My Northern Wisconsin

Covering Ashland, Iron, Lincoln, Oneida, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, and Vilas Counties


[Image: sandyonchuck.jpg]
Written by:  Sandy Onchuck

Unfortunately, the fellow that totaled out Dennis' car had no insurance, so he had no choice but to use some of the cash he had planned to homestead on to purchase another vehicle.  He could not afford the new or used car lot prices, so he went shopping in a “Pig Lot” (no autocorrect mistake here) - Yes, a pig lot!  (The pictures below show the old 1957 Chevy in the back of the lot before Dennis removed it).


Some would say luckily, but I say providentially, Dewey and Jeannie remembered they had a neighbor, Tom Hatton, that had an old 1957 pickup he might be willing to sell to Dennis.  The problem, however, was that it had been abandoned in their old hog pen.  Yes, the rig was sitting in a foot of hog manure, and anyone familiar with hog manure knows the smell is quite the “SMELL.”

Tom was asking 200 American dollars for the truck, which fit Dennis' meager budget.  Most men would have walked away with a "no thanks."  They would have been either blinded by pride or defeated by fear.  Again - not Dennis.  Instead of focusing on the dirt and hard work, he saw the possibilities.  He envisioned turning the ole girl into a camper – perfect for batching it in Alaska.  The old ’57 had seen better days and required a lot of cleaning and some repairs, but Dennis, the ever-resourceful fellow that he was, got it cleaned up and roadworthy in record time.


With Dewey and Jeannie Reuckert's help, he managed to jump through all the Wisconsin and Canadian hoops and get it legally licensed in the U.S.  So with his neck and bruises healed, he got back “On the Road Again” and headed for the land of the midnight sun.

The following year Dennis built a camper for the truck bed.  At that time, most of the Alcan was graveled, so to prevent dust from being sucked into the camper, he devised a way to pressurize it with filtered fresh air.  (See the below pictures)  He installed an engine air cleaner assembly on its right outside wall with a 12 volt, two-speed heater blower motor on the inside of the wall.  He had a two-speed switch mounted on the steering column, which he could control at will depending on the road conditions.  It was so effective that when he would hold a lighted match on the outside at any crack, it would be blown out.


Years later I teasingly jested to him that it looked more like a doghouse than a camper, but, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and after all, it was the age of the hippies and the quest for all things simple.  While the ole girl may not have been a showroom beauty, she still served Dennis well for many years.

In 1983 when our children were still small, we became involved in the Christian Radio Ministry of VFCM headquartered in Nenana, Alaska.  We traveled up the Alcan in the ole girl pulling a travel trailer that we lived in for a month while Dennis helped with the construction of the studio building.  It was a great time, but we did experience one of those Dennis Onchuck "Off the Road" events.

As we were rolling into Ross, N.D. we smelled the odor of a hot lubricant.  We managed to coast down the hill right into the yard of an abandoned schoolhouse.  Unfazed by the seeming disaster, Dennis went to work jacking up the back end of the truck and replacing the pinion bearings and seals.  I gotta say, he may often end up off the road, but the good Lord has blessed him with a mechanical brain, so he manages to always get back on life's highway fairly quickly.  We were stranded in Ross for several days because the parts had to be ordered from a nearby town, but the breakdown turned out to be a wonderful time for the kids since the swings and playground equipment were still there in the schoolyard.


The 1983 trip was just the beginning.  Dennis made numerous trips up the Alcan to Nenana with equipment and supplies for the radio station.  We still own the pickup, and I am confident some collector would gladly give us more than the original cost, but he isn’t ready to part with her yet, and I don’t think I am either.

Over the years I have crossed paths with several people that I thought were a lost cause just like the 1957 Chevy.  They were trapped in a pigpen of unwise choices, moral corruption, or substance abuse without worth or purpose.  But, just as Dennis rescued the old ’57, I was amazed when God delivered them from their hopeless existence as they turned to Him in faith…teaching me that no one is beyond the arm of the Lord.  It’s called Amazing Grace.

The next story will highlight Dennis meeting the matchmaker on the Alcan who will then introduce him to Sandy.
(This post was last modified: 07-24-2023, 05:16 PM by My Northern Wisconsin.)