Bitter Sweet

by SteveHulse on March 22, 2018 · 0 comments






Today I sat down and signed away my old friend, Iron Jack. How do you
sign away an old friend? Well, the “old friend” is a truck. That’s right, Iron Jack
is a ’66 International pickup. And so, you might ask, why do I call a truck
an old friend?

Easy. A friend, defined is this: a person attached to another by feelings of
affection or personal regard. 2. a person who gives assistance;
A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.

In translation, a friend, defined as a person attached to a truck by feelings of
affection or personal regard; a truck that gives assistance; a truck whom one
know, likes, and trusts.

I have known Iron Jack since 2006, when I saved him from a rusty extinction.
Roger Williams told me there was an old truck down in Laurin, MT, which the
owner wanted to get rid of. We checked it out, and Iron Jack was given to me
with the agreement that I remove it from the owner’s property. The humiliating
aspect of this agreement was that the owner wanted Jack out of there to make
room for a bigger croquet course. After having known Jack for 11 years, I
choose to think he was grateful to me for saving him from having to rust quietly
beside an old barn and watch croquet on warm Montana afternoons, especially
when he had so much life left in him. Yes, his windshield was cracked in a half
dozen places and the passenger door didn’t open from the inside, but under
the hood beat a heart of gold that not even a cranky, temperamental tranny
could hold back.







Iron Jack has had a rough, but well-documented history. He was bought brand
new in Tonopah, Nevada, in 1966, driven up to Bozeman, MT and engaged as
a farm vehicle for the next 38 years on a Bozeman ranch. The guy who bought
him in Laurin used him to knock around in the high country for a few years, as
Jack was tough, and had 4-wheel drive. He was given the name Iron Jack by
Christy Jones, as we sat around her boyfriend’s kitchen table one evening,
sipping some fine Jameson’s and contemplating farm trucks in general.

When I signed him away today, Iron Jack had 77, 741 miles on him…
actual miles, hard miles. Jack never saw much pavement, as he wasn’t geared
for highway speeds. Most of the miles we shared were on dirt roads and
high country trails.







Iron Jack needed a little help when I first got him, but not a lot. Roger and I
towed him about 2 miles to a mechanic who went through him with grease job,
oil change, new plugs, new points; timing, radiator flush, replaced vital fluids.
$300 and one day later I drove Iron Jack 9 miles home and we began our new
life together.

After several trips up into the high country, I realized that Jack’s steering was
a bit loose and sloppy. A few of the trails up in there were steep enough and
dangerous enough that a steering malfunction would have probably meant
the end of us. So I drove him to Bozeman and had a whole new front end
installed, $3K. He drove so much better after that, and I felt so much better
whenever we got into a sticky spot, which we did from time to time.







Some days I’d take Iron Jack up into the hills with a thermos of coffee, to find
steep trails and new country. But as time passed and my trust for the old
truck grew, we mostly went out, chainsawed a truckload of wood and came






We made 4 or 5 trips to Whitehall ( 100 miles round trip ) for wood,
but it became evident that Iron Jack didn’t care for highway travel, or any
pavement, for that matter. So we went back to getting all our wood up in
the sticks.






Jack became the go-to guy to pull my trailer, L’il Debbie, up Alder Gulch
to park her beside Alder Creek in the summertime. He also towed my two
snowmobiles and 4-wheelers down to West Yellowstone several times
to go riding with friends. He was always a pleasure to drive, as long as you
didn’t have to go over 60. On a mountain trail in low or second, Iron Jack
was at his hefty best, purring up through the trees with low-end torque
at the ready.







Iron Jack’s heater worked, to a degree (pun intended) but was set
permanently to defrost, since all it was capable of was barely keeping
the frost off the windshield on a cold winter’s ride. And Jack’s ride? Rough
and noisy, naturally, but once you got used to it, you were reminded every
minute that you were doing something special, going somewhere special,
because you were driving Iron Jack, that he would get you there, and home!







Trust is always important to a lasting relationship, and I had plenty of
opportunities to build trust with Jack. His one weakness was his braking
system, and even that never failed me. His gearbox would get stuck between
reverse and 3rd gear once in awhile, then I’d have to remove the floor
shifter, stick a big screwdriver down into the transmission and unlock the
faulty gears. Don’t tell me you don’t build intimacy and trust when you have
to do surgery on your good friend several times!







Many guys around the county called Iron Jack The Corn Binder.
Corn binder – a nickname given by farmers and ranchers to any of the many
self-powered products, E.G., trucks, tractors, tractor/farming implements
& attachments, refrigerators created by International Harvester Company
or better known as IHC or IH.

Many’s the time a guy has come up to me somewhere and said, “So how’s
the old Cornbinder runnin’… they’re tough as nails, ain’t they?” Or, “I knew
you were in town because I saw your old Binder parked in front of the bar…”







Am I a rotten turn-coat bastard because I’m ending a long and rewarding
relationship now? Well sure, it probably looks like it. But I have left Montana
and see it as allowing Iron Jack a longer, happier life by leaving him in
Montana, in the stomping grounds he is so right for, with a new owner who
already knows him and appreciates him and his unique abilities.

I will miss Iron Jack… a lot. In many respects I’m a totally normal American
male, one who partially defines himself by what he drives. I’ve spent so many
happy hours behind the wheel of the truck I love, bouncing along through the
Southwest Montana that I dearly love… making this parting of the trails bitter
sweet at best. But I know it’s for the best… for both of us.

Steve Hulse


Hey, Remember The Time…

by SteveHulse on March 10, 2018 · 0 comments

So today, the news of the day and the quiet time following the recent
holidays have driven me back out on the sound on my trusty craft,
The Aimless. Haven’t been out here for several months now, so time
to enjoy a one or two-day cruise on the North Sound. It never fails to
clear my head and redirect me.

Is it cold? Hell yes. Is it uncomfortable out here? Sometimes. Is it worth
it? Always. On days like these, I try to get the tent really warm with the
stove, ( to warm up these old bones…) get some hot coffee and a sandwich
going, light a candle or two and see how close I can come to perfection on
the Sound. It’s never up to me to achieve that perfection… the weather
always decides.

Today, for instance, it’s quiet and calm on the water, reminding me how calm
my life is now, how easy it has finally become. Oh, I appreciate it, believe me…
like most of you, it hasn’t always been easy. A few quick memories is all it takes
to remind me how great my life is today.


Today, for some reason, I’m remembering crazy things I’ve done, crazy
places I’ve been… unlikely events in an otherwise fairly normal life that
stick out and ask to be revisited. As I remember some of this stuff, I
realize there’s an interesting story attached to nearly all these memories…
like the circumstances of how & where they took place, and what the
aftermath of these memorable events might have revealed.

Sitting here next to the little stove, I’m trying to figure out which of my
unusual experiences is the best, the most unlikely… one of those times
that you could tell your friends about and they wouldn’t believe it, or at
least be fairly amazed… not so much because what you did might have
been very unusual, but that you did it! Many of you have had some of those,
right? And I bet the stories around them are as fun as the events themselves.
Once my memory gets going here I can remember 3,4… hell, at least six
different times and places of things happening that, to my mind, at least,
are somewhat outrageous.

For example, I’m almost stuck in the very narrow and steep staircase of a
3-story walkup in Rovinj, Croatia. I’m dragging a heavy suitcase up this
crazy staircase to our room, and I’ve had to stop and rest on the 20th, of over
40 small stairs, holding onto the suitcase for dear life and trying to catch my
breath, wondering at the moment, “What the hell am I doing here?”

Not all that unusual, but when you isolate the beginning and the end, it gets
fairly amusing and somewhat bizarre. In this case, the answer is, “Because you
asked Karen Matarangas in an email, if her sister, Betty Ann, were still alive.
She reluctantly said yes, gave you Betty Ann’s email address, and now, six
years later, you’ve been living with Betty Ann and traveling the world with her.

And to take that idea even further to the longer view, we start with a little kid
growing up in a small town in Montana, who is now, at 74, stuck in this insanely
steep and narrow staircase somewhere in Croatia… pretty funny!

Here’s another quick one. It’s 1994, about midnight, and I’m in a small
camp on the backwaters of the Amazon, 30 miles from Equitos, Peru, sitting
on the floor behind the little bar in the dining area, with a Peruvian guy who
can’t speak a word of English, singing and playing Peruvian songs for me
while we drink warm beers. We’re sitting on the floor because the bartender
has told me he’s not supposed to play his guitar or sing while on duty,
let alone feed free warm beers to a gringo! He doesn’t want the camp
manager to see us, so we’re hiding down there, singing and drinking,
having a great time! I love this memory, it’s a warm and fuzzy for sure…
and anyway, I’ve always loved Peru!

Now that i think about it, several evenings later I found myself in that same
camp, in a small bamboo hut with a half-naked American lady, trying to dry
out my $800 microphone with her hair dryer. What in hell was I doing there,
doing that?? Well, I’d been out on the river in a dugout canoe earlier in the
evening, recording some nature sounds for the job I was working on there,
when a big, dark bird dive-bombed me, grazing my cap. I ducked at the
contact, dipping my mike and boom into the water.

Now water is terrible for a microphone, and I still had a week to go in Peru,
so I paddled back to camp, trying to figure out how to dry the mic, and its
diaphragm off without doing any damage to it. I go into the bar to get a
bar towel, and the woman sitting there finds out what I’m up to and suggests
I try her hair dryer. I listen, and hear the camp generator still running, so I
know we have electricity for now. So we go over to her room and I sit on
the bed, drying out my mic while she “gets comfortable.” Well, it is hot
on the Amazon… oh, by the way, the hair dryer worked, and the mic
still records beautifully to this day!

The longer view of this memory goes back to meeting a very good friend
in Atlanta back in ’73… Sandy Fuller. A photographer, cinematographer,
adventurer, he once worked for National Geographic, and has climbed
Mount McKinley, now known as Denali. He helped me get my first job in
Atlanta back then, with Viscount Productions, a small corporate film group.
Sandy set me up in his basement which would become my very first recording
studio. He taught me the basics of being a location sound recorder and got
me on many of the jobs he took, this Peruvian gig being one of them. To this
day he calls me “E flat.” And to this day I’m most grateful for all he did for me.

I know I didn’t have to get out here on the Sound to start having those
crazy memories… could’ve probably done just as well from the comfort of
my big chair back home on the cove. But whatever… it sure is fun
to remember some of the wild and unusual stuff we do during our lifetimes.
It’s a nice reminder that we’ve truly lived, and enjoyed to the fullest, this
wacky adventure called life!

Steve Hulse


Remembering Billy

by SteveHulse February 11, 2018

This is for a dear friend of mine in Atlanta who we just lost. My Atlanta pals will understand this very well. Billy Degnats was a great drummer… world class. And some of us knew he was an even better person than he was a drummer. His wife, Suzanne, has beautifully given us an insight […]

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Time (code) In A Bottle

by SteveHulse January 28, 2018

A Mini View Of The Midi Revolution Non-audiophiles, beware! This one is for my music biz pals who are over 50… and there are quite a few, believe it or not. I’m hoping you will find this interesting, or, at the very least, memory-jogging and perhaps entertaining. It’s one person’s view of the transitional time […]

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What’s In A Name?

by SteveHulse January 13, 2018

“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare Well, I get that, Bill. There is, of course, a basic truth in what you said. Turns out, though, your famous quote might not be the be all and end all to this name game, Willy old sport. For […]

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The Child In Us All

by SteveHulse December 22, 2017

I’ll never forget my first electric train. I was six. My dad nailed it to a piece of 4X6 plywood. After I was asleep on Christmas eve, he somehow got it up into our tiny apartment above the bar, and set it up on the floor next to the tree. I remember being thrilled on […]

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In Search Of The Holiday Spirit

by SteveHulse December 19, 2017

B & I were chatting about Christmas the other day, about how commercial it has gotten and about how difficult it seems to be to recapture the spirit of Christmas that we had as kids. “Yeah, my bell has certainly stopped ringing,” I lamented, referring to Santa’s little bell in The Polar Express, which could […]

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The Magic In The Moment

by SteveHulse December 10, 2017

We’ve all had them, those special moments, when there is momentarily more clarity, more awareness of who and where we are, and, perhaps, why. Often we’re in a new and different place, which might trigger long dormant synapses that that sparkle and connect in a way that is unique to each of us. I have […]

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A New Perspective

by SteveHulse November 17, 2017

Very happy to be back on the North Sound on the SV Aimless, my safe haven from all the madness below. We just finished an excellent trip to Europe, eye-opening and perception-expanding, as always. The water and the air here are so refreshing, it feels like pounds of humanity dust are falling off me, making […]

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It’s Always The People… Always!

by SteveHulse October 31, 2017

Traveling abroad is usually comprised of different scenery, different cultures and different people. This time we enjoyed the historical elegance of Vienna, the grandeur of Lake Como, the beauty of the Croatian coast, the soft, rolling hills of Tuscany, the energy of Florence… yet the thing that always endures the strongest in our memories is […]

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