Do you remember what it was like before cell phones? I’m not talking about not being able to post your latest adventures on Instagram, I’m talking about not being able to call someone.
This is a story before cell phones and before electronic ignition for that matter.
It was 1975 and I was leaving the northeast in my almost new Opel Manta on my way to Mississippi where I was going to enter pilot training at Columbus AFB. When you traveled back then, it was always good to have a lot of cash on hand as finding an ATM was almost impossible; Of course, fifty bucks was a lot of money back then. I could fill the tank of my Manta fifteen times with fifty bucks.
I was cruising at seventy mph down the highway somewhere in Appalachia when all of a sudden my engine shut off. No problem; I depressed the clutch and coasted a mile to the next exit. It was one of those long winding off-ramps, but I was not worried as I still had enough speed to cruise the final two miles to the end of the off-ramp.
I then encountered something I never imagined in my life that I would ever find at the T-intersection at the bottom of a major highway off-ramp; a dirt road! Not a dirt road with a gas station, but a dirt road with nothing in sight in either direction.
In my short life up to this point, I had never exited a highway and not found a city of 100,000 people or more. I was a little stumped, but hey, I was a brand new college graduate and I should be able to figure something out, so I pulled my car over to the side of the dirt road and got out.
I opened the hood and tried willing the engine to start to no avail. I was getting a little anxious as it hadn’t been too many years before that I had seen the movie Deliverance and the phrase “squeal like a pig” kept running through my mind.
What was I going to do? I had just about decide to walk the two miles back up the off-ramp to the highway and hope to thumb to the nearest civilization when I spotted two young boys, about sixteen years old, walking my way.
I should say that I saw Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn walking my way; bib overhauls with no shirts, no shoes, straw hats and of course, bamboo fishing poles. Was I dreaming?
I saw a problem right away when we started trying to communicate. These boys had such thick Appalachian mountain accents that I only understood one word out of three. Eventually, I got my tool kit of my trunk and got a screw driver out for them relying almost entirely on sign language.
Evidently, the points in my carburetor had closed and with a little fiddling, they were able to get the engine running again. I was so happy to be able to get out of there that I would have promised them my first born child, but they refused any attempt I made for compensation; they probably got enough enjoyment over the years telling the story of the Yankee who didn’t know one end of a screw driver from the other.
I thanked them again, waved goodbye headed back to the highway where I made my way to Mississippi where I learned many more life lessons south of the Mason Dixon line.
Sure would have been nice to have had a cell phone back then, but then I probably would have been out of service!