Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pat O'Connell, Tow Truck Driver

Veteran road-trippers know that that the real treasures on our journeys are the characters that we meet along the way.  One such character is Pat O'Connell, and TSG dedicates this week's post to him.

Earlier this year we were cruising the main drag of Three Rivers, California, stopping here and there to take photos of random things that caught our eye.  One such random thing was this derelict 1959 T-Bird, sitting in front of what appeared to be a closed-up garage.

Intrigued by the old Ford, we pulled over to scope it out, walking around and taking shots from various angles.

It was a rather melancholy exercise, standing there on an overcast, drizzly evening, taking the portrait of a once-magnificent vehicle. It was fairly obvious that it would never see the highway again.
But then, we heard the creak of a door opening from the house hearby. An old man shambled out, and for a moment we were afraid that we were about to be run off the property. Our fears were unfounded, though, and that is how we came to meet Pat O'Connell.

He walked up and asked, "Do you like old cars?" And so began a conversation that lasted an hour or so,  with Pat relating stories of his 45 years as a tow truck driver in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. He opened up his garage and showed off his 1964 Muntz Jet, his Lincoln Continental, and the old tow truck that dated back to the 40s.

It's hard to describe the feeling, meeting someone like Pat, and having him open up to a total stranger about his life and times. Of course you can chalk it up to an old man who just wanted somebody to talk to, but we refuse to view our encounter in such a cynical light. Pat talked about how his '68 Toronado hugged the mountain roads, showed what happened to one of it's tires when he hit a rock going too fast around a curve, and lamented the car's demise when his son blew up the engine.

It was getting late, and not having anything to eat since breakfast, it was time to get going. We thanked Pat for showing us around and for generously sharing his stories. As we walked out of the garage, he patted the Jet and jokingly remarked that he really wanted to restore the old Muntz for one last ride. We laughed with him and said, "Well you better get at it have some work ahead of you." 
Upon returning home, we tried googling Pat to see if there was anything about him on the web. It was a most pleasant surprise to find not one, but two items about him. After reading them, we're even more glad for stopping to take those pictures of a broken-down Thunderbird: