COUNTY AGENT GUY
A recent walk-through at a car show was a disconcerting experience. This is because many of the vehicles on hand were still in use when I was a kid. It’s like visiting museum and seeing your childhood in a display called “Ancient Artifacts That Only Really Old People Remember.”
Many of the automobiles in the show were from the 1950s and 1960s. You could see the evolution from primordial fins to the sleek seductiveness of muscle cars.
All of the cars were in spectacular condition. And all of them were being incessantly fussed over by guys.
Why are men so obsessed with cars? In a word: women.
Guys buy cars to impress prospective mates. We are very similar to bowerbirds in that we are endlessly spiffing up our little corner of the world, hoping that we might catch the eye of a passing female.
Among the vehicles at the show was a 1959 Ford. One glance at that car and I was instantly hurled into the past.
When I was a high school junior, I purchased a 1959 Ford for the princely sum of $15. The old car had some issues regarding rust and dents. It also had no engine or transmission.
But I saw these as minor problems. The main thing was that I finally had a set of wheels. My life as a dateless teenager might soon recede in the rearview mirror.
I located an engine and transmission for the Ford and a couple of buddies of mine and I installed them during shop class. None of us had tackled such a project before and there were some missteps. But no fingers were lost in the process, so we deemed the venture an unqualified success.
We eventually got the old Ford running. But like a bowerbird, I was still unsatisfied. I installed new carpet (emerald green, indoor/ outdoor) and purchased hubcaps. Most importantly, I was able to coax the radio back to life. No bower would be complete without music.
After endless hours of fussing, I decided that the car was finally ready. All I needed was someone to share it with.
Owning a car gave me a sense of confidence that enabled me to ask a certain girl to go out. “Fake it until you make it” were words I lived by back then. Still do.
It was a pleasant summer evening when I picked the girl up at her parents’ farm. As we motored down the gravel road, a thunderhead of dust formed in the backseat of the rusty old Ford. By the time we got to town, the backseat area had a layer of dust that was thick enough to grow radishes.
We went to a movie, then shared a pizza. After that came the highlight of the evening, a slow and (hopefully) seductive drive back to her farm.
We were cruising down a lonely back road when the Ford suddenly began to make a loud BAP! BAP! BAP! noise. I pulled over and popped the hood. Unfortunately, one of the sparkplugs had fallen out. Fortunately, the plug was still dangling from its wire.
I only burned my knuckles a few times and my hands only became moderately grimy as I reinstalled the sparkplug. With the engine again purring, we resumed our cruise.
Then it began to rain. My old Ford was the “el-cheapo” model, so its windshield wipers ran on engine vacuum. If you accelerated, the wipers would stop. If you let up on the gas, the wipers would whip across the windshield at speeds normally associated with airplane propellers.
Hoping to minimize this annoyance, I pulled into a field approach and shut off the engine. Soft music played as raindrops thrummed. It was not unromantic.
I scooted across the seat to get closer to the girl, who seemed obsessed with the passenger door. I was leaning in when she abruptly exclaimed, “Eww! What’s that?”
Rainwater had seeped through the car’s tattered weather stripping and dripped onto the girl’s head. A muddy streak painted her white blouse.
She summarily demanded to be taken home. I put the car into reverse and its back wheels spun helplessly in the mud. I had no choice but to walk to the nearest farm and ask for help. Which, of course, was her parents’ farm.
It’s tough to ask for help from an irate dairy farmer in the middle of the night. It’s tougher still to explain what you were doing on that field approach at that hour with his teenaged daughter.
And take it from me, it’s virtually impossible to explain why your hands and his daughter’s blouse seem to be wearing the same shade of grime.
Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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