Skip to main content

They Loved Their Machines

July 2024
1min read

Many ambulance drivers, having had hair-raising adventures with their Fords, developed an almost passionate attachment to them. Robert Service, the popular Canadian poet who drove in France for many months, wrote one of his splashy panegyrics about such a driver, Jerry MacMullen:

“L ittle Priscilla,” he called his car, Best of our battered bunch by far, Branded with many a bullet scar, Yet running so sweet and true. Jerry he loved her, knew her tricks; Swore: “She’s the beat of the best big six, And if ever I get in a deuce of a fix Priscilla will pull me through.”

He does, of course, get in a deuce of a fix, trying to take four badly wounded poilus to a hospital through a German artillery barrage:

Shell-holes shoot at them out of the night; A lurch to the left, a wrench to the right, Hands grim-gripping and teeth clenched tight, Eyes that glare through the dark.

But a big shell explodes right in front of them:

Little Priscilla skids and stops, Jerry MacMullen sways and flops; Bang in his map the crash he cops; Shriek from the car: “Mon Dieu!” One of the blessés hears him say, Just at the moment he faints away: “Reckon this isn’t my lucky day, Priscilla, it’s up to you.”

Sure enough, the ambulance mysteriously arrives at the hospital, though Jerry is barely conscious with two broken arms. “Thunder of God!” says the French doctor. “It’s queer.”

But Jerry, he says in his drawling tone: “Rats! Why, Priscilla came in on her own. Bless her, she did it alone, alone.…”

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.