I don’t recall how she ended up in the pasture. Out to pasture, as they say. At some point she was parked alongside my uncle’s barn, and the weeds grew up around her in a big green hug, all the while whispering in her ear that life was coming to an end. She tried to remain upbeat about the future, but gradually succumbed to the creep, and slipped into the long night.
I used Everett’s truck from the store to try to pull her out, but she wouldn’t budge. And he could tell the next morning that I had fried the clutch. He barked a bit, but it didn’t matter much. Everett always started in third gear from a dead stop anyway, and never shifted. Didn’t care much for any unnecessary motion. Probably because he tipped it at way over three hundred pounds. I’ll hand it to him though. Easily the most nimble huge plumber I’ve ever known. Impressive. Didn’t make many return trips to the truck for tools either. Always planned ahead. Unlike my trips to the fridge.
But we dropped a new battery in her and she came back from the dead, exploding to life in a cloud of blue smoke. We let her sputter and cough and think about it a bit, and then I whispered in her ear that life was beginning again and not to fear. And I heard her say that she can do this. So I dropped her into first, eased the clutch out, and she pushed through the tall grass and into the clearing. No brake fluid though. Pedal went to the floor. So I’m glad she had the good sense to stop on her own.
She rolled off in 1964. And her name was AMC Rambler, now in faded burgundy, although I doubt that was a color palette choice. She had an engine, a radiator, a distributor, and an oil filter standing right there in front of you, like an eager dance partner. Not much else. You could drop a cat on either side of that straight-six and hit the ground. And when you opened the hood and stuck your head in there you could hear the sea. Or maybe that was just Lost Island Lake. 3-speed on the column, with overdrive. Smooth as corn silk rolling down Highway 18. And a fabric bench seat, so your sweetie could sit close. Or just the groceries from Hy-Vee.
She loved to fish, so we spent a lot of time at the lake. Sometimes Coop Johnson would join us. But I never subjected her to the indignity that Coop’s Chevy endured. He would take the heads from the walleyes and northerns he caught and wire them to the front grill as trophies. And there they would stay, drying into fixed grins as they led his macabre charge down the gravel roads. Truth be told, Coop’s brother Ronnie was really the fisherman. I once tried to sell him some new catfish bait at the hardware store, but he kindly refused, saying, “thanks anyway, but I already have a bucket of chicken guts.” And who can argue with that?
She was with me for a couple years, and after that she made another home happy for a bit. All it took was a new battery. A fresh power source. A new heart. A new life.