Tag Archives: pickup truck

Dad

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I like this photo of my Dad.

He always hated having his picture taken, so this seems less an invasion of his privacy than most.

The picture was taken here on Beaver Island.

Dad is on the left, heading into the old woodshed. His friend, Peter “Doney” Gallagher is next, and then his sister, Katherine, who is my Aunt Katie.

They were  on a mission, as usual. Maybe pulling out nets for fishing, gathering tools for a repair job, getting a few logs for the wood stove or bringing out the lawn mower. Dad always had a project. A vacation was always a working vacation. Socializing with friends and family was not sitting around commiserating; it was working on something together.

That’s the way Dad raised his family, too.

Mom was great – with incentives, deadlines and guilt – at inducing us to get to work.

Dad had a way of making work fun.

Often, with him, it was so well disguised, we didn’t even recognize it as a job!

In the Spring, we’d ride with him to the pig farm. Usually we stopped at the Eagles tavern on the way, for a bit of fortification. That was a small Coca Cola for each of us children, and a beer for Dad. At the farm, we got a little tour. We’d follow along as the grown-ups talked business, pointing and laughing and head-shaking at the travails of farm life. Our own pigs were chosen: usually two, newly weaned, mostly pink with course, pale hair. We could touch them through the fence.

“Okay, let’s load ’em up, kids! Get ready!”

We’d jump into the back of the station wagon, secure our places, determine our finger-holds and safety’s, and wait.

Soon Dad and the farmer would come. They carried loosely secured, wild and wriggling burlap bags, each one containing a frightened, squealing and extremely strong pig.

They loaded the bags into the back with us, shook hands and parted. Dad took the driver’s seat. The pigs were our job, now, for the long ride home. The goal was to keep them contained, to sooth them if possible, to make sure they stayed in the back of the car and not to let them get hurt.

We kept them surrounded. We giggled and scolded. We told one another what to do and how to do it, only to be foiled by the unpredictable antics of our small bundles. We squealed, too, and yelled out in disgust, and laughed out loud.

Dad, perfectly calm, kept his twinkling eyes on the road ahead.

By the time we got home, we were covered in sweat and pig excrement, exhausted and filthy.

“Well, you did a fine job,” Dad told us as he relieved most of us of our duties, “How’d you get so dirty?”

With that, he’d send his daughters in to tell Mom we were back, and to get cleaned up. My brother, Ted, would help him get the pigs into their pen.

Summertime, if Dad had a Sunday off work, he’d take us out on the pontoon boat.

Lake Nepessing was just across the road and down the hill from our house. It was generously filled with seaweed that Dad liked for mulching his pumpkins, winter squash and tomato plants. He had welded together a giant gathering fork that hung down into the water from the front of the boat. As we trolled, the fork gathered the weeds. When it was full, we hoisted it up by chains attached to either side, and emptied it onto the deck. Down into the water again, and on for more. When the boat was listing dangerously in the water from the weight of our harvest, it was time to call it a day.

Back to the dock; secure the boat. We’d unload seaweed with a rake, a pitchfork and even by our bare armloads onto the dock, and from there into bags and boxes and burlap sacks that we then hauled up the steep hill and across the road and into the garden…

This, we called “Going boating with Dad.”

In the Fall of the year, Dad was in his glory. Every day there was something to harvest. Mom’s eyes would hold a look of fear, knowing that whenever he left the house, he’d come back with several bushel of fruits or vegetables that needed to be processed for winter storage.

This was the time of year to start storing food for the pigs, too, to carry them through until butchering time. For that, Dad made arrangements with farmers to go through their cornfields after the mechanical picking machines. We’d gather the corn that had been left behind.

Our day started with a lecture about riding in the back of the pick-up truck, who’s in charge, which big kid will take care of which little one, and who is responsible for making sure nobody gets lost or falls out of the truck. We all piled in, then, and headed out. We sat on our gathering sacks, to soften the bumps. Dad would drive right onto the field, unload his “workers” and direct us up and down the rows. We’d empty our bags into the bed of the truck. When an area was cleared, we’ve move to a different section, and continue. When the truck was full, we were done for the day. The ride home was on top of a full load of corn. We kept tight hold of our charges and shivered in the open air. The productive trip and safe ride home was rewarded with a stop at the Hotel Bar, just a quarter mile from home. Glasses of pop and dimes for the juke box finished another day working hard with Dad.

Dad had a way of making every season of the year important, every job associated with it, crucial.

Every child participating in that work was a necessary and valuable contributor.

The old woodshed is gone now. It was replaced with a modern pole barn several years ago. Dad passed away in 1998. Peter “Doney” has been gone a few years, too. Aunt Katie turned eighty-five years old on her birthday last week.

In my memories, they live on as they always did.

Is This the End?

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I’m afraid it might be the end.

For my good little car.

I have a history of shabby, old, rattle-trap cars.

I had a Volkswagon Beetle once – a stick shift, before I knew how to drive a stick shift – that had no heat, no windshield wipers and no floor. Driving it down the freeway was like standing in 70 mile an hour winds. I’d wear everything I could, on winter days. I’d get off at Oglethorpe Drive to pick up my friend, Linda. She’d come running out with a grin, an afghan her mother had crocheted…and ski masks! If the tires from a passing truck doused us with slush, we’d have to pull immediately off the road to chip the ice off the windshield. The gas gauge didn’t work. We often had to be rescued from the side of the road, out of gas. I drove it to and from college classes in Flint for an entire year, jerking and stalling whenever I had to switch gears.

I had a Ford LTD that burned more oil than gas. With that car, I stopped at every single gas station I passed, and bought the sludge oil that had been drained from other cars during an oil change. This was back when you could get an oil change at most any gas station.

I had a truck the first winter my husband and I separated. It had wooden side rails on the back that would fall off into the street every time I went around a corner. Not completely off, so that I could consider abandoning them. No, the back corners were firmly attached, so that if I didn’t stop and re-load the rails, I would be dragging them alongside, like broken wings. That truck also had very poor brakes. Luckily, though, it also had a horn that would blast, loudly and without reason. My daughters like to tell the story of when the priest absent-mindedly stepped into the street in front of us. I started furiously pumping the brakes, but it didn’t look good. Then – because there is a godthe horn blasted, the priest looked up, broke into a run, and made it safely to the curb.

These are not the very worst vehicles I’ve owned, nor the most colorful. Just a random sampling.

One lousy car after another.

The car I’ve been driving for the last few years, though, has been an exception.

It has been good transportation, for about five years, now.

My friend, Ruth, and her husband, Jack, sold it to me.

It was neat as a pin, got excellent gas mileage and had a good engine.

It had one major flaw. The radio stations could not be tuned in. “I’ve got it on a station now,” Jack told me, “just don’t move the dial, and you’ll always have radio.” Great!

Five hundred dollars. Exactly my limit when looking to purchase a new car. Worth every penny!

It’s a stick-shift, and I now know how to drive one! It has front wheel drive, so gets around well on Beaver Island roads. I know for a fact it will hold at least nine adults when, after closing the bar, we decide it’s necessary to go out to the Port of St. James and climb Mount Pisgah. We tested it!

There have been expenses, of course. I had to have the heater fixed, and I bought a set of new tires before the first winter. I replaced the battery after a year or so. I spent almost a thousand dollars getting the brakes fixed, before they were finally really, truly fixed, but it now has some of the best brakes I’ve ever experienced!

There have been a few unfortunate incidents.

My grandson got mad at me – for a totally non-car-related reason – and deliberately (might I say maliciously?) spun the radio knobs. That was the end of the music.

My windshield wipers worked great for one year, then worked independently for the next two. That meant I had to stop frequently to disentangle them. When the passenger side wiper quit working altogether, I considered it a blessing.

Driving home from work one summer evening, a deer jumped in front of my car and I couldn’t avoid hitting it. The accident crumpled the hood, broke out most of the plastic grill and shattered the headlights. From that time on, the hood didn’t quite latch properly.

A few months later, driving down the King’s Highway, the hood flew up and wrapped itself around the windshield. I had experienced that several times before with a Subaru I’d owned, so it didn’t scare me as badly as it otherwise might have. In fact, it took a bit of the crumple out of the hood, though it was left with an upward slope that held quite a bit of water.

From that time on, the hood was secured with a length of rope, compliments of my friend, Laura.

I had, at that time, only one working headlamp, and it aimed directly into the treetops. I’m not often out past dark anyway, but when my sisters visited, that was not acceptable. The nice repair job – not really visible in the photo – involves three small blocks of wood, two new headlamps and a half roll of duct tape.

The very day I quit my job at the hardware store, the rope that secured my hood snapped in an extreme gust of wind, and again sent the hood flying up to the windshield. This time, the glass cracked – pretty severely in one corner, with a long crack at just below eye level across the front. It dented the roof of the car, and sent the rear view mirror flying. I whipped over to the roadside and reconfigured the rope. Good as new.

Except that, in snowy weather, the rope gets frozen in place, making it very difficult to check fluid levels. Regular maintenance gets neglected. The last time the oil light came on, it took me two days with an extension cord and my blow dryer just to get the rope off! What I found when I got under the hood was not good.

About that same time, my only remaining windshield wiper quit working.

That was followed by consultations with professionals and friends and a day trip to the mechanic’s shop for an oil change.

The rope has been replaced by a stainless steel bolt for a hood ornament, holding a slick black rubber bungee cord to secure the hood.

The wiper is fixed temporarily, but it needs a new motor. Dare I order it?

Sometimes it only takes an expensive new part or a full tank of gas to put the curse on a car.

We all had high hopes. It seemed to be working fine.

Then, leaving town last night after dinner and a movie (Eggplant Parmesan was terrific; “Argo” was sensational!), I had just rounded the corner onto the King’s Highway when lights started coming on.

Check Engine.

Oil.

Battery.

I lost power. The car shuddered, then stalled. It would not re-start.

It may be terminal.

Thank you, dear Liz, for picking me up from the roadside, and driving me all the way home.

Thank you, Tom, for giving me a lift to Aunt Katie’s this morning, so we could get to church.

Michelle and Deb, thank you so much for taking time this morning to push my car off the road!

Bob, thanks for the ride home after Mass.

Thank you, Laura, for offering me the use of your car while you’re on the mainland!

Thank you, Johnny B, for offering me the use of your vehicle – indefinitely – until I can get something else!

Thank you, Doug, for your willingness to go to town three full hours sooner than you’d planned, in order to see that I get to work on time!

Thank you, John R., for always being willing to help!

Finally, thank you, Aunt Katie, for calling just to check on me this evening, because you worried.

I was fully planning a self-pity extravaganza. I was well on my way.

I’m still a bit depressed over the condition of my car.

It’s the best car I ever owned!

Among the good people here, though, blessings abound! It seems you can be down…but you’re never down and out!