A sure sign of spring in Johnson County, besides all the calves and lambs you can spot along the highways, is the assurance that the weather is likely to change every 24 hours or less.

And springtime is a bumper season for the car wash business. Ranchers have learned a sure way to bring on a needed wet snow or rain is to wash all the mud off the pickup.

The Bench Sitters can remember some pretty good true “car wash” incidents that have happened to locals in past years.

When the car wash was built on Fort Street years ago, Wyoming Jack O’Brien, a colorful character who operated Paradise Ranch for many years, said he had never seen such a place until that one went up.

He drove a large Mercury car and decided to wash it one early summer afternoon.

Jack said he pulled into the wash bay and started reading the directions on the sign above the box that took the quarters.  

He took the wash-wand out of the holder and placed it on the hood of the Mercury while he carefully followed the directions: “Insert three or more quarters and turn switch to soap.”

Then Jack said that “infernal machine became a wild and whipping snake.” Treating it like a rattlesnake, Jack grabbed the hose and started working his way up toward the metal end that was flopping wildly around, cracking his windshield and making dents in the hood. After getting hit in the head a couple of times, he finally got it under control.

He claimed that if he had been carrying his hunting knife he would have cut the head off.

Another of our favorites was about Jack Meldrum, a bit of a legend in this community. Jack had purchased a “late-model-previously-owned” Lincoln car and was headed to Denver with wife, Helen, to visit their son, Gordon.

It was a slushy spring day and they stopped for fuel just north of Denver.

As he gassed up, Jack noticed a message on the gas pump that he could get a car wash for a bargain price with a fill-up.

Not one to pass up a good deal, Jack punched the “yes” button on the display and received a slip for entry into the car wash at the side of the station.

An attendant directed him to drive his front wheels into a starting spot. He then suggested Jack leave the car in neutral with the brake off and said they could get out and take a seat in the waiting room while it was pulled though the machine that had huge spinning brushes and other contraptions to make that Lincoln look like it just came off the show-room floor.

But Jack said they would rather stay in the car and “take the ride.”

The car wash guy cautioned Jack not to touch the brake or put it in gear.  

As they proceeded forward, Jack could feel a few drops of water on the back of his neck,

One of the rear-windows was down slightly.

This was the first car with electric windows that Jack had ever owned. He was pushing buttons to raise that window and realized he needed to turn the ignition on.

He did that and then pushed the wrong button on the door console.

The front window on Helen’s side of the car rolled down just as the whirling “soap” brush came across that part of the car.

Instantly the “hair-do” she had gotten back in Buffalo earlier in the morning was filled with soapy water and most of it was hanging in her face.

“Do something, Jack!”

So he managed to roll his side down as well.

Before he got the car all sealed back up, there seemed to be as much soapy water on the inside as there was on the outside.

As they rolled out the end of the wash, three other workers were standing with towels to wipe down any bits of water left on the car.

Jack and Helen were climbing out to shake some water from their clothes and clean the soap off their glasses.

The guy looked at Jack and said, “Man, every once in a while we get a customer like you, but they only do that once.”

We hope your lawns are starting to turn green, you have your taxes done and are willing to wait until next week for some more tales from the Bench Sitters.


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