Granville King: The King Of Plugging A Cylinder With A Tree Branch
We’d be remiss if we ended our 50th Anniversary issue without paying proper homage to the irreplaceable Granville King. King was Four Wheeler’s Baja correspondent from 1984 until the time of his death in 1989 at age 70. He was a former aerospace engineer and TV screenwriter who retired in 1981 and fled modern society. He and his four-legged companion Superdawg moved into a trailer on a bluff south of San Felipe, Mexico, miles from paved roads and electricity. From this location he wrote a variety of stories for Four Wheeler, including his “From the Backcountry” series, which was an account of a life devoid of many modern trappings, but filled with backcountry adventures and mechanical tips.
King had a deep technical knowledge of four-wheel-drive and vehicles in general, but his writing never came across as condescending or pretentious. He had a prolific style and the uncanny ability to grab a reader’s undivided attention and hold it as long as he liked. His writing was somewhat unorthodox. He used words like “git”, “messa”, “outta”, “yore”, and “bod.” While unconventional, his stories were crafted in such a way that before readers knew what was happening they were being entertained and educated at the same time.
All of King’s work was priceless, but one that stands out was a story called “Boonie Field Fixes.” We ran the original story in February of 1986 and we ran a version of it again in the March ’97 issue, which was our 35th Anniversary special edition. The piece included creative fixes for mechanical failures in the backcountry. One segment explained how to limp a rig out of the wilderness after throwing a piston rod through the cylinder wall. It included instructions on how to remove the damaged piston and replace it with a tree branch. It’s a great piece, and if you want to read it we’ve posted it at www.fourwheeler.com/granville.
King entertained and educated many Four Wheeler readers. In addition, many journalists were inspired by his writing, but no one that we know of was foolish enough to try to copy his style. King only wrote From the Backcountry for five years, but his legacy has continued far longer and we’re proud that King is a part of Four Wheeler history.