Henry the Truck - Issue 5
Last updated 4/22/2016 at 5:40am
Vol. 63, No. 2 Borrego Springs, California, January 16, 2014
Eulogy to an Old Friend
On Thursday, July 30, 2002 the infamous 'Pine's Fire' started near Banner, and burned North and South for days, destroying property and landscape over a large portion of San Diego County. The following is a story of one person's loss...
On Sunday morning, of Aug. 4, 2002, Denny brought my motor to life, and we headed towards Julian. I could sense that Denny was very upset. As we drove towards Julian, Denny told me that there was a fire at Banner Queen Ranch, and that he had lost everything that he had stored there.
This included all of his personal diaries from 1968 through 2000, family pictures of his children, his wedding, his parents' pictures, dating back to the mid 1800s; Correspondence from his mother, and his birth mother, adoption info., etc. Plus all of his miscellaneous old car parts. This also included a 1945 Chevy two-ton flat bed truck that I have known since 1964, when Denny bought him from the old 'Ensign Ranch' in Borego. I knew this was not going to be a fun day!!!!
As we entered the lower part of Banner Grade, we entered a wasteland of burned earth; nothing was left alive. Just skeletons of brush and trees, and the occasional remnants of some of the homes along the way. The ground was covered in ashes. My hopes of finding anything left at Banner Queen faded with each mile that we continued through the devastation! I could feel Denny's apprehension as we neared the Ranch.
As we entered the Ranch, we drove past various burnt patches that were left by the fire storm that ravaged the ranch just days ago.
As we pulled into the back of the ranch, I saw my old friend - burnt to the ground!! The remains of what was stored on his bed, laying on the ground around him, burned beyond recognition. I had never seen anything like this in all of my years of life!! Denny parked me facing away from my fallen friend. "No reason for you to have to look at this," Denny told me as he shut off my motor and got out.
We stayed at the Ranch for several hours, as Denny looked through the devastation for anything that might have been spared - Nothing was, everything was gone!!!
We left the Ranch, and headed home for Poway. Denny drove me slowly towards home. I could see the tears in his eyes, as he held my steering wheel tightly in his hands. There was nothing for either of us to say. Nothing could change what had happened!! Nothing could erase the pain!! Only time, and new experiences, will answer the questions, and perhaps show us a reason for our losses.
As we drove along, I remembered stories the 'old truck' had shared with me over the last, almost forty years I had known him.
He was born in July of 1945, riding on a military frame left over from WWII. Purchased by the 'Ensign Ranch' (now Borrego Springs Park). He hauled hay out of the fields, hauled dates from the date groves to Indio for processing and returned them to the Ranch to be sold. He hauled pigs to the L.A. area from the Ranch, and all of the other duties called upon him, in the running of a large Ranch.
Denny bought him about 1964. They were selling the Ranch to become the developed community it is today. After a few years of service the old '216' motor gave up the ghost, and Denny put in a later style '235.' This motor was replaced later with a '261.' That motor was used until its 'final trip.'
I should tell you that Denny's Dad, Eddie DuVall wasn't in favor of Denny buying the truck, However as time went on every time Denny wanted to use the truck, he would have to call his Dad to see if it was available. His Dad would say, "give me a day to unload it, and you can have it back." I think he used it as much as Denny did!! Ain't Life Great!!!!
Denny used the truck to haul old cars, and old car parts when he sold them or bought them. Also to haul hay, firewood, and furniture for people moving in, or out of Borego. Even restaurant supplies, out of San Diego, for the various restaurants in Borego. I even got to ride on the truck a few times. One ride, I'll NEVER forget.
1945 - Chevy 2-Ton.
In 1973, after Denny's Dad passed away, he was moving into Escondido with his family, so his mother, Alta, could be closer to medical facilities. On this trip Denny and his oldest son, Ben, who was about six then, came out to Borego to haul his 1929 Model A roadster pickup, and me, to Escondido, to complete the move into town. The Model A got to ride on the bed of the truck, and I got to ride on a car trailer behind the truck.
We headed in for Escondido after dark. As we topped the grade on Yaqui Pass, Denny had just started down the long winding grade, he pumped the brakes to get them up to full when the brake pedal fell to the floor, and stayed there!! Denny quickly grabbed third gear, he knew that 'third over,' wasn't good enough to hold us back, so he revved the motor to its max, and ground the two-speed rear end in to 'under.' This was all the lower he could go. Road speed was too high to allow him to get any lower gears. He had to 'feather the clutch' in and out to help slow the truck, from its ever increasing speed.
If he allowed the clutch to be completely out, the motor would over-rev, and blow to smithereens. At first he was going to try to rub up against the wall of the mountain, but it was too rough and rocky. He chose to ride it out. We came to the first hard right corner, Denny swung out onto the oncoming lane, and cut back into the corner. Me, and the '29 are hanging on for dear life, wondering what the hell is going on, and if we will live to see another day. Good thing there was no other traffic that night, as me, and the trailer I was riding on, had slid out into the oncoming lane.
We had one more bad corner to go, Denny knew, if we could make that, we would make it okay. Denny released the clutch pedal. We needed every bit of braking from the motor we could get, if we were to survive!!!! The motor screamed in defiance, it was way past red line, if the motor would hold, we would live!!! If not ...
We entered the last corner in a four wheel drift, eight wheel drift if you count the trailer I was riding on. The motor was screaming but it didn't blow!! As we came into the next corner, the rpms were starting to drop, and we were slowing to a much safer speed. The last corners were taken easily. We stopped at Tamarisk Grove at the bottom of the grade. It was there we learned what had happened. The rod that went from the brake pedal to the master cylinder, that pin, had fallen out. Denny found a spare nut and bolt and fixed it to get us home.
Once again, Denny's Guardian Angel was with us. If you could see her, you would see she has quite a bit of gray hair – each gray hair represents a miracle she has brought to him!! Trust me, she has earned each and every one!!! I know, I have been with Denny through most of them!!!
I was jarred awake from my memories as I noticed we were pulling off the road on our journey home, from Banner Queen Ranch.
Denny shut off my motor - and came up, and sat on my front bumper. "Look at that sunset!!! Would you believe, that the smoke from the fire, that took so much from us, and others as well, is helping to make one of the prettiest sunsets I've ever seen!!" Sure enough, it really was a beautiful sunset!!
We sat there watching the sun go down, and all of the colors changing - finally fading to darkness.
Finally, Denny got up and patted me on the fender. He seemed to have shed some of his sadness. "I guess we'll just have to make NEW Memories!!" He fired up my motor, and we blended into the traffic, for the final leg home. I thought of my old friend back at Banner Queen Ranch, and I knew, that he would want us to do, JUST THAT!!!