When the siren went off in the little town where I went to school, just like in any other small metropolis, the volunteer fire putout crew sprang into action. They hustled down to the shed where the truck was gassed up and ready to go. There was the cook from Mable’s, the grocery guy from Yearsley’s and the crew also included whoever might be staying in the attached hotel. There was the drugstore entrepreneur who also made the best ice cream sundae to be found for 30 miles in any direction. The banker and postman would arrive stride and all farm implement sales would be put on hold. That pretty much covered Main Street.
On down the main highway to the south was the gas station. Fill ‘er up and wash the windows, check all the essential fluids, add air or repair a flat. In all fairness it probably would have been best if he got to the fire shed first. But it seems the chain of command was whoever got there first was the fire chief. The way it worked was one crank on the phone got the operator who then called over to the deputy sheriff’s office with all the pertinent information. Bill happened to be in the office, the truck was right next door so when the crew started showing up he had her warmin’ up. They headed north towards the Marbleton Hill. Knowing from previous drills that with 500 gallons of water sloshing around in the tank, you had to get a run at it.
Now, here is where someone else should be telling this story. I personally would rather bleed than get greasy, but as I understand it, not all trucks of the day had synchronized trannies and so Bill’s attempts to shift up were not going well. The process was to push the clutch in, kick her into neutral, let the clutch out and then, without missing a beat, push the clutch back in and then slide the stick into the next gear up. But you gotta know Bill’s thinkin’ was kind of like shoein’ a horse – if you rasp it long enough, pretty soon it will fit. Tony had run out of the blacksmith shop and jumped on the truck as it was going by and apparently he did not have to run very fast. After a couple more failed attempts, Tony declared, “For Christ’s sake Bill! Double-clutch it!” And without a moment of consideration pause, Bill came right back with, “Bulls**** Tony, that other one is the brake!”