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Trails's End - Granville King: Drivin' Broke and Dumb

Posted in Features on September 22, 2016 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Leo Bestgen

"As Superdogger and self cascaded wildly down the 40-foot bank, I realized that with luck this might only be a disaster. For we had another truck tied on behind that I'd just yanked outta hole at the top of the bank. And he was comin' in reverse. It looked like buttsy-crash to the bottom where we'd wind up in the water, a good way to separate rigs in heat. He came like hail about 20 feet behind me, head cocked desperately to peer out of his rear window. I got my door open and, with Superdawg at the opposite open window, prepared for a spring into eternity…"

Granville King wrote these words, and they were published in the Feb. '90 issue of Four Wheeler in his column From The Backcountry. This particular piece was titled "Drivin' Broke and Dumb." Never heard of Granville? Well, Granville 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 fled structured society after retiring in 1981. He and Superdawg lived off the grid in a trailer that was located on a bluff south of San Felipe. Granville's column was wildly popular, and he had a knack for holding readers' attention from beginning to end. His writing was unconventional, and today it throws Word spellcheck into catatonic shock. In the Feb. '90 story, he used words like "sunuvagun," "stoopit," and "prolly," which was standard fare for his style of writing.

But make no mistake, Granville was extremely intelligent, and he had a thorough technical knowledge of four-wheel drive and vehicles in general. His off-the-grid lifestyle meant he often had to make vehicle repairs creatively, and the stories relating to the repairs were fascinating and always amusing. He seemed to never shy away from admitting to a foolish mistake. As a matter of fact, he'd often write an entire column about creatively recovering from said mistake, and it'd be written in a way that would grab and hold the reader's attention, as well as educate on what not to do.

Which brings us to the "Drivin' Broke and Dumb" story we referenced earlier. The entire predicament began because Granville headed into the backcountry driving a Mitsubishi truck that had a failing axleshaft U-joint, which failed, leaving the truck stuck in sand. After a 5-mile walk back to his trailer, he snagged his 1-ton 4WD Chevy van for the recovery, but it lunched a hub in short order ("Curses! Have they just passed a law that all 4WD vehicles revert to 2WD this particular Tuesday?" he wrote). A quick "fix" to the hub and he was on the way to rescue the Mitsubishi, with help from a friend, Tomas, who happened to pass by. Granville's description of the Mitsubishi's recovery was awesome, and he didn't bail out of the tow rig. "So before I could nail the brakes, we are goin' like hell and I'm half outta that door and Super is poised on the window ledge. But I didn't go because what'll happen is I'll go under my own wheels, or Tomas wheels, and that could be right painful." He went on to write, "I rocket to the bottom of this 40-foot bank and veer left to give ‘im free space and run out a bit quickly so he doesn't unnecessarily come through my back doors. It's not all that bad! I make a smooth curve, I see Tomas snapping along behind, we run 100 feet on the flat, and then he casually raises an arm for cutoff. Tired of drivin' backwards, I guess. We stop, check the dirty diddies, and unhook. Whatta great Unstuck this has been! Few other men could've handled it so carefully."

And few men could've told the story as well as Granville.

Read Some Granville
If you'd like to read a complete Granville King story, visit fourwheeler.com/granville, where you can peruse his classic "Boonie Field Fixes" story.

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