While we were waiting in the backseat of a police car, the trooper struck up a conversation about our trip. He pointed out, again, that it was a long drive, and he wished us luck. The whole time he talked with us he never turned around, just looked at us through the rear-view mirror. Something he was probably comfortable with when he had a suspect in the back with his knees up under their chin. There is, purposely, not a lot of leg room in the back of a police car. Keeps the perp from kicking at the steel cage that separates him from freedom, or at least doing bodily harm to his adversary, who is taking him to a place he doesn’t want to go. He wore his hat the whole time. One of those brown trooper hats with a round brim that looks like someone punched it in on both sides of the front.
After about a half an hour a tow truck pulled around from the westbound lane. “Larry’s Auto Service, Stillwater, Oklahoma,” and a phone number embellishing both doors. Larry jumped out and walked over to the patrol car. I know he was Larry, because the embroidered name above the pocket on his blue overalls said so. I remember a comedian saying something like you don’t want your son to grow up and get a job where he has his name embroidered over his pocket, or something like that. Larry, however, was the business owner, unless another Larry worked at Larry’s Auto Service. “Hi, I’m Larry, and this is my brother, Larry, and my other brother, Larry.”
Clarence and I got into the tow truck, thanked the Oklahoma State Trooper whose name we still did not know, and headed back towards the car. It was now approaching one in the morning. Larry asked the inevitable question, “Where you guys headed?”
“We’re driving to New York, Long Island, Syosett, heard of it?
“Can’t say that I have,” he said. “Heard of New York of course. Never been there, though. Can’t say that I want to. Don’t know anything about this soy-os-it though. Never heard of it.”
We have to be there tomorrow night.” Clarence said. The he added, “We’re in a real hurry.”
“Well, maybe you’re in luck,” Larry said. “I might be able to fix you up”
When we spotted the car in the eastbound lane, Larry drove the truck over the median and pulled up in front of it. “Let’s have a look,” he said.
He got in the car, started it up after Clarence handed him the keys, put it in gear, and, nothing. The engine still sounded good. “It’s the clutch,” Larry said. “Let’s get it to the shop.”
Larry hooked up the car to the Ford dually wrecker truck with obvious expertise. We were headed down the Will Rogers Expressway in no time, then north on US177 towards Stillwater. Clarence asked the inevitable question, “How much you think this is going to cost?”
He paused for a minute, kind of checking us out I guess, to see if we were moneyed. Then he said, “Probably get it done for around a hundred, hundred fifty, and have you on your way in no time. You boys got a place to stay?”
We didn’t. I expected to be sleeping in the copilot’s seat of the 200SX this night. We hadn’t really budgeted for motels, barely budgeted for meals, and now we were going to have to come up with over a hundred for car repairs.
“I’ll drop you off at the Motel 6. We’ll get there in a bit, and I’ll pick you up in the morning.”
At least I was in shock. I don’t know about Clarence. “I said, really, you’d do that?”
He said, “Sure, no problem. I’ll be working on this all night anyway, so I’ll pick you up around 8:00.”
I couldn’t believe our good fortune. Clarence on the other hand didn’t seem all that pleased. Then I figured it out. After Larry dropped us off at the Motel 6 sign flashing “Vacancy,” he drove off with Clarence’s car hooked to the back of his tow truck, with nothing to show for it but a crumpled business card. He was thinking he wasn’t going to see that car again. I tried to reassure him. We had the name, Larry Owens, we had the address, we had a phone number. What was he going to do, part out the car overnight?
Eight o:clock sharp, we were standing in front of the office of the Motel 6 sipping coffee I wouldn’t serve to a mortal enemy, and up drives Larry in his tow truck. We jumped in. Clarence smiled his trademark smile. I didn’t figure we were out of the woods just yet. Maybe we were being kidnapped now. I mean didn’t Larry have another vehicle? Apparently not, or so he told us later.
We drove for a few minutes and pulled up in front of a small mechanics shop with “Larry’s Automotive Service – All Makes and Models” emblazoned on the wall over the one stall garage. The Datsun sat in the middle of the stall, parts strewn around, wrenches here and there, obviously not in working order.
What Larry told us was that he pulled the tranny, put the new clutch in, but he was waiting for a part, a throw-out bearing or something, that was being shipped up from Oklahoma City and should be here in a few hours. He had gotten the rest of parts from his local parts supplier. He got this guy out of bed at two in the morning, made him go open his shop, and bring him over the parts. I still, to this day, do not believe all the things Larry did to help us out. He promised us the car would be ready early afternoon. Larry suggested we kill some time over at Oklahoma State University, get some lunch, a beer or something, and call him around one. Off we went in the direction of OSU.
The first thing we noticed is that the place looked deserted. Not just the campus, but the whole town. There didn’t seem to be ten people in the whole place. Hardly any cars were driving around. Some business were open, but a lot of them had closed signs, and “Go STATE” banners in the windows. Toys and bikes were left idle in front lawns everywhere. Not a kid in sight. It was like Stillwater had been evacuated for an eminent natural disaster or something.
We walked over to the campus and found Boone Pickens Stadium. I had never been on “Astroturf,” and I was surprised that we were able to walk right onto the field. It was blue. It isn’t anymore. They have replaced the blue field with traditional green since I was there. The carpet was not different from any outdoor carpet on a concrete patio, and it felt pretty hard under foot. Not what I expected. I also didn’t expect there not to be anyone, I mean anyone, around. It was just weird. We ran a few mock plays on the field, looking up in the stands, imagining what it would be like to play college football here on a Saturday afternoon.
We walked off campus a few blocks and found a little bar that was open. There wasn’t a soul around except the female bartender who cheerfully said, “What can I get you boys?”
“Where the hell is everybody?” I said, “This place is like a morgue.”
“Everybody’s up in Norman. Game Day. OU and State. If it was a home game, you wouldn’t be able to get in here,” she smiled.
“Enough said, we’ll take a couple of Coor’s Lights.” We went over to the single pool table and put in two quarters. The balls crashed out, and we picked a cue stick from the rack.
To Be Continued…