Friday, July 26, 2013

Wagon Ho!

As most things do, it all started garage-saling with friends...

I had already scoped out my treasures and I was waiting while Jerri worked her haggling magic over a couch she just had to have. My eyes wandered past the owner's garden into the backyard of the neighbor where I saw...IT!

The most engaging, 1880's era delivery wagon I'd ever seen!

I loved the lines, the vintage, the logo...everything about it appealed to me. I wanted to get a closer look but Jerri had just sealed her couch deal and we were behind schedule.

That wagon lingered on the edge of my thoughts for over a year until I finally worked up the courage to knock on the owner's front door. A very nice older woman answered and I asked for a tour. She was delighted to discover that I planned to build my own wagon based on her antique. (Actually, I think she thought I planned to steal it so but was quite relieved when I started measuring and drawing construction plans.)

You see, I already had these old tractor wheels I'd picked up for $25 in Oatman (after one too many cocktails at that old western bar in town) and I was sure they'd be perfect for a wagon...

Except they were too small...but...that's what ratios were invented for right? Based on my complex and in-depth figuring, my wheels were about 2/3 the size of the original wagon so all I had to do was multiply all my measurements by 2 and divide by 3...easy-peasy!

But I needed some old barn wood to make my wagon look realistic (although midget-sized)...which would have been easy to find years ago before EVERYONE decided that old wood was cool.

My friend Jesse had an idea - he figured old pallets might have aged-looking wood that would work so he brought me some. All I'd have to do is deconstruct them into usable planks.

Let me tell you -- the folks who make pallets make them to LAST! Not "last during shipping" last...more like, "last through nuclear war" last. It took me a whole day and three band aids to make this little pile of lumber!

Let me stop a moment to say that everyone thought I was crazy...and perhaps I am around the edges...


But I had to build it...

First the box...

Then the sides...

My neighbor, Ken, was helpful at several key junctures. He'd been a trucker for decades and knew all about axles and old delivery wagons (he said he'd seen more than a few as a boy). He also has a killer stash of old wood and cool metal parts that came in very handy along the way.

My friend Virginia helped me upholster the roof - leather look vinyl from Walmart...the look is perfect - we'll see how it holds up outside long term.

I found the perfect lanterns - solar path lights the right size for my 2/3 scale model.

The construction went fairly quickly but there was one part left to make it look authentic. Logos!

No surprise that I wanted a vintage sewing machine design but figured that there was no fun in painting the same thing on both sides so let my other half choose the other side. Hendrick's Gin ran a fun ad of a lady in a martini glass in the late 1800's so that was his pick.


But the weather had heated up and the paint was drying on my brush so I had to move the wagon into the shade. We have a lovely covered trailer with a big ramp that would make the perfect painting studio (or so I thought). With the help of Ken's wife, Pat, I rolled the wagon slowly and carefully into the trailer - nothing broke although the whole thing seemed to be not much more stable than a heavy pile of toothpicks.

I was able to finish the lettering on one side before the really hot weather hit and it became clear that shade was not enough - I needed air conditioning!!! Which we have in our we just needed to move the wagon about 20 feet west.

Seems simple doesn't it? would have been except I enlisted the help of my other half who never quite sees things the way I do.  Maybe it's the "Y" chromosome but he firmly believes that every problem is better solved by the use of things with engines (is diesel in their blood or something?)

I thought four people (one per wheel) could lovingly coax my rickety wagon (oh why did I take English Lit classes instead of Physics so I could learn about forces and construction?) into the garage. Dave wanted to hook up the trailer, drive it down the driveway and simply push it back up into the garage. It will be, "faster, easier, and safer for your wagon," he promised.

I knew he was wrong. But he is right about so many things...he can fly helicopters and jets and drive darn near anything with a motor (of course my wagon doesn't have a motor so that should have been a clue) but I gave in...

Our friends, Virginia and Bill came over to help secure the wagon in the trailer. All went well until we reached the bottom of the driveway...though each wheel was secure - the force of gravity or perhaps the force of marital discord struck a lethal blow and the wagon was ripped savagely off its wheels.

A blue cloud of nasty words formed above my head and I must apologize again to Virginia and Bill for that glimpse into my darker side. My lawyer assures me that the incident would have been ample grounds for divorce in my state and almost defensible had I chosen to murder him right then and there (who knew the crime of passion clause was so broad?) but I did neither.

I love my husband. And although I have brought up the wagon-breaking incident most every day since then, our marriage is still intact.


Regardless of it's wheel-less state, the wagon still needed painting. My friend Danny used to own a sign shop so had helped me get the lettering right. All I needed was a glass of wine for inspiration...

And then it was time to move the wagon outside to it's final resting place on the hill in our front yard. Dave said he would help. He said he would listen to me this time. He swore he would let me call the shots on how to move it...and then on the actual morning of the big move...he left the state.

Friends said he was lying about flying that jet to Denver; they suspected that he was hiding out in the hangar waiting for the all-clear...

So Jesse came over and helped me reattach the wheels. Then Aaron, Danny, and Mark came over (after downing a few beer-mosas) to help. They'd heard the story of the wagon-breaking and my "wagon-break-down" so they were a little nervous and needed some Dutch courage.

I wanted to go "old school" this time - no motors, no mechanical intervention...heck, I didn't even want the wheels to roll! My plan involved using two old pieces of broken ladder to hand-carry the wagon down our steep driveway stretcher-style...or should I say, "coffin-style".

And it worked...well right up until the turn onto the rocks...then one of my old ladder pieces snapped in two. The wagon fell to the ground but luckily no one was hurt (thankfully - can you imagine filling out the insurance claim for that? "Miniature wagon moving crew experienced injury when 1930's era wooden ladder fails..."

Even the wagon survived!

We moved it into place on the rocks and artfully arranged the boulders around it. Jesse staked it into the ground to ward off would-be wagon thieves (as if the thing would hold together - we'd find pieces of it in the street out front I bet).

My wagon moving crew high-tailed it out of there - almost running into the wagon in their haste to leave the scene.

And then it was done! And I love it! I admit...I may be a "Wagon Ho."


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