The aroma of hot biscuits, ham, and gravy woke me up. I looked out the window and couldn’t see anything but a whole lot of dark. There wasn’t a clock where I slept, so I got up and went to the gravy.
Aunt Beulah knew something about making biscuits and gravy, and even though I was only seven, I knew something about eating them. You might say that when it came to eating Auntie’s biscuits and gravy, I was a child prodigy.
The fact that it was Saturday made getting up easier, and then there was the promise of a ride to town with my old friend Dillard. It was only about six or seven miles over a dirt road to town, but when you rode with Dillard, you knew you weren’t just going to ride.
Sometimes he’d pick out trees to see if I knew what kind they were. And just saying oak was never good enough for Dillard. Was it a white oak, red oak, pin oak, or post oak? He allowed as how a boy couldn’t get very far in life if he didn’t pay attention to the important details.
We went to town that particular day because something was amiss with Sarah Jane. Both of my regular readers recognize Sarah Jane was his 1946 Chevrolet pickup. We were headed to Shorty Cannon’s service station because that’s where Levere Fox worked on cars. And Dillard said that Levere was the only one who could make Sarah Jane run like a fox, and he’d just laugh out loud when he said it.
We got there and walked inside. Levere and another man seemed to be in a heated discussion about the man’s truck. I heard the man say, “I don’t no more believe that it’s a cracked distributer cap than I believe pigs fly. It’s the plugs. I stopped by and bought some at the son-in-law’s store. Just change the plugs and I’ll be back after a bit to pick it up.” And with that, he turned on his heels and walked out the garage.
I followed Dillard as he walked toward Levere. They shook hands and Levere smiled and said, “He’s going to learn something today, and it won’t do him a bit of good.” Then he said, “What can I do for you?” Dillard said to him, “Old Sarah Jane’s running kind of rough. Check her out and do your magic. Me and the boy will just hang around if it’s ok.”
Levere nodded and said, “Sure, but let me change the plugs out in Emmitt’s truck right quick and I’ll get you fixed up.”
Dillard and I walked over to a couple of chairs near the old nickel Coke box and sat down. Between the chairs was an old tub that was half filled with wood chips and saw dust that the grownups spit in. There was a domino table set up as well. This was a really cool place to hang out.
Levere changed the plugs in Emmitt’s truck and cranked it up to back it outside. Even I noticed it was still missing pretty badly, but he backed it outside and brought Sarah Jane in the garage. I looked at Dillard and started to say something about Emmitt’s truck and he looked at me and shook his head. I knew that meant we’ll talk about this later.
Levere had his head under the hood when Emmitt came back and hollered, “Get them plugs changed?” Without looking up, Levere said, “I did. You can pay up front.” Emmitt walked up front through the garage, paid his bill, got in his truck, and drove off.
In just a few minutes, Emmitt came busting back in the garage and said, “You didn’t fix my truck. It’s just as bad now as it was when I first brought it in here.”
Levere stood up and replied, “Emmitt, you didn’t tell me to fix it. You told me to change the plugs. If you’d told me to fix it, I would have replaced the distributer cap, because it is cracked.” If you want me to fix it, you are next in line after these guys,” he said nodding in our direction and returned to Sarah Jane without fanfare.
Emmitt just stood there a moment and slowly walked over to the coke box and sat down. It was downright painful to sit there and not laugh out loud or say something, but it didn’t seem to be the right thing to do.
In a few minutes, we loaded up in Sarah Jane and headed south across the railroad tracks to a less complicated way of looking at things. We drove a couple of miles in complete silence except for the purring of the engine.
Dillard looked at me and said, “Son, let that be a lesson to you.” “What lesson,” I asked. He continued, “There is a marked difference between the man who knows it all and the man who thinks he knows it all.”
I nodded in approval. I thought to myself, apparently nobody knows less than the man who thinks he knows it all. At least that’s what I’ll always remember when I watched Emmitt walk to the Coke box.
I pointed up ahead and shouted, “Chinkapin!” I didn’t understand much about the north side of the tracks, but I sure knew what was important on the south side.