Judah Eldredge owned the garage that stood where Nauset Marine does business today in Orleans.
Way back, my father worked for Judah as a mechanic. Often, according to my father, someone would call and ask for help getting their car started. More often than not, the job would fall to my father, so he’d get in the pickup truck with some tools and set off to the owner’s house to take care of what was usually a routine matter.
At a point in time, Judah bought the first tow truck in town, a shiny black Model A Ford. Judah was so proud of the fact that he was the only one to have a tow truck, that he changed his way of doing things.
Instead of sending my father on a “startup” job, he’d go himself. And rather than trying to get the crippled car started there on the site, he’d just hook onto it and tow it to the garage. Of course, in his vanity, he’d come back to the garage the long way, passing through the center of town so that “the boys” on the park bench could see him as he chugged along, bent forward on his duty run.
Well, as Judah related later, he responded to a lady’s call of distress, and, instead of trying to start the car, he just hooked on, as was becoming his habit, and began to tow the car. He said that as he was going along, he noticed that the tow truck was having little trouble pulling the load behind, even going up hill. “She purred along as if she had nothing dragging behind,” he related later.
What Judah hadn’t realized was that the lady had left the key “on”, the shift pedal in “forward”, and the throttle “open”. Well, of course, as you have suspected, the car started on its own and was now actually pushing the tow truck instead of being towed. My father said that he could hear them coming along, so he went outside to see if Judah needed any help.
By this time, Judah had realized that something wasn’t right, but was unable to slow down enough to turn into the yard and stop. So he kept going. With no little amount of swerving and rearranging soft shoulders, Judah was able to go around enough corners to bring him back by the garage, my father wondering what kind of a showoff he was trying to be now. On the third or fourth trip around and with all the shouting and flailing of arms, my father finally understood, jumped aboard the car and shut it down.
It is said that after that experience, Judah was much more conservative about his towing business, even bypassing the center of town in order to avoid the loud cackles from the bench sitters by the cemetery.
They could be so unforgiving at times, especially when someone deserved it.