Fire in the Back Seat!

Twin brothers, Leroy and Bubba Hicks labored all winter to craft a hot rod out of their 1949 Ford Coupe they had traded for last summer. The machine was chopped and channeled, and its V-8 shook the ground. Not surprisingly, the car was the envy of the high school. However, a major problem faced by the two brothers was the fact that there was only one car for both of the boys, and sometimes, when they both had hot dates, Bubba had to borrow the family car. Leroy, being older by about three minutes, always got his choice. This privilege abruptly ended when Bubba's girlfriend, after a Saturday night date to the city dump to shoot rats, accidentally fired a .22 pistol, punching a hole in the front seat and causing him to run into a ditch.


Cooter, a friend of the boys who had dropped out of school and was the local hot rod mechanic, told Leroy and Bubba about a real deal on a 1949 Mercury Convertible in a nearby town, only $200 cash. They quickly determined the widow lady would not trade anything for the car and resigned themselves to the fact that the only way they could get this car was to get a job and earn the money. In 1960, jobs for high school boys in South Georgia were neither plentiful nor particularly lucrative.


They took a job from the local farmer. It was hot and stifling, with gnats, horseflies, and sticky stink of the tobacco leaves. Determined to get that Mercury, Leroy and Bubba persevered.


By late July, the two boys had saved just enough money between them to buy a car. At $200, it was hardly in running condition, so they had to borrow an old 1950 Ford pickup and trailer from the farmer to go and get the car. The old truck wasn't much, but it had a good radio.


They called the widow and made the arrangements. The Mercury was a long awaited and much ballyhooed event by late July, and everyone knew about the trip and planned on seeing the car when the boys returned. After triple-checking the chains and making absolutely sure that their new purchase would not roll off the trailer, the boys finished loading the Mercury and it was nearly dusk.


In the spirit of jubilant celebration they stopped at the first country store and bought a couple of beers and two packs of Camel cigarettes. With the cigarettes rolled up in their sleeves and beer in hand, the brothers began their ride back home. As they were speeding through the dark South Georgia night, the boys clicked on the old truck's radio and sang along with Jerry Lee Lewis and "Great Balls of Fire." Laughing, Bubba flicked his cigarette out the window as the boys cannonballed down Highway 41, drinking beer and smoking, with the prized Mercury convertible bouncing along behind.


Slightly inebriated by the beers and feeling elated over their wise purchase, they barreled down the country road, oblivious to the smoldering in the back seat of the convertible on the trailer. Encouraged by the warm evening wind, the fire in the convertible soon was whipped into flames. The singing boys paid no attention to the speeding ball of flames behind them like a fiery comet attached to the truck.


Leroy glanced in the rear-view mirror and caught a glimpse of hell chasing them down the road. Flames filled his view as his gaze froze on the mirror; the truck careened wildly back and forth across the road. Bubba yelped when he spilled his beer, the turned around to look out the back and shouted, "What the h--- Oh God! It's on fire!"


Several hours later, Leroy and Bubba limped slowly into town. On the scorched trailer the smoldering black carcass of the once great Mercury Convertible sat. As they pulled into the yard where many of their friends were awaiting the celebration, Cooter popped the top of a beer and sagaciously commented, "Tobacco giveth and tobacco taketh away! Hee, hee!"


Editor's Note: Bob Kennon is the founder and President of Auto Quest Investment Cars, Inc. in Tifton, Georgia. This is the second of a series of stories about two fictional brothers and their automotive experiences as they grew up in the south during the late '50's and early '60's. The stories are based on adventures both real and imagined, of the author.