Friday, July 26, 2013

Charlie: Shotgun

By Rob Watson

Over the years, Charlie had restored a lot of old farm equipment.  In the early years it was of necessity.  Later it became a hobby.  One day an old farmer was persuaded, by his wife, I think, to dispose of his collection of Ford Model T parts.  Being near at hand, Charlie was offered first dibs.  To the apparent irritation of the old farmer, Charlie negotiated a lower price, help in moving the junk, and a larger amount of materials than the original offer.

Among the parts was a body that had been used for target practice.  It had numerous bullet holes.  Being the patient man that he is, Charlie began to repair the holes by pounding out the defect and filling it in then smoothing it over.  Having finished repairing one of the holes, he wanted to show off his handiwork to his New Year's party guests.

One of the guests challenged his decision to repair the holes, declaring they gave the car character.  Seeing the wisdom of this suggestion, as it would save a huge amount of work, the decision was made to leave the bullet holes.  The car, completely restored and running, now an individual with much character, (bullet holes), required a name.  Bonnie and Clyde was suggested, among others, but Charlie settled on "Shotgun".

In following years, Charlie drove Shotgun many places.  It became his trademark.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Charlie: Beating The Rap

Charlie: Beating the Rap

Charlie's first auto accident happened when he was 85 or so.  He was driving in Bigtown, had stopped for a traffic light and proceeded when the light changed.  His car was struck by a pregnant young woman who ran the red light while talking on her cell phone.  Being a gentleman, and unaware of the protocol controlling accident investigation, he moved his car and his bumper, torn off by the other auto, so that other traffic could proceed.

When the police arrived and examined the scene, Charlie was, falsely, found to be at fault and was ticketed.  When I heard of the accident, I suggested he pay the fine and forget the whole thing.  He declared he was not at fault and was going to fight the ticket in court.  His greatest fear was what might happen to his car insurance rates.  In the months before the trial we discussed this several times.  Because I had never seen anyone successfully fight a ticket, I repeatedly advised him to pay the fine. He repeatedly refused and was determined to argue his innocence.  I saw a disaster in the making.  I saw a big lawsuit for damages to the unborn child and the mother, based on the courts finding of fault.  Charlie saw complete exoneration.

He consulted a number of people about court proceedings and discovered what needed to be done.  He asked me to go with him for his trial.  On the appointed day, we both dressed in our best business suits and went to face the music.  The court dress code was obviously casual.  The judge was in shirtsleeves and the prosecutor wore jeans, as did everyone but ourselves.

As each case was called and judged, it became clear this was a "hanging" judge.  There was no mercy or leniency shown to any defendant.  I was getting really nervous.  Then the bailiff called Charlie's case.  We both stood as the charges were read... then the prosecutor interrupted the bailiff and told the judge the charges had been dropped.  No reason was given.

With this opening Charlie was left to find his own explanation, always given when the story is retold: When the court saw the defendant and his high-powered lawyer, they quickly decided not to tangle with the pair.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Charlie: Introduction

Charlie: Introduction
By Rob Watson

I have been thinking about writing about my friend Charlie for a while now. These stories could be said to be the history of a friendship but they are really the history of a unique character who happens to be my friend.

Charlie is over 6 feet (2 meters) tall, weighs about 220 pounds (100kg)and is a second generation American of German immigrants.  He can be heard, from time to time, speaking in his families native tongue and even recognizes the few words I know of that language. As of this writing he is 86 years of age, the second of 6 children. He and his wife raised two adopted children to successful adulthood. The son died a few years ago in an auto accident. Because of his generous nature, he treats all the children of his daughter-in-law as his own grandchildren, even though only two are the natural children of his son.

Six or so years ago Wife and I bought a commercial building in State. While wife cleared up business in the old state I was here getting things in order and starting on my new job as science and ecology teacher. One Sunday after church I went to the popular and only restaurant in town. Every table was taken. An older gentleman and his wife occupied a table for four a few feet away. The gentleman, Charlie, invited me to join them. This began our association.

Born in 1927, Charlie grew up during the great depression, the dust bowl days of this region, and served during the last years of world war II. He speaks of the hardships and challenges of those days infrequently, usually only if asked. He does frequently pass along the advice given him by his father: "Put your labor where the money is." He is also very conservative when it comes to parting with his hard earned cash. Most of these stories will document how we made things from the piles of junk he accumulated over the years.

Do not be mislead by the above description. When an investment is needed there is no hesitation. However a bit of patience usually yields the needed item for a greatly reduced price. Often acquired from someone who has it and no longer needs it. He has many sources.

The second thing I learned about Charlie (The first being he never met a stranger) was that he knows everybody and everything about everybody. While he seldom speaks ill of anyone, there are folks with whom he will not do business, ask for, or grant favors. I have traveled with Charlie a great deal. In all the places we have stopped, all the places, he will find one or several folks he knows and calls by name, discusses a mutual interest, or catches up on family events. We never hurry anywhere. While driving through the local area, a radius of 50 or so miles, He can give you the name of the owner of nearly every parcel of land, the genealogy of the owner, and whether they are good stewards of their land.

The thing we most often disagree over is what is fun. Charlie's idea of fun is driving around the country examining the crops. He will stop in the road, stroll into a nearby field, dig up a sprouting seed, or pluck a grain head, and patiently explain, to me, the condition of the crop. He thinks work is fun. More than that, no job is ever finished. you will see this frequently in the chapters that follow. The closest we ever got to fun was the time I talked him into a trip to the casino. His usual response to such requests is "I'm a farmer, I don't need to go to the casino to gamble. Everything I do is a gamble." My winning argument was "At the casino You only risk $5. And, the payoff is seconds away instead of 10 months." He won $5 playing blackjack. We almost went fishing once, as well.