Some chain-link fencing, a few tree branches and assorted gas and power lines are just about all that’s left of the obstacles in a years-long effort to move Merle Haggard’s childhood home to the Kern County Museum.
But the biggest impediment?
That’s the prediction of Everett Tracy, supervisor at T&T Truck & Crane Service, which on Wednesday will move — free of charge — the railroad boxcar converted into a home by Haggard’s father in 1935.
Glenda Rankin, the project’s co-organizer, echoed Tracy, saying fans of Haggard should congregate at the museum about 10 a.m. for the boxcar’s arrival — and not at the home’s current address on Yosemite Drive, where Operation Move This Boxcar Already will be in full swing in a tight alley in Oildale.
“I think they’ll actually get to see more of the boxcar if they’re here at the museum,” said Rankin, noting the alley directly behind the boxcar will be blocked to traffic. “It’s just going to be a very cramped space over there.”
Tracy, contractor Steve Moreland and Rankin and partners Dianne Sharman and Cynthia Lake met at ground zero in Oildale Monday to discuss logistics.
“Loading it should take about an hour and a half or two hours,” said Tracy, who wasn’t particularly concerned about unforeseen complications.
“That’s what we do: move stuff.”
The rooms Haggard’s father added to the boxcar were dismantled months ago; all that remains to transport is the 41-foot-long boxcar, which has been lifted off its foundation in preparation for the move.
The structure’s support comes from four steel beams underneath and four cross bars and a spreader bar on top. Nylon slings attached to a crane will connect to the beams and lift the boxcar three or four feet onto a flatbed trailer.
The spreader bars will distribute the weight so that the structure doesn’t collapse. The crane will spin the boxcar until the angle is right for placement on the flatbed, which will be backed into the alley in a tight maneuver that will require flattening an obliging neighbor’s wooden fence.
“Three homeowners will be without power and they’ll stay at a hotel on Tuesday night, which is being paid for by the project, but they’ve been so understanding,” Rankin said.
As of Monday, Tracy was still debating which of two routes to take to North Chester Avenue. A convoy that will include Merle Haggard in his tour bus will follow along as the procession heads south for about 21⁄2 miles to the museum, at 3801 Chester Ave.
The flatbed will enter through Sam Lynn Ball Park to the north before stopping at the boxcar’s final home, at the south side of the complex near the train tracks.
Sheriff Donny Youngblood, a close friend, will be by Haggard’s side throughout the morning. He said the singer is humbled and honored by his hometown’s gesture.
“His dad died when he was very young,” Youngblood said Monday. “He probably doesn’t remember a lot about his dad; this kind of brings his childhood back. As we grow older, we grow younger again.”
Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Edgerle, in charge of security at the Yosemite Drive site, declined to say Monday how many deputies would be assigned to the detail.
“We’ll put them out there to preserve the safety and security,” Edgerle said. “They’re going to be moving that thing and we don’t want people in the alley and getting hurt. You have people living in that neighborhood, so we want to make sure the roads aren’t being blocked.”
At the museum, the boxcar’s lower beams will be matched to grooves in the foundation for exact placement, Moreland said.
“The beams will go into the notches and we’ll just slide them out.”
The contractor’s company, S&L Building, will be involved in the restoration of the boxcar and reassembly of its additions. A second S&L crew simultaneously will build a replacement home in Oildale for Steven Himes, the converted boxcar’s most recent tenant.
“I’m all anxious about this,” said Himes, who has been living in a second home on the property, amid the hubbub, for months.
Haggard fans from all over the world still come to see their idol’s boyhood home, said Himes, who’s been promised two markers — one in front, one in back — that he hopes will give him a measure of peace.
“Merle Haggard’s home is now at the Kern County Museum.”