Coach Craft

I met Frank Macdonald at the Rally in the Valley. He requested a painting of a reining horse on the back of his Wanderlodge and that was right up my alley. Our mutual interest in horses led to other ways to connect. Frank had a cabinet company in nearby Columbus, Georgia. Occasionally he built cabinets for Blue Bird. He also did custom interior work for owners of Blue Bird Wanderlodges. I was invited to his shop and bring my painting services to his clients.

After my month of serving Wanderlodge owners in Fort Valley I went to his shop. The spacious facility was fully staffed and equipped with modern tools of every type. I could also work on my equipment. He had stalls at his farm in the country for Souveran and Betty. Over the years Frank’s empire became a regular stop.

One year during the long trek from Michigan with my entire entourage, I barely made it to his home with the livestock. Something happened with the engine and the truck quit running. Forward momentum stopped. I made a phone call. I sat on the side of the road in that rural county. Frank came out to see me.

“It looks like you might need a new truck,” he commented as we guessed what was wrong.

He called a mechanic friend who worked on trucks. With his help we got it going.  I made it to Frank’s farm to unload the livestock and then made it to Fort Valley to get ready for the rally. There I had friends who could help with the truck. Soon I was busy with Blue Bird Wanderlodge paint work and the truck repairs were underway.

Frank got the ball rolling for the purchase of a new Dodge diesel truck for me on his company account. The purchase of this cab and chassis gave me a significant upgrade. When the rally was over and all the work at the Bird’s Nest was complete, I returned to Columbus to begin swapping the truck bed and the ladder rack over to the new truck.

The process of moving the deck, rack, generator and compressor from the Ford started with disassembly. First the steel bed was removed along with the overhead rack pieces. These were all placed on a trailer and taken to a sandblast place to get them ready for new paint. The welding guy modified the truck bed to fit the new truck. Other features had to be accomplished including wiring for brakes and lights. Several setbacks during this project expanded the amount of time that lapsed.

My sister lived in nearby Pensacola. When Thanksgiving arrived, I called to say hello. She always had a festive holiday dinner for her family but never made an effort to invite me. When asked about this by my mother, Paula sluffed it off.

“He has a standing invitation,” She retorted.

Whatever that means. Starting as a child I had the feeling that I just didn’t fit in anywhere. At one time my sister was my ally as we went through this plight together. Now here behavior only promoted the shame, neglect and aloneness we suffered in childhood. I go all over the country to produce works of art and receive accolades from strangers but from my sister and her husband I get that cold reminder of being less than.

I receive more regard from my customers and friends than from my sister and her husband. They had four kids and no handle on practical discipline. When I did visit I found chaos. The lack of regard only promoted reluctance to see them. That may have fueled my appetite for adventure. There was safety in that unknown.

Once all the pieces were assembled and, on the truck, I began the paint job. I painted the bottom half of the cab and all the bed yellow. When the two-tone paint job was complete I began the artwork. I airbrushed a huge winged horse on each side. The name Letterfly went over the horse using a neon looking letter style. When complete, I clear-coated all the art. By the time this truck neared completion, we had frost in the morning. That meant time to go south. Over a month had passed.

With Frank’s help, I had a sturdy truck with a reliable Cummins engine. The diesel truck was a big improvement to my life in many ways. With double the BTU’s in the fuel, I immediately noticed my mileage double. The trip into Florida became a time of elation. On the inaugural run I gave the truck the nickname Rambo.

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