Kojak’s barn was located on the outskirts of Victoriaville. You may be acquainted with Kojak from my previous blog “discovering the picker’s barns around Victoriaville”. Jean (Kojak) Deshaies was thus nicknamed because he was bald and had a rough voice. He also had a disarmingly direct way of expressing himself which reminded me of the t.v. detective. Across the road from Kojak was an Esso station with a good little roadside restaurant. All the pickers used to gather there about 7 am to have breakfast and exchange tips and gossip. It was a good place to be to find out what had come in, and what was going on.
One particular summer morning Jeanine and I arrived to find an unusually high level of
excitement amongst the natives. It was 7 am and the boys were drinking brandy, giving high fives, and generally celebrating. What’s up? Kojak who seemed to be the center of attention answered, “have a brandy on me. We’re celebrating the delivery of my new truck. There she is out front. Isn’t she a beauty.” Sure enough a massive, brand new, chrome covered, custom painted one ton, four door Chevy sat glistening in the sun. “It’s a little early for us for Brandy, but congratulations Jean, that’s a real beauty.” We took our place at our usual table and ordered breakfast.
This was at a time when I was becoming known as a “regular”, and the boys liked me in spite of my beat up old pickup with the simple bolted together oak board rack. Actually, I could tell that they laughed a bit behind my back as theirs was an “express my macho through my big truck culture.” That and the big roll of cash which they would pull out of their pants is what made them impressive to their clients and each other. They could not imagine why someone would come from so far which such a small potential for hauling things back. The first time I tried to tie down a load, they stopped me and taught me how to do it properly. Making a loop at one end of the rope and then pulling the other end through and pulling hard to cinch with a reef knot and the load was in place. I was getting pretty good at piling the stuff up a little past the height of the cab and onto the lowered tailgate to maximize my load.
So we were enjoying the laughter and light heartedness of the moment, along with some bacon and eggs, when Kojak slid onto the bench next to us. “Hey Phil, you should buy mon wreck.” Pause. “Buy your wreck” ??? It was first thing in the morning and I was struggling to find meaning in Jean’s “Franglaise”. Perhaps the shot of brandy would have helped. “Yea, mon wreck. Mon wreck from my old truck. It didn’t fit the new truck because my last truck had the small back space like yours so I had a new one made. But it would work great for you, and then you would have a real rig for hauling a decent load.” The fog lifted. “Well what are you asking for it?” At this Jean looked me directly in the face and held up five fingers. Let’s see; another puzzler. I knew that it could have originally cost $5,000 because it was beautifully made with a deck over the cab which had a metal mesh walking surface that came right out to the front bumper, and handy sailboat type rope tie downs all along the sides. But it seemed too high, so I ventured, “how much Jean?” “Five hundred.” “Give me five hundred and we can go to the welder’s place right after breakfast and he will put it on for you. That’s included in the price”. I looked at Jeanine. She gave me a wink, and so I said “Sure. Sounds good”. Thanks Jean. We’ll go for it.” Jean’s big smile displayed his satisfaction with this. His old rack was sold and he knew I could buy a lot more from him with this new equipment. It was a good investment on his part.
We finished our breakfasts and followed Jean about five clicks out of town to the home and shop of his welder buddy. Jean had called ahead so by the time we arrived he had it suspended up above the bay ready for us to drive in. Twenty minutes later our old oak rack was on the burn pile, and our new front to back rack was bolted into place along the sides and on to the front bumper. The old truck dropped about two inches under the new weight, but it drove fine, and we were off on the hunt with oodles of more space for purchases. The rack survived two new trucks and served me well for the rest of my time hauling big loads out of Quebec. I was happy that we had been there for breakfast the day Kojak’s new truck had arrived.