My advisor at Southern State College told me he would hire me if I went away and earned a Ph. D. in English. I did and he honored his word and offered me a job. The money from my three-year fellowship to Auburn had run out by that time and we were strapped for cash. I was looking for economical ways to move back to Arkansas.
A friend had a boat trailer for sale that he had converted into a utility trailer. He wanted $40 for it, and although that was a significant amount in 1971, I came up with it and bought the trailer. I underestimated the amount of stuff we had accumulated in four years of graduate school. We had moved to Auburn pulling one of those small U-Haul trailers, so I thought the converted boat trailer would be big enough.
I realized it was only half the size we needed, so, having some time on my hands, I decided to make one trip to Arkansas alone, with the car and the trailer packed and then come back to get the family and the rest of the stuff. Well, the first part of the plan went very well indeed. Southern State had a vacant faculty house for us, so I unloaded the tightly packed car and trailer into the living room.
But when I got back out there to Auburn and started packing, leaving room in the 1966 Dodge Dart for my wife and baby, I realized that I would still be short of space. Also, the washer was very heavy and it really looked like an unsafe burden for the converted boat trailer. After adding a rack to the top of the Dart and loading it, we were good to go. We set out before daylight the next morning.
The first part of the journey went fine, although I was nervous if the speedometer went beyond 50. When we got to Columbus, Mississippi, we crossed a very rough railroad track and the tongue of the trailer collapsed. We cringed our way to a nearby motel and got a room, a quiet place to rest and ponder our dilemma. Before going to sleep that night, I counted our money--$18. (We put the motel on our Gulf card). Also before going to sleep, I located a mechanic shop in the yellow pages, one that looked as if it may have had welding capacities.
I pulled up at that shop at about the time they were opening, dragging the wounded homemade trailer behind. I drew a lot of attention from the workers as I explained that we were half way to our destination in Arkansas and I had only $18 and a Gulf card.
“We don’t take credit cards,” the boss said, “but we’ll see what we can do for you. Are you in the service?”
“I was,” I replied, giving no more detail than that. (I had previously served four years).
To make a long story short, they had me pull the precarious trailer into the work area and told me to check with them after lunch. I called at 1 p.m. and they had it fixed—in fact they had installed a good, sturdy pipe in place of the old unreliable tongue. They charged $18.