Jeff Buck is Dennis’s oldest son. He was a teenager when we first met, not old enough to drive. As the years went by I saw him learn to drive, survive his first car, become a fixture around the shop. I have a story that involves Jeff I want to tell. It happened about ten summers ago. It’s not the main point of this series of posts but it illuminates my relationship with Dennis and Jeff.
The ’76 F-250 is the vehicle in the middle of this tale. I had driven it on a Scout trip to the beach. Since it was a heavy truck with a good low gear, I was towing the equipment trailer. We were caravanning back on Sunday afternoon, about 30 miles from home, when the clutch let go. One moment, rolling along at 50 mph. The next moment…BANG! The clutch must have completely disintegrated. The engine was no longer connected to the gearbox in any way that provided momentum. I slowed, drifted off on the shoulder in front of a couple of houses and stopped.
After discussion, the rest of the Troop decided to continue on. The trailer was connected to a different truck. One other leader, Leo, stayed with me and everyone else went on to get the gear unpacked and the Scouts home.
I called Dennis to see if he would send a tow truck. It was Father’s Day and he was with his family, but he said he would send Jeff in a little while if we could wait an hour or so. We could, as we really had no choice. After the call, we went up to the house and explained our situation. We got permission to sit under the trees near the house. I had my gear and equipment in the truck, so after we called Dennis, we put up camp chairs, got out a cooler, unpacked drinks and snacks and settled in.
Jeff showed up to find Leo and I relaxing in the shade. We’d been telling stories, doing our best to enjoy what the day had turned into. Jeff was driving a flat bed tow truck, the kind that you tilt the bed and winch the vehicle onto. We stood back as he set up, attached the cable, and started the winch. My truck, with all the gear in it, got to the top of the inclined ramp and was just about ready to be tilted down to level when the winch cable pulled out of the clamps.
My truck, no longer connected to anything, rolled back off the tow truck, across the yard and slammed backwards into an oak tree. Hard. Hard enough to tear the truck box off it’s bolts and slide it back into the rest of the gear. Hard enough to crunch the bumper up into the tailgate. Loud enough to make the people come out of the house and stare.
Jeff climbed out of the cab of the tow truck and ran back and looked at my truck, looked at us, and started trying to apologize. He knew I was his Dad’s friend and customer, but didn’t know me that well personally.
Leo turned to me and said, straight faced, “This is going to make a great story.” That was it. I started laughing. Leo joined me. We laughed until we had tears on our faces. Jeff looked at us like we were insane, which just made it funnier.
Finally I got control enough to get him to stop apologizing, “It’s an old truck, it’s just a bumper, it’s okay, I’ll work it out with your Dad.”
Jeff didn’t have any tools, but I did. I put the cable back together, we hooked it back up, and this time I rode in the cab to have my foot near the brakes as he winched it up. We loaded without further incident and headed home.
The next day I went to see Dennis and got to tell the story for the first time. I’ve told it to Scouts, and now I’ve told it to you. Jeff had already told his version of it to Dennis, and we laughed about it some more. Dennis looked at the bumper and said, “I can beat it back down so the tailgate opens and not charge you anything for the towing, or I can get you a replacement bumper, no charge, and the towing will go on the repair.”
I took the free towing, and drove the truck with a dented bumper. It didn’t seem to make much difference in how the truck looked.