exploring the world in “style”
I went to see my Mom for Mother’s Day today and took my cross stitching with me. It was nice to sit and reminisce while I worked. We talked about the olive-green monstrosity that our family lovingly dubbed the “Mount’in Car.”
Now I can’t tell you exactly what kind of car it was, but I can tell you it was a drab olive-green, a station wagon of some sort, and it sat an entire Girl Scout troop once going on a field trip.
There was a bench seat in front with the standard parallel bench seat behind. Then another two sitting back to back behind that. There was a door that opened across the tail end of it and if you sat in the rear-most seat, you got to ride backwards. One door, the passenger side door as it were, was smashed in just enough for that door to be rendered useless.
It was the ugliest car I’d ever seen.
And My Daddy paid 75.00 for it. He came home from work one day and announced his purchase to my mom and said they needed to go and see about this car, to make sure it was still parked where it was supposed to be; there seemed to be some confusion as to whether his frugal purchase was actually going to be there.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw the car and the gut-wrenching horror that I’d have to ride around in that thing. The car we loved to hate eventually became a car my mother loved—it sat so many people!
We had to have it towed home. I am not sure what all my Daddy had to do at the time to get that terrible monster of a car running; but we nicknamed it the “Mountain Car.” I am not even sure how we came up with that name, only that there could have been a thousand other ugly names perhaps more suitable.
I know the picture is blurry, but this is the only picture I am aware of that we still have of the Mountain Car as all five of us (me, back left and my three brothers and my sister) dressed up in our Easter Sunday finest posed with the beast.
The front passenger door you can see is ok, but the door behind that was crushed and this is the door that my middle-school aged self would have climbed out when Mom dropped me off at school, if it would have opened properly. Instead I had to crawl across to the driver’s side and take an embarrassing walk around the back of the tank of a car to the greeting stares of my classmates.
I begged her to please please just drop me off on the corner. Nope. Mom pulled up right in front of the school with a car full of kids and dropped me off right in front of the cool kids. God, I hope they don’t remember this as clearly as I do.
My mother did grow to love the car for the simple reason that we all fit comfortably and could spread out throughout the back, which probably cut down on the bickering between siblings as she drove. Friends had plenty of space too and it came in quite handy for Scouting expeditions.
We all grew to love the companionship and comradery, the experiences we shared as a large family on the road. I only remember breaking down once on the side of the road and hanging out with the strangers that lived there while we waited for my Uncle Mark to come and help my Daddy make the repairs.
We went everywhere in the Mountain Car. The most memorable experiences I had was when Dad would come home and say, “Load up, we’re going to look for deer.” Now this meant the same thing every time; we’d make the trek over to Morrow Mountain and drive slowly so that we could scan the woods for white-tailed deer. We’d stop the car and count any we could see. This was our way of having fun.
I remember seeing a great-horned owl swoop out of the trees and right up the windshield, wingspan as wide as the window. A family of skunks with their little black and white waddling babies crossing the road and climbing into a stump hole. A deer with a severed tongue hanging plump and pink from its mouth—Daddy found the Park Ranger to report this. We saw the tiny fawns with their spotted backs. Learned the term “button buck.”
We felt alive, there on that mountain, our olive-tank blending in with the trees.
Occasionally we’d hit the hiking trails for a bit, but the hiking adventures were usually a day of their own. Dad would select a kid or two for a day of hiking. I knew those trails well.
On the way to Morrow Mountain was a little dirt road that cut off a portion of our drive by a mile or so. It was a shortcut we termed the “Dukes of Hazzard road.” Dad drove quicker than a dirt road called for and we watched the dirt cloud swarm behind us, imagining that we, in our ghastly Mountain Car, were in the Dukes of Hazzard fleeing Roscoe and his “good ‘ol boys.”
We called him “Rosco Pico Train.” We really were “somethin,’” we thought.
I am not sure whatever happened to that car. I know my two sons have had similar stories with some of the questionably functional cars I have had; some costing me less than a month’s rent and purchased sight unseen. “Does it run?” was about all I’d ask. Humility, getting by. Getting to work no matter what, breaking down often…these are things a lot of kids today do not experience.
It is wonderful to ride around in a comfortable car, AAA on the ready, a button that sets the alarm or opens the doors. It is another thing altogether to pry open the groaning smashed door that Daddy finally got to open and slide across the bench seats to fight for window space and head out to explore the world as a family; no laptops, no cell phones, no tablets playing movies just to keep our minds busy and quiet.
We had each other.
And we stared out the windows counting cows or looking for deer. Who cared at all what the “cool kids” would think? I am sure they didn’t even know where the “Dukes of Hazzard road” was and that was their loss. The humility we learned in that car came in the form of grand adventure, and that was worth 75.00, for sure.