By Deanna Wakkinen, I-O Reporter and Barb Endler, Advertising Manager
Buck Traxler, I-O editor for over 25 years, has had a hard couple of months recovering from his triple bypass surgery on Sept. 21. A few days after his surgery, he had a pacemaker put in and was unable to resume driving around collecting news for six weeks.
On Oct. 27, the time finally came for Traxler’s 30-day follow-up appointment with his doctor. Pat Lee, I-O publisher, drove Traxler to his appointment in Great Falls unaware that a big surprise back home was underway.
Traxler’s sister, Anita Bassett figured it was time to clean up the ol’ I-O News rig to encourage Traxler not to ‘fall off the wagon’ after he quit smoking.
Barb Endler, I-O advertising manager, got ahold of Traxler’s keys and along with her friend Darla Hardeland drove the dirty little I-O News rig down the road for a good cleanup. They proceeded to take the vehicle in for a cleaning at City Center Car Wash and took their time scrubbing every nook and cranny.
Unlike the average doctor’s appointment, Traxler was able to be seen by his doctor 10 minutes early and with no other pressing engagements in Great Falls, Lee and Traxler headed back to Conrad.
Lee and Traxler were surprised when they drove up to Traxler’s house and saw his vehicle was gone.
“Where is your car?” asked Lee.
Traxler immediately went in the house and called the authorities.
Lee went back to the I-O telling everyone that Traxler’s car was stolen, but was quickly informed on what the real situation was.
Office Tom Kinyon had just pulled into the Mountain View Coop parking lot when he received the call on the missing, possibly stolen vehicle. Looking across the parking lot as he spoke with Traxler on the phone, he noticed a vehicle matching the description.
Kinyon wondered why anyone would detail a car before fleeing the scene.
As Kinyon approached the vehicle he told Traxler, “I think I’m looking at it.”
At the same moment, Lee came back into Traxler’s house saying “Barb has your car because your sister wanted it cleaned.”
Traxler’s comment was, “My sister is getting a call tonight.”
Endler and Hardeland explained the situation to Officer Kinyon and were glad not to be arrested for grand theft auto.
Incidentally, Kinyon questioned how Traxler was doing and was glad he had not fallen off the wagon and was following doctor’s orders, sending along good wishes to Traxler when Endler and Hardeland returned the missing, possibly stolen and now found and clean vehicle to Traxler.
The case of the missing I-O News truck was solved and everyone that knew about it, found it to be rather comical.
The Conrad Police Department assured Traxler that they won’t be letting him live this one down.
The original intentions versus final outcome of the now clean I-O News rig turned the escapade an afternoon of unexpected turns and twists. Even the best laid plans can often take a wrong turn.
The original plan was to have Traxler’s I-O News rig cleaned and returned before he got back from his doctor’s appointment, so he could be surprised with a clean vehicle when he got back in the driver’s seat.
After all was said and cleaned, the vehicle was returned to Traxler who was relieved and thankful for its return.
Bassett did call Traxler later on that evening, just to make sure everything was good, the conversation included good laughs about the whole situation.
Unfortunately, the thorough cleaning couldn’t keep the ol’ truck running. On Oct. 28, as Traxler got back in the saddle ready to head for Choteau to take pictures of the Conrad girls volleyball team at the district tournament, the I-O News rig had other plans. Traxler’s transmission in the ol’ girl had served it’s time and starting to slip, so Traxler turned around and went to Van Motors. The old truck has spent the last three weeks waiting for a new transmission.