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Forked Stick Helps Model A Stay In Gear

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.  
When you read this, January will be over and it just doesn’t seem possible how fast  time goes by.   I’ve always  heard that the older we get, the faster time seems to slip away and it seems to be  true. When we were kids it seemed that Christmas would never get here and now the holiday seasons seem to run together.
That having been said, we need to enjoy the fact that with all the problems we have today we still have it easier than our parents did in their time.
Last Wednesday I attended a visitation in the Broadway Baptist Church in Southaven for Kelly Tidwell, who was at Camp Ground when I was there. He was several years older but his brother Charles (we called him C. J. back then) was in my class during the time I went to school there. I saw Kelly  a few years ago at the only Camp Ground reunion I ever attended and we had a long talk about old times.
I remember that he was a reserved individual in those days, unlike C. J., who was always the outgoing talkative one. A man at the visitation introduced himself and I told him how I came to be there  and asked about C. J. and he led me over to talk to him.  
When you haven’t seem someone for so many years my memory is of a live wire teenager and instead I found  an elderly gentleman who at first didn’t remember me. Nevertheless we talked briefly. He told me where he lived and thanked me for coming. Actually, he was the only person there that I knew.  I think that’s the reason I don’t care much for reunions, preferring to remember everyone as we all were back then, young, excited about the next ball game or our first date–never realizing those were probably the happiest days of our lives.
During World War II, a young man named Lonnie Sartain moved into what was once the John Wright house on Old Oxford Road. He worked at the Stave mill in Water Valley. Lonnie was a tall, gangly individual with a wife and two children and was something of what we called a “shade tree” mechanic. He drove a truck that had been converted from a Model A Ford car.  
All of the cars back then had a shift on the floor which got in the way when three people rode in the front.  When the  Model A was introduced in 1927, Henry Ford  thought he had solved that problem by allowing the driver, after he had gone into high gear, to knock the floor shift out of the way to allow more room.  
That was great when the car was new but after a few years it would jump out of high. That function was removed in the next year’s model due to numerous complaints. Lonnie had that problem with his truck and with typical southern ingenuity, he jammed a forked stick into the dash and when he shifted into high he would put the shift into the fork and it stayed in place.  
During the depression when he was young, single and unemployed, he bought a Model T roadster for five dollars, fixed it up and he and a friend drove all the way to California. I’ve made that cross country trip and even with air conditioning and cruise control it is a long tiresome drive.  I can’t imagine what it was like for two young guys in an old clunker that would only go 25 or 30 miles an hour. Since  nobody had told Lonnie it couldn’t be done, he simply went on and did it anyway.   
I’ve thought about that and often wondered if John Steinbeck might have met those two and  worked their experience  into his classic novel, “The Grapes Of Wrath.”  It is known that he visited migrant camps and even traveled with some of  the people, so who knows?  
Since I’ve started this series about country people I continue to be both amazed and humbled by their experiences. I’m sure many of you have similar stories and I would appreciate you sharing them with us.  
My email address is or write me at P.O. Box 613189, Memphis, TN 38101 and have a great week.

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