Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Leapin Lenna

Uncle Pete was a wizard with an ax, chisel, hammer and blow torch. He and his family lived next door to us after we moved into our new Jim Walter house in West Pratt. He got out of a job one fall as the weather started cooling off and he decided to haul coal for people to make some money. The problem was, he didn't have a truck. What he did have was an old 47 Chevy sedan. The old sedan was a two-door and the top sort of rounded off toward the back bumper.
Early on a Saturday morning, uncle Pete pulled the car right up in front of the old home place and started collecting his tools. All the kids in the camp gathered around because when uncle Pete started a project, it was almost always interesting.
He started on top of the old Chevy just behind the front seat and began whacking a single edge ax with a sledge hammer. He made a straight cut right across the top and then used the blow torch and the chisel to cut the rest of the top off down to the back windows. There was some tense moments as he cut around the gas tank with the torch but he completed the cutting without fatalities.
He then ripped out the back seat and built a flat bed out of sawmill lumber and fitted it to the assembly. He also built a wall that fitted up against the back seats which boxed in the cab of the homemade truck. He cut a hole in the wall and installed an old window that was intended for a house.
It was a festive event for all the kids because watching the truck take shape was something you didn't see every day.
After he had hammered down all the sharp edges and secured the wooden bed, he got out a can of paint and painted the contraption fire engine red. He painted the boards on the outside of the bed white. On the back fender (what was left of it) he painted the words: "Leapin Lenna." Not sure where he got the name but it seemed to fit somehow.
Uncle Pete hauled coal all winter long in Leapin' Lenna and when spring rolled around the old truck was sagging a little in the middle and began to look quite sad. It wasn't long before he traded Lenna off for some other old car. All us kids were taking bets as to whether the newer car would make it through the next fall with the top intact.


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