I was working at Howard Motors. The shop had 6 stalls for regular engine work and generally had 4 or 5 experienced mechanics working. At this particular time we only had four mechanics and two of them had just been there a short time. One of them, Jimmy was a real nice young man, and was just married a few months prior. His wife came down to the shop one day and Jimmy introduced her to all of us. He was a good mechanic and was well liked by his clients. His hobby was a pair of nickel-plated .44 Smith & Wesson revolvers for which he loaded his own ammunition. He had invited me over to his house once to show me the pistols and his reloading equipment. Then, we went out to the rock quarry and did some target shooting with those nickel plated cannons.
The other new mechanic was a guy named Mike. He was a good mechanic also but was one of those devil-may-care guys and his hobby was building and racing stock cars. He was a crazy S.O.B. but I liked him. He had invited me to his place a couple of times to work on his ’37 Ford stock car and I had attended one of his races in Wichita at the Hillside race track. On one of these outings I had met his wife who was a real, nice girl.
One morning neither Jimmy nor Mike showed up for work. It was mighty cold outside but there was no snow or ice to cause any driving problems so we had no clue as to why the guys weren’t there. Kenny Markley, the Service Manager made some job assignments to cover the customers who were there when we opened up and we all went about our business. A while later I had a car up on the grease rack and was working on it and I looked up and here comes Jimmy. Jimmy was wearing a big coat and he started to unbutton it as he started talking. He started right off with “You and your friends are out cruising around town every night and I want to know if you saw my wife and Mike last night?” As he finished talking, he also finished the last button on his coat and it dropped open and I saw that he was wearing his gun belt with a .44 on each hip! “What the hell are you doing, Jimmy?” I asked “what are you doing?” “Oh, I just want to talk to them”, he says, “Did you see them last night?” Well, yes, I had seen them drive past, laughing and carrying on but I wasn’t about to tell him. I’m starting to realize that this conversation is way above what an 18 year old kid can handle and start looking for help. The Dutch door of the Parts Department was open at the top and I can see Phil Harding, the Parts Manager in there working. Phil was in his 50’s, smart, quiet, and well respected. I also know that he was a Golden Gloves boxer as a young man. I figure he’s the right guy for this job. I said to Jimmy, “I don’t have any idea where they might be.” That was the truth. Then I say “let’s go talk to Phil and see if he can help figure this out.”Jimmy is so steamed up he’s about to explode and anything sounds good to him so we walk over to that Dutch door with the little counter built on it. Phil looks up and sees us and I wink at him so he’ll know something is up. Phil says “What’s going on?” “Well,” I say, “Jimmy thinks his wife is out with Mike and he’s looking for them. You probably noticed he’s wearing his guns and I thought maybe you could help us figure this out.” About this time, Kenny, the Service Manager yells and asks me if I’ve finished that car I was working on. I walk over to talk to him, practically wanting to kiss him for getting me away from that situation. I quickly told him what was happening and he said he would get on over there. Kenny was probably 6’2” and more than 250 pounds and was quiet and friendly and strong as a bull. He was another good man to put on the job.
I went back to work and left the two best men in the place to deal with the problem. It was probably about half an hour before Phil and Kenny came out together and told me what happened. They talked to Jimmy until he calmed down and then asked him for his guns. He gave them up without a fuss and they locked them in the company safe.
Jimmy and his wife got things straightened out. She was just a kid and when they had moved to a new town she didn’t know what to do with herself and got bored. When she met fast-talking Mike, he seemed more exciting than what she had been experiencing. Jimmy took her back and she got a job clerking somewhere to keep her busy. Mike quit his job and moved on, just like he always did.
December 7, 2013