Monday, January 24, 2011

The Southun Shade Mechanic

Not too long ago, I owned a 1960 MGB. It was a great car but had a habit of needing almost constant tweaking. One night in particular, I lost the ability to use the gas pedal. While I was standing there, miles from home, checking out the problem and trying to find a way to fix the dang thing with all the auto parts closed, a man stopped and asked if he could help. I told him that what I really needed was some baling wire. Amazingly, he had some. I restrung the gas pedal's cable with the baling wire and was on my way in no time.

What this little story illustrates is that there is a long history of what is known as the "Shade Tree Mechanic" (or STM.) The STM is that guy who repairs cars right where they sit, no need to tow it in, or even have a roof. AND for the sake of argument, we'll allow that the STM can also be found working at night, sans "Shade."

The 'STM' is both a good mechanic and is also a crafty inventor - much like my above example, restringing a cable with a length of baling wire.

When I first moved to Tennessee I met a guy who was the quintessential STM. He owned a car repair business but rather than a brick and mortar building, he had his business in a big truck which he brought to your location and made needed repairs. A true Suthun 'Good Ol Boy' he could just about dismantle my car blindfolded with a glass of sweet tea at his elbow.

That big truck had a distinctive sound and I got a kick out of the fact that he parked it in the shade of the only big tree in my front yard. Over the years, I've lost touch with him but during those few years I knew him, he was practically on speed dial.

These days we own a 10 yr old 4WD Jeep. As it gets older, more and more problems abound. For the most part, I take the car to someone qualified, but sometimes I can do the work myself (and blog about it to no end...I am nothing if not self important.) Even with those repairs bolstering my personal ego, I still yearn for the sound of that big truck as it came down the street and parked in the shade of my big elm out front.

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