In the early seventies my Uncle decided to build a camper. Fred was nearing retirement age, and he could picture himself relaxing and enjoying the great outdoors in one of the many campgrounds near where he lived in northwestern Montana. He already had a fishing pole, a couple of lawn chairs and a Styrofoam cooler. Now if he just had someplace to sleep, safe from bears, mosquitoes and other Montana wildlife, he would be livin' the dream.
A trip into town and some old fashioned “horse tradin'” made him the proud owner of a 1955 Chevy pickup. The paint had seen better days, but it had low miles and the long bed would serve well as the base for the camper.
Uncle Fred began to accumulate building materials. He still put in a few hours at the sawmill so the wood for the frame was easy. He also had access to what he called, “The North Fork Trading Post”. Everybody else in the valley called it the dump. Being a resourceful type, it wasn't long until the dream began to take shape, and it hadn't cost a lot either. He would call us weekly, excitedly telling us about the progress.
When finished Fred's camper pretty much looked like a big box on the back of a pickup. He painted it gray and topped it off by hand lettering “Gray Goose” on the drivers side. The passengers side said “Grey Goose”. He wasn't sure of the spelling and he wanted to cover all the bases. It had the aero-dynamics of a chest freezer, but gas was cheap and the holes he drilled in the front panel, in the shape of a happy face, helped keep it from lifting up off the pickup bed at highway speeds.
But before the camper saw any use as a recreational vehicle my Uncle fell victim to a vicious rumor. In December of 1973 Johnny Carson made a joke about there being a shortage of toilet paper. Now, I know for a fact that my Uncle never once stayed up late to watch the Johnny Carson Show, but the rumor spread like wildfire. Telephones rang across the country and sure enough, the next morning every store in town had a run on tissue.
Fred had the forethought to drive his rig to the store, he arrived at opening and beat everyone else to the paper isle. In those days the biggest pack only contained four rolls
and he worked up quite a sweat filling the cart and running it out to stack in the camper.
To believe that such a useful item, total necessity actually, may become unavailable was just....unthinkable.
Somewhere between mad dashes Fred remembered that Christmas was only a few days away. What better gift to bless friends and family, and to honor the Lord's birth, than something that they all would need. Something that may soon be hard to come by. How perfect! He redoubled his efforts and drove faster than usual on the icy roads, slipping and sliding his way to store after store, not stopping until the inside of the camper was crammed full.
That year everyone on his list was gifted with a gaily wrapped 4-pack. Uncle Fred took great satisfaction in thinking that he had single handedly saved those near and dear to him from desperate measures.
Well, it didn't take too long for the situation to right itself. After the initial run on the product the stores began to build back inventory and within a few weeks the “Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 1973” came to an end.
Not over for Fred of course. His generous giving had only made a small dent in his stash. After some thought, and prayer, he began a delivery service. Folks at churches, rest homes and the local shelter were surprised to find an old pickup, with a big gray box in back, idling in their driveway while the driver presented them with package after package of tissue. He became somewhat of a local legend, but never did appreciate the nickname “Freddy The Freeroller”.
Summer came and my Uncle headed the Gray Goose toward the back country where the best fishing streams were. He said he slept like a log in the clean air, and that the surplus rolls made an excellent mattress.
The moral of this story: don't believe everything you hear, and if you do fall for something make the best of it.
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