Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.

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The Billy Mobile Vanishes


LIFE IS A GARDEN. The appropriate name of my weekly article takes on many shapes and sizes. Sometimes I get down and dirty by writing about garden stuff, sometimes I incorporate my travel adventures with an agriculture angle and sometimes I just go off on a tangent that may seem totally unrelated. Life is a garden. Life can be full of wonderful surprises, life can be about disappointments, learning, making mistakes, perseverance and ant bites.


In life’s garden the ant has bitten hard this time!


Most people who have lived in the Northside for a while will understand why this particular ant bite swells up more than most of life’s ant bites. My father passed his famous El Camino named the Billy Mobile (written in cursive on the back glass) on to my son, Max. Max cleans up the truck on the weekends and uses it for special occasions. He left Dad’s calendar on the page that was open the day he passed, Dad’s baseball cap still sits in the dash where he liked to keep it, there are all kinds of things that are glued, tied, or wired together in the cab of that car/truck that made dad’s crazy world possible. Max had shined up the truck to bring it over to the Martinson family Easter so everyone could reminisce.


The El Camino means a lot of things to a lot of people. For the hundreds of people that dad employed it meant “here comes Boss, look busy” to some it meant Dad was pulling up to meet another client to landscape yet another yard in Jackson. For me and my brother Chip it usually meant “RUN!” if we had been giving Mom or our teachers an especially hard time that day.


PEOPLE RECOGNIZE the truck because it’s been speeding around Jackson in one form or another since 1960, 61 years. It’s very recognizable because long before it was cool or even heard of Dad switched the motor over to propane, it still runs on gas but he hardly ever used the gas route, he used the propane. All of our landscape trucks ran off of propane since the late 70s. We sell propane so that made it easy before the crews headed out we could fill up at the nursery and as he put it, “kept them out of the gas stations, waste of time.” Even after he sold the place to Mimi and me he kept coming by to fill her up whenever he needed to which gave us a chance to visit.


That truck has carried more soil and plants and kids than I can imagine. Back in the good old days we would get dropped off or picked up from school in the back of the truck back when it was safe to ride in the back of trucks. The next day it might be giving a ride to a pair of goats to the butcher, the next day there might be a truck bed full of azaleas headed to someone’s home in Jackson.


A lot of people have fond memories of Jackson’s own El Camino. I wish this hadn’t happened. I keep thinking that if I keep to myself and stay stealthy that maybe some things can just stay sacred. Apparently these thugs drifting around town have no sense of what might be sacred to someone else. It is a really weird feeling when you know something of yours is somewhere being mistreated. I will say this though, I really believe that by the time this article reaches you that we will have the truck back. There are too many people with their eyes open for this Jackson icon, I pity the fool who did this dastardly deed.

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