Saturday, November 18, 2006


I talk a lot. People who know me, know this. It's like a trademark or something.

Years ago, a few friends and I were setting up for a church activity and Jenny said, "I have to give a speech in church next week and I have no idea what to say." I laughed and said, "I never have that problem. Give me a topic, I'll tell you a story." So they did. And I did. They worked, I talked. I loved it!

When I was a kid, I'd try to listen in church. Really, I did. But my mind wandered most of the time. The speeches that kept my attention, though, were those who were telling stories from their lives. I'd sit in awe and listen with great pleasure. I longed to live a life where I'd have stories to tell.

Now I have too many. I didn't mean it that much.

So today I randomly picked a topic - and it was cars. I initially thought, "Sure, a topic I can't really tell a story about." Then I remembered.

I was 19. I had moved from my parents home in the midwest to Utah. My siblings lived there, family friends lived there. But I was on my own, meaning free from parents.

And car-less. Some family friends came to my aid and offered me a car for $100. All I had to do was somehow get the 40-miles to their house and it was mine. The fact that I'd never seen it before, didn't even know what kind it was, made no difference. Until I got there.

1967 Plymouth Valiant. White. It's seriously a museum item. I was incredibly disappointed. It looked old, it smelled old, it was old. Besides that, it had stick on the column. I couldn't drive it. Somehow we got it back to town and my amazing dad put the stick on the floor on his next visit.

It was mine now. I called it Afton. (Another story for another time.)

I was still embarassed to drive it. Then the battery died. Easy enough. I'd changed batteries before. Bought one, put it in. Ran great. For a day.

The alternator went out (which is why the battery was dead). Dad was gone by then, my brother knows nothing about cars and is nearly blind anyway ... I had to figure out how to fix it on my own. I bought a manual, bought an alternator, and fixed it. I was amazed.

Then the radio stopped working. I was able to figure out the wiring, found some loose and worn, replaced them, and it was beautiful.

I found I loved that car. But I wasn't proud of it yet.

Until the day I gave LaRae a ride. She was getting ready to leave on an 18-month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was quite a good, well-mannered girl. The kind of girl you watch your language around and apologize to for saying "crap". She needed me to help her run some errands, so we got into my old Valiant named Afton and off we went.

At one point, we had to try to get into traffic from a parking lot, but no one was letting me in. I was getting anxious and angry and finally just decided I was getting out into traffic whether anyone liked it or not. I gunned it, darted out, and made it by the skin of my teeth. I looked over at LaRae.

Eyes wide. Clutching the door. Breathing quite shallow. Then she looked at me with tremendous delight.

"This car's got balls!" She hollered.

Oh, I was proud.

I learned to love my car. The ease of fixing it. The joy in knowing it was all mine. The knowledge that part of why it worked so well was my own doing. And it had ... well, guts.

And the smell.

I will forever love the smell of old cars. It's like heaven.


Skittles said...

You are indeed a great story-teller and this was one of them. Loved every word.

East of Oregon said...

great blog!

Mike said...

Cool story. I like old cars, they are indeed easier to work on than the newer ones. I've owned many used cars and I too buy manuals for them all lol.


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