The 1928 Plymouth
The 1928 Plymouth truck. Photo by Bonnie Olson by Bonnie Olson
St. Maries, Idaho
Roland Lecoultre, according to his grandchildren, is the best storyteller ever. His wife, of 52 years, Doris, kept pouring the coffee all the while we visited; after all, she had heard all his stories before. The story Roland told me went like this:
Roland, a born mechanic, used to tinker with a discarded 1928 Plymouth truck when he was only 15. The truck was as old as he was, and had been left along the way by a disgruntled neighbor. The project had many setbacks, but he scavenged pieces from every available source to get his pride and joy in working order.
The next challenge was affording the gas. It was during the war and gas was rationed. Roland and his buddies heard about “Old Pop” who owned the gas station at the edge of town. Pop was known to leave the gas pump hose filled with gas from the last fill, and then empty it into the first kid’s rig that came alone. Roland and his buddies were regular customers of Old Pop.
Roland and his buddies would take off after school on Friday and drive up “The Joe,” the beautiful valley that shadows the St Joe River. They packed their mummy sleeping bags, their fly-fishing rods and their 30-30 rifles. Also included was a small cloth bag of navy beans for soup … just in case the fish didn’t bite.
The lads’ destination was always the same ” the old miners’ cabin along the Joe. The cabin still provided shelter even though it hadn’t been used for 20 years or so. Whoever had made the cabin knew what they were doing; it was put together with wood pegs, and it had windows and a loft, an ideal place to spend the weekend. The only way to get to their lodging was to sit in a box suspended from a cable and hand-over-hand, pull themselves across the swift water. “If you didn’t know what you were to do, you sure could get a cable burn on your hands,” Roland said.
Those Boy Scouts of the ’40s could make a fire and fry up the fish they caught quicker than the camp robbers that snuck up close to camp. “The trout were plentiful; we never went hungry,” Roland said.
They had packed a flashlight. Those boys always had to venture into the abandoned gold mine. The light shining on the brilliant pyrite always made them think of riches and how proud their parents would be of them for striking it rich.
The evenings were spent around the campfire; one of the boys carried the forbidden pouch of tobacco to share. The cigarette papers were licked with care and every puff savored; not one of them ever would admit to not liking the burning aftertaste it left in their mouth.
Roland reflected how time has changed everything. He shared the picture of that Plymouth after he had it a few years and remodeled it yet again. He had as many as 20 kids riding with him at times. He reflected you could dip the water out of the stream to make coffee or brush your teeth; the fish were plentiful; they weren’t catch-and-release like it is now. Boys were allowed to spend the weekend without supervision; it was safe in the wilderness, even without cell phones. It was okay to eat beans for three days, and no one stopped you from picking up 20 friends and piling them in your old truck for a joy ride.
That cabin is still intact today. It has slid a ways down the bank from melting snow pack. It is still a thing of beauty, but the only way to get to it these days is to wade the creek, as the cable was taken out when they black-topped the road.
Memories are a wonderful adventure. Just ask Roland Lecoultre.