A to B episode 12: John Wayne

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Music in this show:
1. Arnold McCuller, “All good”
2. Bela Karoli, “Metal body”
3. Blair, “Chrysler”
4. Chancha Via Circuito, “Prima”
5. ??? (John Wayne’s cell phone ring tone)
6. Django Reinhardt, “Minor swing” (played by klemjc)

You may recall that the turtle hit a serious snag in the road, early on in our trip. The motor home and I ended up at the front door of John Wayne’s Auto Clinic, on the recommendation of Reggie the wrecker driver (a hero among men in his own right). When I walked into the shop, a John Wayne film was playing in the waiting room, a John Wayne clock hung on the wall, and John Wayne figurines and memorabilia decorated the entire space.

The phones in John Wayne’s shop ring off the hook. People are always in and out of the place–wrecker drivers (towing is an arm of the business, along with the auto shop), unfortunate owners of broken cars, kids selling peanut brittle–many of them wearing snakeskin cowboy boots. Through it all, John Wayne keeps a surprisingly cheerful countenance, which he claims is due to the Choctaw in his blood. His wife takes care of the books at the shop, and everyone made me feel right at home, offering to pick me up food for dinner and driving me where I needed to be.

It would have been difficult for me to choose a more interesting place for the turtle to break down than McAlester, Oklahoma. A Mason himself, John Wayne took me on a tour of the biggest Masonic temple in Oklahoma, which also happens to be the most beautiful building in McAlester. The temple houses a theater with a custom-built organ, priceless backdrops, and wigs and costumes to match (you can find Charlton Heston’s garb from The Ten Commandments on display there). Lining the walls of the temple are framed pictures of past Masons, all of which are askew, due to the regular bomb tests that go on at the nearby army ammunition plant. On our tour of the city, John Wayne and I drove past the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison that executes death-row inmates, holds about 900 prisoners (who are known for their riots), was referenced in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, and hosts an annual rodeo competition for inmates throughout the state. In addition, Reba McEntire happens to be from McAlester, and John Wayne has fixed her car a number of times.

Little did I know that John Wayne Clagg was less than thrilled about taking on the job of fixing the turtle’s broken engine. That fact is just one of the things I learned by having a chat with the best auto mechanic in Oklahoma after all was said and done, along with other lessons about what starting a business is really like. If you want to get to know the man a little better yourself, all you have to do is listen to this show.

— — — — —

An extra little tangent, if I may: One day, John Wayne and other folks at the shop were perplexed by a particular car that had come in–they were having some trouble starting the engine. Thing was, the car was connected to a breathalizer. The driver had gotten a DUI, and the attached breathalizer was mandated by the court. The car couldn’t be started unless a sober driver breathed into the device. According to one of the mechanics, every once in a while, when the car is in motion, the device beeps, indicating that you’d better reach over quick and blow into it, otherwise the car will stop dead in its tracks.

2 responses to “A to B episode 12: John Wayne

  1. Love this one, Liz!Q

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