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  • Writer's pictureHeather Tanguay

7/31 Wednesday - Finding Tom and Jerry

Updated: Aug 17, 2019

Driving along Route 40 into El Reno, the road looks completely different than 25 years ago. Instead of a desolate stretch bordered by sparse dried grasses, a constant stream of big work trucks and giant container rigs rumble past new industrial buildings and advertising signs. This is oil country and clearly oil is booming.

I google "Tom and Jerry's Towing in El Reno OK" and Jerry's Motor and Machine pops up on the first pass. Love the small town. I do not call ahead because I am pretty certain that Jerry will not remember us, though he and Tom occupy legend status in our family lore. I figure if he remembers me when I show up, that will be great. If he doesn't, that will be fine too. I will retell the story and head on my way.

Jerry of Tom and Jerry's Towing

Thanks to the complete invasiveness of google maps, Jerry's Motor and Machine is easy to find. Jerry is there, wiping his hands on a work rag. I recognize him right away – a bit older perhaps, but some us are a lot older looking since then (Sam the baby for one, and me for a second, gone from young mother to something else). He does not remember me but he remembers the time. He says it was just after he and Tom went into business together and so, yes, the tow truck was new. And yes, it was one of the depressed times in El Reno. “In this part of Oklahoma, oil goes big and everyone works and then it goes bust and no one has a job.” He confirms, just now, oil is booming and El Reno is flush with money and prospects.

But no, Tom is not with him any longer. (I have momentary quiet panic that Tom has died.) About year after our encounter, he bought Tom out and Tom went to work for Tom’s brother, Gary. They are just down the street in an old Phillips 66 station, changing tires and fixing cars.

I zip over there and Tom is in, with his brother, in a shop filled with curios and auction items. We talk about American Pickers. I ask if Gary, the auction hound, would like them to come pick his things and Tom whips back: ”Oh, no! He is trying to beat them to the good stuff.” Like Jerry, Tom does not remember us until I talk about Mom driving around in Miss Tilly’s car, and that brings some of it back. Tom still has that spark that makes him the guy who surprised my mom and me so much by saying, "You want to listen to NPR? You look like NPR kind of folks!"

As I take my leave, Gary hands me a souvenir t-shirt from their shop which I have been wearing ever since.

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