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Butch Cools Off
by Tom Carnegie
Butch knows he has some work to do. Joseph is sending Butch on a service call to the Mac Doon Fox Farm, but that is not the job that Butch is most concerned about. Butch has had his eye on Bonnie Mac Doon, the older of the two Mac Doon sisters. Bonnie has been away from Baton Noir for nearly two years. She has recently returned and Butch hopes that he will run into her when he goes out to the Mac Doon Fox Farm, which is about 5 miles west of Baton Noir, Idaho. Bonnie Mac Doon is a buxom, vivacious girl. To Butch's mind Bonnie is nearly perfect except for one thing, and that is her sister Bettie. Bettie always seems to be underfoot. Bonnie and Bettie sort of come as a package. In the past whenever Butch would see Bonnie anywhere, he would try to talk to Bonnie, but her scrawny, gawky sister would spoil the whole thing just by being there.
Butch drives up to the Mac Doon house and knocks on the door. Bonnie answers!
"Well Butch Dunsel! It is so good to see you. It's been a long time since I've seen you! Do come in and have a piece of pie and we can talk for a little while."
"Bonnie, it is good to see you too. I'm on company time right now, so I'd better not come in. I need to get these coils out to your pa. Can you tell me where to find him?"
"He's out in the north forty. Just go out across the pasture, past the row of fox pens and you'll find him. The pasture is not too rough, so you can drive right across it if you'd like. Both he and his model T are out there. "
Butch drives out and finds Mr. Mac Doon. Butch trades four good coils for the ones in Mr. Mac Doon's coil box. Butch starts Mr. Mac Doon's T, and it runs smoothly on all four. Mr. Mac Doon smiles and shakes his head as he says,
"Joseph was right, she'd miss at slow speeds then get a little better at high speeds. I thought it might be the timer, but as I explained the symptoms, Joseph became convinced that it was the coils."
"I'll take your old coils into the garage and tune them up and return 'em later, Mr. Mac Doon."
Butch hops into his car and drives back across the field. As he approaches the driveway he sees Bonnie heading down toward the outbuildings carrying a tray.
"What ya' got there, Bonnie?"
"Oh, I've just made a batch of pudding that I'm taking down to cool in the cool room. Why don't you take a minute and I'll show the refrigerator to you."
Even though Butch is still on company time, being shown machinery by a pretty girl is something that he can't pass up.
Bonnie leads the way into the building and begins to explain the equipment to Butch. He is amazed at her knowledge and understanding of it.
"This is the compressor. As you can see, that three horsepower repulsion-induction electric motor turns it. The compressed ammonia is pumped through these steel pipes which run overhead through the cool rooms. My dad welded all of these pipes together with an oxy-acetylene torch, and didn't have a single leak. Step into here, this little room is kept at about forty degrees. I like to use it to cool things in the summer. Pa doesn't seem to mind. Watch out, I need to close the door. My dad has me trained to always close the door, even though sometimes it is hard to open and I think I'm going to get trapped in here. This knob pushes through the door and opens the pull-up handle on the outside. Even though it is sticky, it always opens if I really shove really hard. Through this door is the much larger deep-freeze room where we keep the frozen meat for the foxes. It is kept at about zero degrees.
After the ammonia travels through the pipes, it is condensed and then makes the trip again, over and over."
"Bonnie, you seem to know a lot about this mechanism. Do you like other mechanical things, like airplanes perhaps?"
"I really haven't given them much thought. I suppose they are rather intriguing."
Butch looks down at his boot, which he sorts of scuffs on the ground like a chicken scratching for worms and builds up the courage to ask Bonnie a question.
"Would you be interested in riding with me to Walleye to see the air show this Sunday?"
"I'd love to Butch"
"Great, I'll pick you up right after church."
On the way back to the Model T garage Butch is mulling over in his mind the refrigeration unit. When he gets back he tells the guys of an idea that he has hatched.
"Why couldn't you mount a small refrigeration unit on your motor and keep your car cool in the summer?"
"I don't think it would be practical," says Joseph, " and I'll tell you exactly why. First off it would have to be a big powerful sedan to accommodate steel pipes running through its roof and have enough reserve power to run the compressor. But suppose for argument's sake that you got the size - power problem solved, you still have the problem with ammonia or methyl chloride or some such dangerous gas in your car. The smallest accident could rupture a line and poison you. Unless they find a less dangerous refrigerant, it just won't happen."
Joseph crosses his arms and then makes eye contact with each person in the room one at a time to reinforce the profundity of his discourse. He brings his gaze back to Butch and continues talking.
"Now, onto a different subject. Paisley Hand needs someone to drive his nephew Ashford into Walleye once a week for fencing lessons. He will pay well. He has asked me to screen the applicants to make sure that they have a dependable car and he also wants the applicants to submit a report to me on how long it takes them to drive from Baton Noir to Walleye. He wants me to get the results back to him by next Sunday evening. That will give people a chance to drive the route and time themselves this weekend."
Butch can use the extra money and thinks he has a good shot at getting the job. Mr. Hand likes him and the only person that Butch can think of that can make the trip to Walleye faster than he, is Beau Dremel. The trip to the airshow will be a golden opportunity to time the ride. Of course Bonnie will be with him so he will drive a little slower than normal, especially on the back side of Pyrite Peak. Butch doesn't want to scare Bonnie, which would be easy to do, as the road is curvy and the guardrail is inadequate. There is a notorious curve where several cars have gone off the road over the years. It is known locally as Corpse Corner. Butch will make sure that Bonnie feels safe, then adjust his submitted time to reflect his normal driving.
On Sunday Butch picks up Bonnie. The drive to Walleye in uneventful and Butch has a good idea how long it will take. When he gets back to Baton Noir he will report to Joseph with his time to submit to Mr. Hand. Butch drives to
the fairgrounds where the airshow is to take place. He decides to try to get as close to the planes as he can. When he gets to the main entrance, he just continues to drive right past the spectators' area and on to the area where the planes are parked. No one says a word or tries to stop him. He parks his car near one of the planes and he and Bonnie get out. As boldly as he drove in, he walks up to a young pilot who appears to be in his early twenties, which is about Butch's age, and tries to strike up a conversation.
"Hello, I'm Butch Dunsel and this is Bonnie Mac Doon."
"Pleased to meet you both, My name is Barney Panghorn."
Butch then continues, "Who manufactures this plane?"
"The airplane was made by Laird."
Barney turns and smiles at Bonnie as Butch continues his inquisition.
"What got you interested in flying?"
"I learned to fly in the war." Says Barney in a perfunctory sort of way.
Barney doesn't seem too interested in talking. Bonnie seems to be most interested in Barney and his plane, or maybe just in Barney. She begs him to explain more about flying. Before long Barney is telling his whole life story. That includes chapters not yet written. Barney explains how he believes that there will be a market soon for airmail service. He thinks that he can nail down the route from his hometown of Pasco, Washington to Elko, Nevada. It is a tough mountainous route, but Barney is sure that he is best suited for the job. Barney also gets Bonnie to talking. Soon Butch is pretty much left out of the conversation. Barney notices Butch's 1911 torpedo and talks Butch into helping him with a stunt for the airshow. Butch is to drive around the track as fast as he can while Butch and his partner will perform a car to plane transfer. Butch is reluctant at first, but with the promise of a plane ride for him and Bonnie as payment, plus the assurance that the stunt is safe and no one will get hurt, Butch agrees. When they perform the stunt before the crowd, all goes well. True to his word, Barney gives them both a ride. Butch goes up first. His ride lasts what seems like only a few minutes. When Bonnie takes her ride, it seems as though she is gone for a long, long time.
Butch is now anxious to get back to Baton Noir. When Bonnie and Barney land he loads up and heads back to Baton Noir. He should be back quite a bit before it gets dark, which will give him plenty of time to get a hold of Joseph.
When Bonnie and Butch get back to the Fox farm, Bonnie's father asks Butch to do him a favor. He wants Butch to see if he can free up the knob that opens the refrigerator door from the inside. Butch says that he will be glad to take a look at it. Butch borrows a few tools from Mr. Mac Doon and sets to work on the door. Working from the inside he removes the knob. He wedges open the door an inch or so with a small block of wood. He examines the knob, but he can't see why it is hanging up. He takes it outside to examine it in the light. It is a very hot day today, and it feels good to be working in the cool air of the refrigerator. Butch decides to take a look at the other identical door leading into the deep freeze room to see if it also sticks. He is examining the action of the inner door when he hears a sound and turns around just in time to see Bonnie kick the piece of wood out of the door and have it slam shut behind her.
"No! Bonnie!" shouts Butch, but it is too late. Bonnie has been trained well, and always closes the door behind her. "Bonnie, you have locked us in here."
Bonnie's face turns beet-red as she realizes what she's done. "Where is the knob?" she asks, trying to mask her panic.
"Can you take the knob off the inner door to get us out?"
"Bonnie, I have no tools in here, they're all outside."
"What should we do Butch, I don't think we can make enough noise to be heard through these thick walls."
"Let's not panic." Butch tries to sound calm, but his voice was a bit quavery. "Someone will miss us soon and look in here for us. It's not too cold in this room, so we'll be all right for a while."
Bonnie isn't so easily convinced. "What if we run out of air in this little room? We'd better leave the door to the big room open so we'll have air." As Bonnie says this, she sort of makes an anxious motion like a jockey holding a set of reins and urging his horse on.
Butch is quiet for a few seconds, then says, "If we open that door it will get really cold in here."
"Butch, I'd rather freeze than suffocate."
So, they open the door.
After what seems like a really long time, but is probably only a few minutes, Bonnie says, "Butch, I am cold, would you mind wrapping your arms around me?"
Butch thinks this sounds like a capital idea. They sit on the floor, lean against the wall, and hold each other very closely. As Butch holds her he can smell the lavender in her hair. He squeezes a little tighter, and Bonnie doesn't seem to mind.
Butch is getting very comfortable with this situation. Both he and Bonnie are perfectly quiet. After some minutes, Butch thinks he hears something. He listens intently. No, it must be his imagination. It would take a very loud sound indeed to penetrate the insulation in the walls and ceiling of the refrigerator. No, he definitely hears this sound again. It sort of reminds him of the airshow. Another half-hour or so goes by when suddenly the door bursts open and there stands the silhouette of a tall man with what looks like a leather football helmet on his head and a muffler around his neck. Butch and Bonnie untangle themselves and leap to their feet. As they get used to the bright light from outside, they recognize Barney Panghorn.
"I landed my plane in the field. I checked at the house and your sister said you'd be down here." Says Barney.
Bonnie grabs Barney's arm, thanks him and insists that he come up to the house for some lemonade. Then sort of as an afterthought extends the offer to Butch. Butch has mixed feelings about getting rescued by Barney. He's glad to be out, but doesn't care to see Bonnie hanging onto his arm. Butch says that he'll be up to house as soon as he's repaired the door. Bonnie and Barney head up to the house, still arm in arm. Butch reassembles the door quickly as he can and follows them up to the house.
When Butch gets to the house he is greeted with the smell of popcorn. Bonnie offers Butch some corn and asks if maybe he couldn't stay for a while and play a game of pinochle. Butch assumes that they will be playing three handed, until Bonnie explains that her sister Bettie will make up the fourth hand. At the thought of Bettie, a knot forms in Butch's stomach. He's not sure that he can stand this little girl for whole game of pinochle. He sees Bonnie looking into Barney's eyes, and decides that he definitely needs to stay. Mr. Mac Doon has agreed to let Barney park his plane in the field overnight, but Barney says he can't stay too long because he needs to walk to town and get a room for the night. Butch offers to give him a ride to town if he'd like and says that he can even stay overnight at his house as he's sure his parents won't mind.
Barney accepts the ride but declines the lodging. About this time Bettie enters the room. She has changed quite a bit since the last time Butch has seen her. She is no longer a skinny, scrawny, girl, but is rather a nice shaped young lady. Butch offers to be her pinochle partner, but the girls decide that it will be men against the women. There is quite a bit of talking across the table on the part of the women, and as such, at least to Butch's mind, this is why the men get beat so thoroughly. Butch finds that he is not at all annoyed by Bettie, in fact, he finds her very charming. The game goes on a bit longer than anyone had planned, but finally the boys decide to leave.
Butch has to light the headlights as it is getting dark.
"Oh man!" yells Butch. "I forgot to turn my time for the Walleye trip into Joseph. Now I've lost the job with Paisley Hand."
Butch drops Barney off at the Baton Noir Hotel and drives over to Joseph's house in the hope there is still a chance to turn in his time. Joseph informs Butch that he has already turned in the information to Mr. Hand. He also informs Butch that he has turned in a time for him.
"Oh, thank-you Joseph. What time did you turn in for me?"
"I told Mr. Hand that it would take you an hour and a half."
"Oh Man! I can drive to Walleye twice that fast! I'll lose the job to Beau Dremel for sure."
Joseph has a little twinkle in his eye as he says to Butch, "Beau Dremel didn't get the job, you did. Mr. Hand was looking for the slowest time, not the fastest. He has no desire to have Ashford driven off Corpse Corner. He figured the slowest submitted time would be by the safest driver."
It is now Monday morning. Butch tunes up Mr. Mac Doon's coils and asks Joseph if he should deliver them. Joseph says "Yes."
Butch knows he has some work to do. Both he and Bettie are looking forward to it.
(end of story)