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The Truck with No Engine and Other modes of Transportation

Kit Bradley first heard about it from Dennis McCormick, an old buddy of mine, whose brother Glenn had a “truck with no engine” and we went to see it.  We started making plans to ride our bikes from Cove to the Burma Road, the most dangerous road on Vashon, unpaved gravel with cliffs above steep canyons, sometimes on both sides.  The road was so narrow, it was one-way except for a few turnouts where cars or trucks could pass and everybody honked their horns before the curves.

So Dale Bates, Brother Mike, Kit and I were getting our bikes ready to ride to the Burma Road to see the truck with no engine, no body, and four wheels on a bare frame.  We heard that it could be steered.  We put playing cards on our bike wheels with clothes pins, so we could make a great noise tearing down Cove Road.  We thought we sounded like a plane flying by, or so our imaginations told us.  The wind whistled in our ears as we dropped down to Cedarhurst from Colvos and sped over Shingle Mill Creek, where the Chinese panned for gold a long time ago.

Dale didn’t have any brakes and when we started down McCormick’s hill, he dragged his heels in the dirt to keep from running off into the brush.  The road was very steep and heavily rutted.  Glenn saw us coming and was standing by his contraption.  He was later to put a D-Jaguar fiberglass body on it, though it never had an engine.  The idea was that if we helped Glenn push his wreck up the hill, he would let us ride back down.  It was hard work pushing an old truck frame up that driveway and I don’t remember stopping to rest or that it had any regular brakes.  Glenn had bolted an old leaf spring to one side of the frame and used it for a brake.   The harder Glenn pulled back on the leaf spring, the deeper it went into the dirt, slowing us down somewhat.

Kit’s hat blew off and dirt was flying up from the brake as we sped down the hill, terrified at the possibility of running off the bank and into Puget Sound.  The ruts held us to the road somewhat as Glenn steered the corners. Glenn and I sat on either side of the frame, Kit and Mike were sitting on the cross-member above the rear wheels,  as we sped down the hill, safety was an afterthought.

And then there was “Old Bud Hake,” who was a Vashon logger.  He wasn’t really old, we just called him that.  His logging truck lies hidden in the brush somewhere on Vashon and on the door it reads in scrawled white letters: HALF FAST LOGGING CO.

“Mom, you’ve got to get off the road, its old Ed Ramquist  driving both sides of the road again,” my sister yelled from the back seat of Grandma Ollie’s 1941 Chevy.  Ed was “older than dirt,” and at least 97, so everybody looked out for him.  Mom hit the brakes, and turned into Weideman’s driveway just in time as Ed weaved his way by, driving the same old Ford Model A that he had bought new in the thirties and here it was 1951.  

One time Dad  bought a brand new “49” Oldsmobile and Mom was driving a carload of Cub Scouts down the Burma Road, probably taking Bobby Billings or Mike Kennedy home.   Brother Mike was in the back seat, cutting up more than he usually did.  Mom was yelling at him in the mirror to get the “hell out of the car” and she stopped and Mike got out.  It wasn’t  twenty feet down the road, when the front wheel was caught in the soft dirt at the side of the road and over the Oldsmobile went, but not very far, for a tree was in the way and stopped us from rolling into the canyon.  The Oldsmobile was on its side and we couldn’t lift the doors to get out.  Not long after, Mike caught up and climbed up the side of the car and helped open the doors.  Nobody was hurt and Dad tried to get the Oldsmobile repaired, but the frame was bent and the heater leaked.  The car looked like we were driving down the highway sideways.

I also had a “doodle-bug,” an engine fired scooter with a centrifugal clutch that I had picked up by some shifty trading.  It didn’t need to be licensed because it couldn’t go very fast and had to be pushed up our driveway from the peach orchard because the fluid clutch just couldn’t take the hill.  It did have a throttle but the brake was broken, causing the rider to drag his feet to stop the scooter.  You pulled a rope to start the 1 ½ horse engine and it trailed a plume of blue smoke behind it.  When it was running, I would trail behind the other guys down Cove road, as the bikes could go a lot faster.

We also got around by hitch hiking, which was totally accepted on an island where most of the people knew everybody else