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The New Star
By Tom Carnegie
Illustration by Fred Wattenburger
Ansel Gallander, John James and Joseph Vant are the best of friends. Ansel has a son named Ewell and John has a son named Manfred. Ewell and Manfred are medical students at the university in Seattle. They have come to Baton Noir, Idaho to visit during part of the Christmas break. They rode the train from Seattle to Baton Noir but plan to drive back with Joseph in his Model T centerdoor sedan. Joseph shares many interests with the boys although they are 20 years his junior. A couple of passions that they share in common are chess and astronomy. Joseph likes to take on both boys at the same time, at chess. They set up the board, then set their chess clocks to five minutes. There are two clocks, one for each board. Time is running while you are making your move. After you move your piece, you press a button, which stops your clock and starts your opponent's clock. After five minutes has elapsed for either player, an arm drops down. If the arm drops on your clock, you are the loser, unless you have checkmated your opponent. In truth, the contestants play little attention to the clocks, and move as fast as they can to the completion of the game. In the past Joseph would almost always win, but now Ewell or Manfred is just as likely to win one or both games. A few times either Ewell or Manfred has taken on the other two and done a respectable job. To indulge their other passion, the boys have brought along their telescope. Of particular interest to Joseph and the boys is a star, which has been growing brighter day by day. This "stella nova" or new star is what has prompted Joseph to offer to drive Ewell and Manfred back to Seattle. Weather permitting, they plan to camp out at night along the way, and look at stars through the telescope.
It is the 22nd of December 1919. Joseph is at the Model T garage going over his model T for the trip. "I would take along a gallon can of gasoline, a gallon of oil and several gallons of water on a trip this long", said Hayes Olson, one of Joseph's hired men. Jesse (Hayes' brother) then pipes up. "We've mounted up a brand new set of shoes on your rims. I took the best used-tire for the spare. I hope you don't have too many flats. Wouldn't it be nice if the road was paved all the way to Seattle? I suppose some day it will be." "I'm not so sure of that." replies Joseph. "It would be too expensive to pave all the roads with concrete, and if they pave with asphalt, they will have to repave every couple of years to repair the frost heaves."
The next morning Joseph and Ewell and Manfred and all of their gear and spare parts and oil and water and telescopes and chess boards and card tables are loaded up and ready to go. Joseph's three hired men, Jesse, Hayes and Butch Dunsel gather around the model T to see the three men off. "Have a good trip!" says Jesse. "Yes, don't let your radiator freeze up." advises Hayes. "Well, just remember that there are two miles of bar-pit for every one mile of road." quips Butch.
Joseph is driving the first part of the trip. Even though it had snowed a couple of days ago and it is quite cold out, the road is in fairly good shape and they are making pretty good time. A few miles outside of Pasco Washington, the radiator suddenly erupts in a huge ball of steam. "Oh no!" says Ewell, "You let the radiator freeze up" "No, the radiator didn't freeze up, something else is wrong." says Joseph. Joseph pulls over into the borrow pit and crawls out to survey the situation. A quick inspection reveals the problem. "A rivet has come loose on the lower radiator strap and all of the water has leaked from the radiator. I think I can patch it up well enough for us to make it to Pasco." "How long will it take you to fix it, Joseph?" asks Manfred. "Long enough for us to play a game of chess?" "Better make it a three-minute one. We won't be here too long." replies Joseph. Joseph unropes the telescope and card-table from the roof of the centerdooor. With that, Manfred and Ewell grab the card table ad begin setting up the chessboard with their gloved hands. As Joseph sets the 'scope back onto the roof, he contemplates the radiator problem. He chews a piece of gum and sticks it into the rivet hole, but it won't stay. Next, he just stuffs a wad of folded up paper between the frame and the lower strap. He pours a little water in and although it leaks some, it doesn't pour out. "O.K. boys, when you're done with that game, load 'er up - I'm going to pour what water we have in the radiator, then we need to get moving because it will leak out eventually. "Check and mate!" shouts Ewell as he jumps up and claps his gloved hands together once. They load up then get situated into the car as Joseph pours the two gallons of water they have into the radiator. Joseph decides that they should head back to Waitsburg, as it is closer than Pasco.
When they get to Waitsburg, they start looking for a garage that can repair the radiator. A townsman directs them to a greasy little shop in a back alley. As Joseph walks into the dimly lighted shop he can just make out the figure of a young man, perhaps 16 or so years old, earnestly attacking a model T spindle with a reamer. While he twists the handle he stutters a little ditty about how beautiful Katy is and how he'll be sure to be waiting at the k-k-k kitchen door when the lunar situation is just right. "Do you have a torch and some solder to repair my radiator?" interrupts Joseph. The boy is startled to hear a voice other than his own. "N- no, well , yes, I, I, I mean, I'm not allowed to use it." stammers the boy. Joseph then asks if there is someone who is authorized to use it. "The boss man can use it, but he won't be back 'til tomorrow afternoon. " "May I use it? I will gladly pay you for its use" "No, I'd better not, I might get into trouble." "O.K. I shall see you tomorrow afternoon." Joseph informs Ewell and Manfred of the situation so they decide to get a bite to eat then find a place to pitch their tent for the night.
The next day is bright and sunny but still rather cold. The three men look over the town and play some chess until lunchtime. After lunch they head over to the greasy shop to look into using the torch. When they get there the "bossman" hasn't arrived yet, but he shows up within an hour or so. Joseph explains the problem with the radiator to the "bossman" and secures permission to use the torch. It doesn't take Joseph long to remove the radiator and solder up the hole. Soon it is back onto the car and both it and the spare cans are refilled. "How much do I owe you?" asks Joseph. "Ah, don't worry about it. You did all the work. It will be my Christmas present to you." says the "bossman". Joseph argues, but the "bossman" won't change his mind. "No wonder they have such a dingy shop." thinks Joseph to himself. "You can't get ahead giving away your livelihood."
By now it is time for supper. After they have finished, it is beginning to get dark, but they decide to head out toward Yakima anyway. As they drive along on this moonless night, Joseph fills the others in on the history of irrigation in the Yakima Valley. "This land is desert without irrigation. With it, it is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country." The men decide to pull off the road a bit and make their camp for the night. The night is clear so it will be a great night to gaze at the stars, especially their "stella nova", which continues to get brighter each night. As the men take turns with the scope, they hear the sound of an engine racing, off in the distance. The motor winds, then gears clash and then the motor races again. Finally the sound stops. "Someone's having trouble." says Manfred. "I think we'd better go investigate." says Ewell. Sound carries a long way on a clear night like this, so they decide to drive over toward where they heard the sound. After they had driven about a mile they see a man walking up the road toward them,
beside him is a woman wrapped up in a blanket. They stop and introduce themselves. The man is a Hispanic looking gentleman. "My name is Joe Estrella and this is my wife Marie." "That is a coincidence, my name is Joseph too." says Joseph. The other Joe then continues, "Joe is the name that I go by in this country. I am originally from Mexico but I came here to work as a cabinet-maker. So far though, I've only found work picking crops. My car has developed some trouble and I must get my wife to town. She is very pregnant and the baby may come at any time." "Yes, we heard your car. That is why we came over." says Joseph. "What kind of car do you have?" Joe explains that the motor runs fine in his 490 Chevrolet, but it won't move when he lets out the clutch, no matter what gear it is in. "Sounds like you've broken an axle. I think we can all squeeze into my car, and we'll head back to Kennewick." "I don't think the baby will wait that long" says Joe. "I saw a farm house a ways back." says Ewell, "Let's stop and see if they'll help."
Joseph pulls up to the farmhouse and knocks on the door. A man carrying a kerosene lantern answers. Joseph explains the problem to him and the man says that they are welcome to come inside. As Joe and Marie approach, the farmer gets a good look at their faces. "I'm sorry," he says, my wife wouldn't abide me lettin' a couple of wetbacks into our house. You three can stay the night, but you two will have to go away." "Sir, this lady needs a place to have her baby!" says Joseph. "I'll tell you what." says the farmer. You three can stay in the house, and you two can stay in the barn. I'm sorry, but that is the best I can offer." "We'll all stay in the barn if that is all right with you." says Ewell. "Sure, suit yourself." With that the farmer gave a sort of look that said he was truly sorry but his hands were tied. Joseph goes back to the car and grabs a lantern, then out to the barn trudge the five travelers.
It isn't long before Ewell and Manfred get to apply some of their medical knowledge in the delivery of a baby boy. Marie seems to be fine. She wraps the baby in some strips torn from the blanket and lays him in a bed made of straw. Marie and Joe talk quietly for a while to themselves, then Joe announces that they have decided to name the baby after Manfred and Ewell and call him Emanuel. "Manny for short!" "Manny Estrella - that is a good name." says Joseph. Ewell looks at his watch. It is just after midnight - Christmas morn. He then says, "Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope Manny grows up to a world where peace is ever-present and people judge you on your actions, not your looks. Peace on earth, goodwill toward men!"
(end of story)