The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

High Technology

By John Winfield Spangler © 1990

Issue: August, 1990

In the late 1960's at NAS Seattle, my friend Neal Nisbet and a crony of his (known only to me as "Tony"), applied for leave to go elk hunting. They wanted to leave several days before the season started in order to do a little fishing too.

Over to the east of Mount Ranier they went; and, having a general idea where they wanted to camp, were not long in choosing a site. It was not perfectly level, but Neal figured he could put the side of his camper with two jacks downhill. Then he and Tony would jack up all three jacks, lifting the camper off the truck and leveling it at the same time. Nothing left to do, but simply drive out from under the camper.

All went well until he attempted to drive away, and then their troubles started.

The rear of the truck slipped sideways on the slope, striking a jack. Then the shifting weight of the camper helped bend the jack badly. Tony was yelling and trying to help support the crazily leaning camper; and Neal, after a quick look, jumped back in the truck. Putting the truck in reverse, he shoved it back under the camper, before any more damage was done.

Then he and Tony stood and stared at the damaged jack in dismay.

Sure they could leave the camper on the truck and take it everywhere with them, but they'd counted on being more mobile, with the camper left in a central position.

With dampened enthusiasm they cranked up the two good jacks, removed the damaged one, and started out in search of someone with a welding torch to heat and repair the jack. In this wilderness it didn't look good.

Those of you familiar with this model jack will remember that it consists of two different diameter pipes, one inside the other. These are connected by a screwjack (threaded rod) which allows the overall length of the two pipes to be extended or shortened by means of a crank.

Well, everywhere they asked, the answer was the same, "Go down to Natches Junction." They eventually did. A large building, housing some sort of a shop, seemed to be the central feature of the small place, and here they went.

Inside, an older man and two young ones knelt around a piece of machinery and they rose to meet Neal and Tony when they came in. The older spoke, "What can we do for you?" he asked them and Neal silently held the bent jack out a little further toward him.

"Why didn't you go beat it over a stump?" inquired the man. Sarcasm they weren't looking for and Neal, already upset, opened his mouth to voice some sarcasm of his own. Quickly, one of the younger men asked Neal a question and while he was answering, the older man took the jack and stepped around him. (Neal said later that he thought the young man saw he was getting mad and headed it off.) When he and Tony turned around, the man with the jack was not in sight.

"Where'd he go?" they asked and all four moved toward the door, as one of the locals indicated that the third was outside.

There Neal and Tony stared as the man followed his own advise. Turning the jack with the bend down, he struck it sharply over a convenient stump. Then he put the end of the jack up to his eye, sighted down it to see where the next lick would do the most good, turned that point down, and hit it over the stump again.

After several licks, he returned the jack to Neal. He asked for and would accept only a meager sum.

Neal and Tony glanced at each other sheepishly on the way to the truck, thinking of the wasted half-day. There was also the matter of the THOUSANDS of stumps they'd passed on the way to Natches Junction!