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The Hawk's Nest

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Great Balls of Fire!

The motor on the old motor home was tired and flames were shooting out of the carburetor right next to me. At the top of the hill, I had been talked into calling for a tow.

We needed temporary quarters on our new property while we made necessary repairs to the house.

I argued I could drive the old rig up to the new place but my partner to all destinations (and very possibly the reason I'm still alive) argued it was not safe.

Then came a call that gave my plan a shot. It seems the tow wasn't available. 

I pointed out the air cleaner cover was off, and if I put it on the flames couldn't blow into cab of the motor home. She wondered if it would climb the steep hill. I assured her it would since there was enough room for me to make a run at it. She wasn't convinced, but we needed that motor home up there.

I put the air cleaner cover on the carburetor. I couldn't find the wing nut that held it so I let gravity take care of it. 

I fired the old motor. My partner in adventure-land came in and opened all the windows - she was sure the flaming engine would use all the air. Then she left in the car. 

I pulled the lever out of park and gave it some gas, then gave it some more gas. With the pedal on the floor our home- while-homeless started to roll. It was only a couple of miles and I knew we could get there.

At the railroad tracks I looked both ways "No train. Good, no stop, that saves getting it to roll again," I thought. I looked in the mirrors and all I could see was smoke. It's a good thing my partner on most road trips was in front.

We came around the corner to cross the highway. Oh no! I'd forgotten about the highway, and in midday. Here I was trying to get across 95 in a vehicle that could do 0 to 6 mph in 300 car lengths. I stopped at the sign while my partner in all difficult intersections of life scooted across the lanes between traffic. I sat and waited. Finally, an opening on the right. I looked up the hill to the left; nothing but the tops of some trees over the hill. I jammed my foot to the floor, the engine roared, the tired transmission screamed, and the wheels started turning in the way in which they have helped humankind for thousands of years

I inched across the white line and into the traffic lane. The engine and transmission growled at each other as if in combat and the wheels did their job with all the worry steel and rubber can muster. I looked right - still clear; the front of the motor home crossed the yellow line. I looked left. Those weren't trees I had seen but the tops of the stacks of a semi just over the hill. Now the semi and I were on the same side of the summit and 18 wheels were trying to make up time. I was halfway into the same lane as 90 thousand pounds of iron and cargo and going two miles an hour. The motor home's nose crossed the shoulder line - this meant I only had about 30 feet left in front of the diesel transport. My foot was making a dent under the pedal as I sensed my rear wheels hit the gravel- I was off the highway. Boy those air horns are loud when they get that close.

      My partner and I were safely on the same side of that crisis. Picking up speed for the hill that would be the end of this journey, I twisted the big steering wheel through a curve. My partner on this road less traveled was slowing to make sure I was with her. I was speeding up for the climb so I grabbed the horn ring to let her know I was coming fast. It came off in my hand. I let it fly over my right shoulder and heard it bounce off some appliance behind me. Apparently she looked in her mirror and saw nothing but a very expired license plate, because suddenly she was at the top of the hill while I was still at the bottom.

      As we started up the hill I pulled the shift lever into first for the climb; the engine roared. 

I looked at the speedometer and watched the needle go from ten to nine to eight. The tachometer went from 400 to 350 to 300.

The ancient power plant started its rebellious act of blowing fire out the carburetor, but with the air cleaner cover on it blew out the breather. No big deal except I had inadvertently pointed the breather at my foot. The leather of my boot was getting hot, then hotter. The speedo said seven, then six. The tach said 250, then 200. I quit looking at the gauges mainly because I could now count the RPMs by sound. Then I saw the cover of the carburetor fly out of sight and bounce off the sink behind me. We seemed to be getting quite a collection of parts back there. At least my foot was no longer in front of the fire being belched from the motor.

As I neared the top of the hill my partner in all the hills of life was standing beside the car cheering. The old truck was still slowing but about to break over the top. Slowly the front wheels rolled onto the level. Even slower, the rear wheels made the level. I was exhausted but we were at the top of the hill.

Just 20 feet from its final destination it died. I got out; it was out of the way and nearly level.

That was the end of the drive for the old motor home, in more ways than one,  and like all endings it was a new beginning. I'm glad the new home doesn't need to be moved.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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editorial, driving

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