Following the death of my great-grandfather, Joe Stocks, our family of four moved to his 32-section cattle ranch near Kent, Texas.
Along with a beautiful old adobe ranch house, my dad inherited a 1952 Dodge Power Wagon, which soon became a highly modified “windmilling truck.”
The bed, doors and bumpers were exchanged for an extremely heavy pipe frame and dump bed; and, for the next 30-plus years, the old Dodge endured the worse abuse imaginable on our steep rocky and dusty ranch roads while servicing our nine windmills.
Our ranch was an exciting attraction for our friends and many cousins. One of our favorite pastimes was to straddle the front fenders around the headlight and ride down those bumpy old roads while holding on for dear life.
My brother, Russell Stocks, and I lost count of the times Dad would take us out in the power wagon immediately after a big thunderstorm and invariably get stuck in the mud many miles from the headquarters. Then, for hours after that, we would winch up every scrub mesquite our line could reach, while trying to get out of the mud.
After a few years, we learned to hide out after a big rain. Life on a working cattle ranch can be labor-intensive enough without self-inflicted chores!
My brother and I eventually left the ranch to pursue our degrees from Texas Tech. Around 1990, my parents left the ranch.
It was a very painful move for all of us. Before they left, Dad gave the old beat-up power wagon to another rancher. We just thought it looked bad when he gave it away. It would get much worse.
I had been trying to save as many of my great-grandfather’s artifacts as possible; and, letting the old truck get away started bothering me until I finally decided to track it down. I was soon rewarded, or so I thought! The truck had been sitting out behind a farmhouse near Balmorhea, Texas, and was in catastrophic condition.
A good friend and also a Texas Tech grad helped me get the truck moved to his mechanic’s business in Pecos Texas. My friend removed the pipe frame and dump bed and the mechanic began the engine overhaul. Surprisingly, every part of the motor was ruined except the block and the crankshaft. The engine overhaul was completed about a year later, and I moved the truck to a body shop facility in Midland where it sat exposed to the elements for several more years.
The body shop had previously agreed to restore it. However, it became apparent that no professional in his right mind would touch this job. It was just too far gone. I finally decided to move it to its final resting place at my home in Glen Rose.
With the help of another longtime Texas Tech buddy, we loaded the old heap on his trailer and said goodbye to my dreams of restoration.
The poor old wreck was officially for sale with a beautifully overhauled engine; however, no one would pay anything close to what I had already spent. This was a very low point for me, so there it sat under my shed. At least it was finally protected.
My brother had been laughing at my power wagon travails for years, and for good reason.
However, he made the mistake of visiting me in Glen Rose where we strolled out to the shed and reminisced about the old truck. Then, Russell said, “maybe we should buff off some of the rust and paint to see what’s underneath.” That was his fatal mistake. He was hooked!
I knew a restoration of this magnitude could not happen without a cheap body man. So, my baby brother, now a highly educated veterinarian, knowing absolutely nothing about body work, agreed to take on the challenge. Every part connected to the frame was removed.
He took all the body parts to his home near Longview and I began addressing the mechanical and frame restoration in Glen Rose.
Neither of us had experience on a frame-off restoration; but, we found others who had that experience to guide us. Soon it became a passion and great bonding for two brothers.
Originally, the truck was green and black, but Dad later painted every square inch with a red oxide primer. It was ugly, but may have saved the metal.
Russ and I had seen some power wagons painted red and black and we soon decided ours should be Texas Tech red and black in honor of our school and all of our Red Raider friends and family involved in its life and resurrection.
It had been a difficult journey for us, but the rewards were worth it all. Our great- grandfather would be proud and we dedicate this journey to him.
After many nightmares, I finally had a good dream. Russ and I, representing Texas Tech, were in a race along side these beautiful classic cars.
Most of our competitors had the big engines, shiny chrome and were the envy of the crowd. They were laughing and leaving us in their dust.
The last part of the race course was a steep, rocky hill. When Russ and I finally arrived, all these beautiful classics were spinning out, unable to make it up the most difficult section.
We stopped, engaged our 4-wheel drive, downshifted to granny gear and started up the grade. We slowly passed each competitor, beeped our horn and waved our guns up.
As we topped the crest, we looked up to find we were the only ones to finish. This old Dodge Power Wagon, like Texas Tech, had the power and perseverance to succeed when the others had given up. That’s what the race was all about.