A Long Forgotten Incident Comes Rushing Back.

Don Burch, circa, 1970, with the infamous Ford.

In the late 70s, I was working at a ski resort and poor as could be. When the Head Maintenance Engineer asked around for someone to pick up a part for one of the chairlifts, I quickly volunteered. He probably figured I knew what I was volunteering for and wouldn’t have done so without a pickup truck or some other appropriate vehicle.

It was after hours, and we needed the part in order to run the lift in the morning. The supplier agreed to stay open until I arrived.

As a twenty-one-year-old male, there may have been some other decisions I made without much forethought. In my mind, the part was a few bolts or something like that.

Though I was to drive 90 minutes in the dark on country roads, I had confidence in my mature Ford Maverick (Yes, the photo is of the car I used). It was starting to snow, but I knew my new retread snow tires were up to the task. Using the finest workmanship I could muster, I had recently jury-rigged an eight-track tape player under the dashboard so I knew the trip wouldn’t be totally devoid of entertainment.

When I arrived later than promised, the supplier was grumpy as hell. He spat a wad of tobacco into the snow, pointed to large gear laying against a fence post and grumbled, “How the hell are you gonna get that in there?”

Sliding the front passenger seat all the way back, it looked like the gear might just fit. With the grizzly old guy providing special lubricant in the form of sub-vocalized mutterings, we managed to get it in. The car listed unnervingly to starboard.

With no more words spoken, the receipt was tossed in the car, and the parking lot lights were off before I was out the driveway.

On the return trip,  the crown of the road, under slippery conditions and tilt of the car, overcame my ability to keep the old Maverick on the road. Into the ditch I went.

To my great relief, a pickup truck pulled over just minutes after the mishap. With the sweet smell of liquor wafting from their breaths, two good Samaritans offered to pull me out. One attached a chain to their hitch, and the other hooked up somewhere under my car. I took a moment to look under the car, saw the hook on the steering rod and moved it to the frame.

I profusely thanked my new best friends, made it back to the mountain, the chairlift was operational by morning, and I had a windfall of $22.00 bonus.

Thanks to Harriet Wallis whose recent article entitled Lift Maintenance 101 sparked this long forgotten memory.


  1. Avatar Tom Uhlemann says:

    Your story reminded me of the 1970 Maverick I had in college. The running boards were completely rusted out. It leaked so much oil from everywhere in the engine that I had to add a quart every time I got gas. That said, the car always started on the coldest Minnesota mornings. I bought it for $325 and three years later sold it for $350.

    • Mine was a 1972 with 3 speed on the column. It also rusted out but like yours mine also always started on even the coldest (Maine) mornings

  2. Avatar Larry Burstein says:

    Talk about Chew. For the longest time I`ve noticed Crows flying about ski mountains and for the love of me could not figure out why they would be flying around a ski mountain with no food or scraps to be had. This went on for over 15 years, then early one morning while getting off a mid mountain chair I saw a Crow pecking at a wad of Chew……………….it became immediately clear what was happening……………….the Crows had become addicted to the nicotine in the mix of Saliva and Chewing Tobacco.

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