Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gas For The Trail

"Get It Yourself Randy"

Way back when I was a reporter in North Adams, Massachusetts, I often worked with Speed Graphic photographer Randy Trabold, of whom you've read before in this blog.

Unlike much news these days, our news stories got on the spot personal coverage, and were not just reports issued as "press releases" from police or fire departments and other official agencies.

Oftentimes now in my sunset years, memories pop into my head at the most unusual times, mainly while I'm in a deep sleep about 3 in the morning.

It happened once again this week. From some dark recess came up the name "Steve Patryn." Then the story behind the name filtered through the
murky ancient files of my brain.

Patryn was a younger man who ran a gasoline and service station in North Adams. His place was a daytime and evening business, probably a 7 to 7 o'clock operation, where Steve worked hard and fast with little time for lunch breaks.

Randy was one of his customers with his trusty Jeep always needing gasoline, oil, and other servicing. Steve appreciated that business because Randy was a guy who traveled around day and night taking photos for the NORTH ADAMS TRANSCRIPT and THE ASSOCIATED PRESS .

For years Steve put up with Randy's procrastination at the end of Steve's business day - Randy's failure to stop by before closing time to fill up the Jeep's tank for his inevitable nocturnal treks around Berkshire County.

I often was companion to Randy on his nighttime moves to accidents and fires. I'd get a phone call from him which tersely reported "fire, Savoy, meet me on 116" or "accident, Dead Man's Curve, I'll be waiting at the office," meaning "get the heck up here fast."

Well, came this one night Randy happened to be in Adams when the police up north radioed him of a tanker truck that had overturned and rolled down the mountainside at Dead Man's Curce.

That's on the famous Mohawk Trail leading east out of North Adams toward Greenfield over a mountainous road.

(Maybe in the distant past you've seen his Wintertime photos from the trail - published nationwide by the AP but particularly in Florida - of snowdrifts around the roadside sign FLORIDA, the mountaintop town next to North Adams.)

Randy picked me up at my Adams home and we headed out. But just before hitting the trail I glanced at his dashboard and said "you're almost out of gas."

It was nearly midnight. The accident was nine miles out of town. All the gas stations were closed.

Randy radioed the city police, asked them to call Steve to come down and open his station and fill the Jeep's tank. Steve came, as was his usual late night response a few times every week.

This time Steve was teed off, real mad, muttering something like "this can't go on" - but maybe not in the nicest language, as he pumped the gas.

Tank all filled, Randy's gunning the motor, ready to fly off when Steve hollers "hey you hold on!" and handing Randy a key he shouts "I close at 7. From now on use the key and pump your own d---- gas."

Glad Randy had that key. There were a few nights I also was heading for the trail and needed gas. Steve's place was a lifesaver. We were honest -always left Steve a note on what we pumped and paid him at the end of the week.

Being that it was some 30 years ago, I guess Steve has retired by now.

- 30 -

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