In all likelihood, fewer people know Tanner Lacy than know his van. Its brightly colored exterior, a mural of a scenic landscape, has led some Hillsboro residents to dub it the “hippie van.”
“Everybody in town seems to know my van,” Lacy said. “When people ask where I live, I say by the hippie van.”
For the last 10 years, Lacy has driven his 1969 Dodge A-100 Tradesman.
“Her name is “Olga,” Lacy said. “She’s named after a character in the Tarzan books my brother and I read when we were kids.”
However, Olga hasn’t always been the “hippie van.” When he purchased her, the outside was a faded “calf-scour green” with a white stripe on each side.
Changing her paint to a yellow body with black stripe, Lacy’s first attempt to repaint Olga earned her the title “bumblebee,” but that incarnation didn’t satisfy.
Lacy thought Olga would make an opportune canvas to commemorate his favorite place in the world, a panoramic stretch of Canadian countryside in Stanley Mission, Saskatchewan, where the Holy Trinity Anglican Church rests.
“It’s the oldest standing building in the area,” Lacy said. “It’s just a beautiful place. I go up there in the summers and work with the Cree Indians.”
Olga has always been a home away from home for Lacy, and she was his primary residence while he worked at a ranch in Colorado near the Kansas border.
In the winter of 2006, Lacy and Olga had some snowy adventures.
“I was driving back to the ranch on a muddy road in a blizzard, and Olga does pretty well in mud until it gets up to her axels, but it got deep and we got stuck,” he said. “So we stayed there for a time, and I almost froze to death.”
Olga’s heater wasn’t working well, so Lacy tried to stay warm in a sleeping bag, but his water bottle leaked and the moisture made him colder.
To combat the icy chill, he improvised a miniature stove by putting a burning candle inside of an empty ravioli can and placing a perforated metal coffee tin over the top.
“I huddled over it and it kept me warm pretty good until a fella who had went the wrong way down the road I was on found me,” Lacy said. “Later, I came back and tried to get it out of the mud, but that mud was like sandstone and it stopped a tractor, so we had to use a bale fork to pull it up and it ripped my front brake lines loose.”
During another snowstorm that winter, Lacy hit a patch of ice and tipped Olga onto a snowdrift near Walsh, Colorado.
“The snow was pretty deep, so it didn’t hurt her,” he said. “We kind of just sat there at a 45-degree angle. I didn’t have anything better to do so I played my acoustic guitar a while.”
Eventually he got out of the van, put his shoulder in its side, and managed to push Olga back onto all fours before returning to the ranch.
When Olga and Lacy aren’t off adventuring she serves primarily as a work vehicle.
Lacy is a bus driver and lunchroom attendant at Hillsboro Elementary School, but he also finds a variety of carpentry, ranching, and farming jobs in the summer for which Olga’s assistance is needed.
What Olga lacks in modern features, she makes up for in personality.
“It’s about time to replace the windshield,” Lacy said. “I used to listen to Christian rock and old country in here until it leaked and my radio went out.”
Olga’s interior is an organized clutter of tools, supplies, and useful items. The walls are avocado green and the cab space is long enough to transport Lacy’s kayak.
Early in his relationship with Olga, Lacy added an army cot from a World War II Japanese American internment camp in southern Colorado.
Olga’s glove box is missing, but her motor was revamped recently. She also has tiny slits in the floor through which the road is visible when Lacy drives.
He said his wife, Hannah, sometimes has nightmares about Olga’s ability to get them places.
However, before they married Hannah told friends that she would choose “Tanner, his van, and a Bible” if she could only take three things with her to a desert island.
Hannah said, “I know what he has in that van. He has water, and tools, and a cot, and the man always has pliers and a knife on his belt. He can hunt and build, and I want to survive.”