Vintage Jeep Tales
Some stories are timeless. OK, it’s kind of a cliché, but at least in this case it’s true. And how those stories are told can make a big difference between them being remembered or forgotten. Some people just have a knack for storytelling. Below you will find a few Jeep-related stories from the adventures of a life-long friend, adventurer, and storyteller, geologist Dr. Thomas Bown of Westminster, Colorado. Feature Editor Verne has known Tom all his life and is lucky to have heard about (and joined) some of his adventures around the Southwestern U.S. and in North Africa. Tom has apparently never said no to the prospect of an adventure, and we can’t begin to tell all his stories here. His adventures range from hiking miles out of the McCulloch Peaks in Wyoming in 1967 after throwing a rod, to being held at gunpoint in Iran during Muammar Gaddafi’s 1969 military coup, to exploring the geology of North Africa in a long wheelbase YJ in the early ’90s, to drinking water out of holes dug by baboons in a dry river bed in Ethiopia in the late ’90s. These stories are too crazy not be true and hopefully we can do them justice. Next time we will show you some pictures of one of Bown’s adventures in North Africa, specifically Egypt and the Sahara Desert.
The $60 Jeep
We’ve all heard stories about super cheap Jeep buys. Whether it’s the rumor of a military flatty in a crate for $50 or a $5 junk Jeep, we all dream of finding a deal. Well here is Tom’s true tale of a flatty bought for $60 and the adventures that ensued.
“In 1967 Dennis Powers, an Iowa State grad who had worked several seasons for the University of Nebraska State Museum, was approached by Bert Schultze, director of the museum. Bert was interested in building a small teaching collection of early North American fossil mammals for the museum. For this, Dennis and assistants of his choosing would be paid $600. To collect the samples, Dennis picked his brother-in-law Bruce E. Bowen to lead the field work, Mike Shay, an Augustana College student who had attended the Iowa State University Geology Field Camp earlier in 1967, and me. Each of the team members was to receive $100 for this work, leaving $200 for expenses. We rented a tiny furnished apartment from the Bauers, a Powell, Wyoming family, who had an apartment above their plumbing shop. Rent for the spread was $60 for the month. Needing transportation, Dennis also bought a “junker Jeep” from Whitlock Volkswagen, also in Powell, for another $60, leaving us with $80 for food and gas for a month. The $80 was plenty, as gas was $0.25 a gallon then and back then most food was cheaper. We worked in the field all of August, 1967, and collected fossils in the badlands around McCulloch Peaks, south of the town of Willwood, Wyoming.”
“About two weeks into the grand expedition, we blew a rod on the Jeep near the top of McCulloch Peaks (south of Powell) and were forced to hike out. During the hike out we got lost several times, as there were no topographical maps of the area back then. We hiked for about 17 miles to get to Willwood, where we hitched a ride into Powell. We then talked a farmer friend into pulling the flattie out of the mountains. Revisiting Whitlock Volkswagen, we poured out a tale of grief, sorrow, and poverty (poor students!), and Mr. Whitlock (owner of the dealership) gave in to our pleas and gave us used parts at cost to repair the Jeep. Bruce Bowen knew a lot about vehicle repair, and hand-winched the engine out in the Powell City Park. Upon disassembly he discovered that the people who sold the vehicle to Whitlock had inserted paper shims between the rod bearings to make the Willys appear to run well. Confronted with this, Mr. Whitlock said he wouldn’t charge us for the parts if we didn’t tell anyone about the hokey repair that had been made to a car that they had sold us. We were young and stupid and had no idea who to tell anyway, so we agreed, and in three days Bruce had the Jeep up and running again. It worked well the rest of August, and after we were done in Wyoming, Bruce drove the Jeep to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, where he sold it for $100.”
Summer in a Wagoneer
These Wyoming shots were taken on Dr. Elwyn Simons’ ’72 Wyoming expedition to the Willwood geological formation in the Bighorn Basin. By the way, Elwyn is Feature Editor Verne Simons’ dad. The expedition was organized to collect fossil mammals for Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History (A few years before the inception or conception of Verne). Expedition members are: Elwyn Simons, Scott Wing, Ken Rose, Tom Bown, Leonard Greenfield, Ian Tattersall, Richard Kay, Jeffery Schwartz, and Rick Sheldon. The location is about four miles west up the Elk Creek Road, which takes off from the Worland-to-Basin highway.
“In 1972, we had a camp about 10 miles west up the Elk Creek Road, and we called the road we are repairing here The Tattersall Highway because Ian somehow managed to drive the 10 miles from camp to the highway in 20 minutes! In the photo, we are stuck. We eventually repaired the road by filling the hole and creating a structure we called The Tattersall Bridge. The Jeep was rented from Blackburn Implement in Greybull, Wyoming. We used it to haul nine people, water coolers, camp gear, and an ice chest around in it all summer long. On weekends we took little mini-vacations, including two up to explore the three caves in the northern Bighorn Mountains that were then termed The Glory Hole, Horsethief Cave, and Natural Trap Cave. These caves are now collectively known as The Bighorn Caverns. This was prior to the BLM’s building of locked iron gratings over the cave entrances for ‘safety.’ Over the summer we probably blew out about 20 tires. Most of them were so bald you could see the air in them. We also tore off a side door off the Waggy backing up into a bush. All the tires and the door were cheerfully replaced or repaired for us by Ed Blackburn from Blackburn Implement at no charge.”