Under the Raydar: A Junkyard Christmas

I attempted to teach my son how to switch over to snow tyres when we got a bit of snow a few weeks ago.

And much to my shock and dismay, I discovered that modern vehicles come with neither a spare nor, more importantly, a damn jack, and instead just some lame-ass pump that is supposed to fill a flat with enough air to get to a service station. That’ll do me tonnes of good on the way home from a gig in Jutland at 4am.

My father didn’t raise us that way …

Transmission interrupted
The old man wasn’t really into garages or repair shops of any kind. He was handy with cars, but his expertise did not extend to the interior of our old house. Chez Weaver was soggy with leaky elbow joints and wiring that would scare a building inspector to death.

One of Dad’s greatest automotive feats came at Christmas when I was 17 and the automatic transmission in my Chevy station wagon finally ground itself to death. I certainly didn’t have the money for a new transmission, so Christmas was looking pretty bleak.

Enter Dad, the blue-collar Santa. “I’ll drive you to the junkyard and get you a transmission and you can help me put it in on Saturday…we’ll call it your Christmas present,” he said.

“But Saturday is Christmas Eve.” – “That’s the deal. Take it or leave it.”
A junkyard transmission for Christmas … I don’t believe Bing – or even Elvis – has a song about that one.

Transmission impossible?
When Saturday came, it brought with it good, old-fashioned, in-your-face December cold.

Dad haggled his best deal on my oily Christmas present and we hauled it to our backyard. Of course we didn’t own the proper jacks or lifts, but Dad was never one to stop in the middle of a job for a little thing like not having the right tools.
“Get me those old books from the shed,” he said. “What books?” I replied.

“That old set of A&P encyclopedias we’re gonna burn this winter.” – “What do you need encyclopedias for, Dad?”

“Just get me the damn books.”

Transmission clamped
My mission, it turned out, was to lie upon the frozen earth and wedge volumes of the A&P Illustrated Encyclopedia, one by one, under the transmission my father was lifting by throwing all of his weight on a 6 foot-long two-by-four. We had already dropped the old transmission to the ground and were using it as a fulcrum. Enough leverage (and books) would “lift that sucker up to where we can just bolt her right on”.

It worked and the books got pretty soaked with transmission fluid, so they “burned real good” too. We used them as kindling all winter. The old man didn’t waste anything.

(Note: The author does NOT recommend the aforementioned liquid as a fire starter … those were different times.)

Christmas turned out okay and I drove that Chevy wagon until even Dad couldn’t fix it.