Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chico author's life through the eyes of his favorite truck


Robert Woods and his wife Wanda make their home in north Chico now, but Woods, a retired science teacher and Naturalist/Interpreter for the U.S. Forest Service, loved to roam. Encouraged by the Writers Group of Chico Prime Timers, Woods has published an account of his travels that is gentle, good humored, and told in part by his truck.

Says the truck: "Although I was manufactured for sale in 1953, my first recollection is from the autumn of 1960 when Bob and Lea Woods purchased me for $450 in Yreka, California. They anticipated a move and needed a vehicle with some hauling capacity. Though I'm only rated as a half-ton pickup, I'm quite well built, and have overload springs and a Barden bumper with a very substantial trailer hitch. My paint job at that time was rather dashing, with most of me a bright International red, trimmed with ivory white."

Bob called his truck, made by International Harvester, "Cornbinder." In "Travels With Cornbinder" ($15 in paperback from Cornbinder Press) Woods and Cornbinder alternate in telling the tales of a family that included Lea (who passed away in the 1990s) and their four children. Wanderlust gripped Woods. From Idaho to Portland to Willow Ranch (in Modoc County) to Many Farms, Arizona (where he taught Navajo students), to Susanville (where he taught prisoners) and to Forest Ranch, Bob and Cornbinder tell the story of a teacher in love with the great outdoors.

One spring morning, after Woods had accepted a teaching job in a two-room school at Sawyers Bar ("a remote settlement on the Salmon River in the mountains of western Siskiyou County"), he and Lea were sitting on their porch sipping coffee when, as Cornbinder tells it, "a stranger suddenly appeared. A young black bear had entered their front yard through the open gate. . . . The scrawny appearance of the animal indicated that it needed food, so Lea hurried to the freezer. . . . She found a steelhead trout about two feet long, and offered it to the visitor who willingly accepted the treat." No one was harmed.

Cornbinder, now restored, has been in the family for 45 years. The truck is in it for the long haul, and so is Woods.

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