Me and my Cars (Part 1)

There’s a movie from back in the ’80s  called “Crossroads” (I think).  It’s about how a young classical guitarist dreams of becoming a blues man and what he has to do to make it.  He tracks down an old Delta blues man to learn and they are off on an adventure.  For some reason that movie stayed with me but, even more, it has a line from the old blues guy.  “A man has GOT to have wheels”.    Well said Mr. Blues man.  Well said.

I’m not a car nut like some guys (and I say that in the most affectionate way possible…because I can well understand being a total car nut).  But I have loved my cars.  I remember another quote…this one from a high school year book…my school friend,  Keith Riggle defined “Freedom”…as follows:  “$20 and a full tank of gas”.  I have likewise always remembered that …and that nugget of poetry from a most unlikely source.

When I was 15 years old,  I got my first set of wheels (not counting bicycles…which are another life long love and another form of freedom).   One of my dad’s colleagues was selling his 1962 Chevy pick up.  It wasn’t much to look at.  I bought it for $200. It was white…just like this one.  

My friend, Keven Staton came over one day and we took some old leftover carpet and cut it into a pattern to fit on the floor.  Cleaned it up as much as we could. It was quite a heap. But I learned to drive it (three speed on the column) in the field out behind my parent’s house.  At the time, radios in your vehicle was a big deal. People asked me if it had a radio.  I said  “Yeah, but it only plays country stations”  Which was true. Believe it or not.  Pretty soon I got to where I could drive it.  My parents were bad.  My mom took to sending me to the ‘convenient store’ to get her a pack of cigarettes.  I was fifteen.  I had no license.  I don’t think I had tags. But, heck …it was Sellersburg in 1973.

Sometime after I turned 16,  my parents saw fit to ‘up my ride’.  They bought me a vehicle and it was probably the greatest gift of my life.   They got me an almost new Volkswagen THING.  1973 VW ThingThe THING was a barebones vehicle.  But, I loved it.  It was a ragtop.  The two back seats folded down. Two bucket seats up front.  The floor was metal.  If you wanted to wash it out you just hosed out the whole thing. The windshield folded down and the doors came off.  It was a BLAST!  Back in highschool my buddies and I would load up in it and cruise around (including Clarksville and Frisches in New Albany) with the top down, the doors maybe off and call it “Rat Patrol”.  My dad had installed a roll cage which made it easy to stand up in and yell at girls.  Be cause the engine was over the rear wheels, it was a respectable off road vehicle too. I only ‘wrecked’ in it once….I was driving an ‘S’ curve heading out to Allentown road and ran off into a ditch.  I took my high school girlfriend out for it in dates.  I think she liked it ok.  She never made fun of it …not really. I think when I took her to the prom,  I borrowed my brother’s Thunderbird…but I’m not sure.

For reasons I can’t recall,  when I went away to college,  I gave up the THING.  My dad had a ’66 mustang convertible.  And somehow I wound up with that.  It was pretty similar to this one…but without the accent strip on the doors and side panel. 

In Autumn,  1977,   I loaded it up with a box of clothes, some books, a lamp and some personal junk. I hit the NORTH I-65 ramp from Sellersburg and drove into my future.   It was a great car to do that in.