The International…

This young married couple just couldn’t catch a break. Dire straits. They liked where they lived though the house and yard needed work. (Real definition of work, infuse lots of money). They loved where they worshipped. Living just far enough away from parents so they were unable to monitor every second of this young couple’s life. He had quit the job he loved for better pay and hours. She worked too but most of her money went to pay for childcare for their bright, beautiful toddler. But with house and car payments, a credit card bill that grew even though it had been a couple years since they charged anything, they were falling farther behind.

Shannon and mommy, early 1972…

Starting year 4 of their marriage and they both knew some major changes were in order if they were to succeed. So the Hubs contacted a headhunter who signed him up and began looking for a different job. The house they bought a couple years earlier and had lovingly picked out bright, outrageous room colors would go back on the market. The car was a sticky issue. It was relatively new but needed tires, brakes and pads. Plus the payments were too steep.

The high priced car (1972 Vega) we couldn’t afford…

A friend offered to buy the car for a bit more than they owed. Dave, the headhunter called with a promising job lead 350 miles away, still barely in Iowa. Manufacturing toys-sounded like fun. Things might be looking up. Several couples toured the house and it looked as though they might come out ahead. They were young and dumb and didn’t do enough research on the job opportunity. And the company offering the job wasn’t as forthcoming as they should have been, but with the car and house payment eliminated, a lot of the stress was gone.

Easter eggs with all that snow on the ground. New Vienna, 1974…

The job would require more hours and the new company helped find a house to rent and paid to move their belongings. Transportation was gonna be a problem. The choices for ‘means of travel’ were severely hampered by lack of funds. They had a few bucks but could ill afford a payment, which meant a junker requiring constant upkeep. Luckily, the Hubs was handy.

What Hubs found in their price range of $.01 to $600. was meager. The clunker that found its way to their driveway was a 15 year-old, worn-out, half ton, humongous, white International pickup with two wheel drive. Sigh. But it was paid for. Not one of their smarter decisions since they were now several hours away from the rest of the family. (Another negative they realized after the move was there was only one public school for the whole county. Each little town, village, parish boasted their own Catholic school). The local priest preferred calling this young family “his non-practicing Catholics,” hahaha.

Shannon sprucing up the International before it became red…

The pickup was a beast. No power steering, 4 on the floor and a cab bigger than their first rental in Hinton 4 years prior. They were living about 10 miles from ‘the job’ so there weren’t many days when stay-at-home mom ‘had’ the truck. A friend convinced Hubs the truck would look better if it was painted any other color than white. In Gary’s department at work he found some leftover red International Harvester (toy tractor) paint which would be perfect. He offered his garage and a paint sprayer for this update on their cool set of wheels. Unfortunately the sprayer’s coverage was the size of Shannon’s 3 year old fist. Took forever. It looked fabulous-from 15 feet away, kinda like dim polka dots. But outward appearances were the least of our worries with “Goliath.”

One of the main concerns with the International was the passenger door. It had a problem staying closed, but only when the truck was moving. No car seats or safety belts to clutter up the interior, just a vast wasteland for a 3-year old to fly from one side (about a block long) to the other. This really hampered any travel when Shannon was involved. The requirements were a driver, plus a full sized human to hang onto the ‘kid in peril,’ to minimize the likelihood that she would get sucked out of the truck during a right turn. But with a bench seat larger than a queen size mattress the ‘hanger on of 3-year-olds slid precariously close to the swinging door at times too. This added another feature for the driver when he wasn’t shifting every 5 seconds. Grab the wife, hang on for dear life so she could keep the kid safe. Going anywhere turned out to be quite an adventure. What else could go wrong? Well.

Eastern Iowa 1973…

Getting back to the ‘young and dumb’ part of the equation. They still felt the need to ‘go home’ every few months. Why? They couldn’t afford the gas or the extra mileage on Goliath, yet they found themselves meandering westerly on Highway 20, which was two lane until they got to 35 North near Ames. No matter, the truck didn’t approve of speeds above 50 anyway.

But this particular trip was one for the books. They probably had 50 bucks to their name and were maybe a 100 miles from Rock Valley. They spotted a gas station and needed to fill the beast, but when the Hubs tried to downshift, there was no clutch. Goliath just coasted kinda fast to the pump where it promptly stalled. No money for a clutch, now how in heaven’s name were they going to drive that thing?

Red International tractor daddy made, 1974…

Hubs had a plan. With mama in the driver’s seat and Shannon carefully tucked behind/beside her (and as far away from the gruesome door as possible) He-man started pushing. Her job was to have the gearshift thingy in neutral and when he screamed, “put it in first,” shift-without the clutch. So much pressure! She couldn’t slow down or it would stall. But if she went too fast, Hubs ‘the sprinter’ wouldn’t be able to open the driver’s door while she slid over, protecting the kid from sudden death with their killer passenger door.

He got the hang of shifting without the clutch, although it sounded rather bad. (Upon arrival, the family was unconcerned with their zany story, nor did anyone offer help. We were always on our own). They didn’t drive much during their visit though.

Shannon 4-1/2 with newborn Joshua 1975…

Leaving for eastern Iowa suddenly seemed much farther away than 350 miles but the Hubs had been mulling their predicament. They would only stop where there was a slight incline/decline so he could be in the truck, ready to shift instead of pushing, then leaping for his life. Getting through towns proved to be the toughest part of the trip, and Highway 20 hit every conceivable small town Iowa had to offer. Stopping for red lights would certainly cause a stall and if the street was flat, even harder to get moving again. When possible they took side streets, running a few stop signs and questionable lights (turning red) but never got stopped (which would have resulted in another stall). They made it back safely and started saving for a new clutch. In the meantime Hubs continued to drive it while learning where all the slight inclines were.

Daddy bringing home new wheels for his growing family, 1975…

A year later, the family of 3 added another member (baby boy Joshua) forcing them to get serious about Goliath and the errant door. Money was saved and one day the Hubs came home from work driving a 6 year-old Chevy Nova. Four doors, but they all closed like it just came off the assembly line. Oh happy day! Unfortunately it wouldn’t be long before it (and us) blew a gasket. Literally. The gasket leading from the muffler to the engine blew, breaking the sound barrier until it was replaced. Hubs would replace it, a month later it would blow again. He wised up, bought a half dozen of the dollar parts and hung them on the 3-on-the-tree. But that’s a story for another day…

3 thoughts on “The International…

  1. That old pickup could be called “Inter-trash-ional” for a reason, ha, ha. Glad you had your youth, church and hope to get through the bad times.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good times, Neese! We always had new vehicles in those days because sports cars were higher on my husband’s list of priorities than say food or heat. But we definitely had our memorable moments.


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