problems arose mainly due to his being such a good friend to all of
great for when one starts pulling them in, it seems the miles go quickly.
It was well past noon when Gus pulled back into the garage. He drove
the wrecker over to the side of the building where he could drop the car and
then jack it up to remove the destroyed tire.
assistant, walked over to Gus as he was lowering the car. "I thought
maybe I was going to have to send someone to find you, Gus. Did you
Les asked the
question in genuine concern, but was surprised when Gus took a moment to
no, I didn't get lost. I just drove slower than usual 'cause I didn't
want to bump Stan's new wrecker." Gus wanted to evade any more
questions along that line, as he didn't want to confess he'd made a slight
detour in his route back to the garage. This young fellow might not
understand the feelings Gus had for coming back to the community that had
been his home for so many years.
everything here? Any calls?" After asking Les that question, Gus
remembered quickly that he was actually now an assistant to Stan and Les.
"I reckon you
would have been able to take care of anything that would have come along.
How long have you worked for Stan now?"
Les was still
trying to figure out Gus' very apparent evasive answers. "Oh, nearly a
year now. After Stan and Jane's son graduated from high school and
went off to college, he needed someone to help him. I'm grateful for
the job and I've learned a lot from him about cars.
But, you know,
Gus, when I tell him that, he always tells me it's a 'pass-it-along'
knowledge. I guess he's talking about you, Gus."
He felt a surge
of pride about Stan. He remembered when he'd hired him straight out of
high school, a green kid, but one who had turned into a first-class
mechanic. Now Stan was indeed passing along that heritage of
automobile knowledge to Les. Well, he'd talk to him later about that.
quickly, "I'll get the floor jack and get this tire off. Why do people
drive on flats?"
"Les, I was
asking myself the same question earlier when I saw the long streak of black
rubber on the road where this owner had driven the tire flat. It must
be that their minds are elsewhere, which incidentally, can get them in
trouble mighty fast. That and probably they don't have an appreciation for
their car like they should."
But wouldn't they notice? After all, when the tire pressure goes down,
it's going to pull to whichever side the low tire is on."
think so," Gus answered. Then he went on, "People forget that next to
having the best brakes they can, their tires are extremely important.
Radials should be periodically rotated, front to back and car owners should
always be looking at their tires for any visible defects or breaks in the
sidewalls. One problem that folks get themselves into is adjusting the
air pressure down after driving on the tires for a while. Then after
the tires cool, the air pressure is too low for them to be driving on them.
The next thing you know, the tire has gone flat or it has worn out the edges
of the tread too much to be safe."
"Thanks Gus for
your words of wisdom. Like I said, it's a pass-it-along knowledge,
He answered, "Right."
Gus was sitting
at a corner booth in Dan's Grill Saturday evening eating his meal when Stan
walked in. "I thought maybe I'd find you here, Gus." Stan said as he
came to the table.
Gus smiled at
him and motioned for him to sit down.
"How was the
trip? The family doing okay?"
Stan smiled at
his former boss and dear friend. "Yes, the trip was fine and the
family is doing okay. You know, Gus, I've been back in town for
only a couple of hours now and everyone I've met has asked me if you were
back to stay. Would you come back?"
Gus looked at
Stan, all the while trying to push back the lump that had suddenly appeared
in his throat.
"Stan, it's very
good of you to ask me. And I'm happy to know you and the folks
hereabouts think of me that much. But no, my day has passed.
It's time for the younger fellows and gals to pick up where I left off.
You know, working on cars is only part of it; the biggest challenge and yes,
the greatest joy of the job is doing the best you know how and sticking with
it until you lick a problem. Folks are pretty much the same regardless
of where one lives. The mechanic can and should try to be a real
friend to everyone he comes in contact with."
The two friends
sat there unspeaking for a few moments lost in their own thoughts.
Then Stan spoke up, "Gus, it's been my privilege to know you all these
years. You'll never know how many people whose lives you've touched
nor the long line of mechanics you've started. Take care, my friend
and many thanks."