Monday, February 11, 2008

The Golden Car

If my count is correct, I have owned or driven on a regular basis 13 cars in my life. Some have been total wrecks. Two have been brand new. Nine of them were driven into the ground. One I still have. Of all of these cars, one will always stand out in my memory. It wasn't even my car. It belonged to my brother, but since we were living together and had only one car between us, I drove it as much as he did, although he always drove it when we were both in it. It was a giant station wagon, like they used to make before mini-vans and SUVs. It was painted a dull gold. I don't remember the make or model, but it was big and it was gold.

I remember this beast so well because of one trip. When my brother bought the car, we were living in El Paso. Mike had just parted ways with the Army, and we were slowly starving to death. At the time we were both very active in the SCA, and we drove the beast all over southern New Mexico going to events. It was a handy car to have because we could haul quite a lot of stuff. Since Richard, the head of our household, liked to build things, it came in handy. We had quite a lot of fun, but there was that slowly starving thing going on at the same time. Mike and I finally decided that we needed to call it quits and move back to Tulsa.

The trip back to Tulsa is what enshrines this car in my memory. We packed everything we could into this car. It had a big wheel well in the cargo section for a full sized spare. We filled all of the spare space in it. We dropped the back seat and filled every cubic inch of that large space. We stacked stuff in the front seat and floor board so that passenger passenger had about 14 inches in which to sit. We put so much stuff in the back of the car that the front of the car started to float off the ground. We solved that problem by putting weights, including a spent artillery slug Mike had found at MacGregor Range, inside the front bumper. That pulled the front down some. I am certain that we exceeded every weight restriction conceivable for that car.

Did I mention the cats? We had four cats that we brought back. Each cat got an upside down milk crate for a cage and small dish of cat food. They went right behind the front seat, with a little bit cleared of the top so the air could get to them. They quit complaining after only a few hours.

We set out in the morning, after getting a late start. About twenty mile outside of El Paso, we blew a tire. Remember all that stuff packed over and in the wheel well? It all had to come out by the side of the road. Not too much farther down the road we blew a radiator hose. As luck would have it, there was a road crew nearby, from whom we begged a couple a gallons of water. We wrapped the hose in electrician's tape, and limped a few miles down the road to the next town. As soon as we got off the highway, we found an auto parts store. They had a hose. A flexible, one hose fits every car, special hose. It cost twenty dollars. Fifteen more than we could afford. The guy suggested that the other auto parts store in town might have a hose which would fit. When we walked into the store, we were struck by the roughly forty two million hoses hanging from the ceiling. We timidly asked if they might have a radiator hose for our fifteen year old beast. He though for a minute, and said "Which one? I got both." A few minutes later, for a cost of three dollars, we were installing our new hose.

By this time, what with the hose and the tire, and the late start we were almost seven hours behind schedule, and we were still west of the Pecos. The rest of the trip was an endless blur. I remember passing through the Midland/Odessa well after dark. The flares from the oil refineries struck me as vision of hell. At some point, while still in Texas, we pulled off at a roadside rest stop to sleep. Remember that fourteen inches of passenger space? Not the best place to sleep. Somewhere around Sapulpa the oil light came on. We kept driving. We finally arrived at our mother's house, exhausted, dirty and stiff.

There is the scene in the Blues Brothers movie after Jake and Elwood drive up to the county courthouse. They jump out of the car, and it falls to pieces. It wasn't quite like that, but it was close. We went to an SCA event in Stillwater that weekend. (I got my AoA there from the King of the Outlands there.) The car made it there and back. It made it a few times across Tulsa. And then it stopped moving. Mike was able to sell for scrap, for there was a lot of metal there. It was old, big and kinda of ugly, but it got us home. Our golden car.

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