Vehicular Homicide

Everyone has heard the expression, “Drive it until the wheels fall off.”

I know that sometimes people say this and it isn’t a joke. In fact, until my teens I wasn’t quite sure if anyone thought the expression was a joke at all.

You could say we were hard on vehicles. You could also say that the surface of the sun is “warm” or that a swift kick in the junk is “uncomfortable”. The truth is there might be advocacy groups concerned over my family history of serial vehicle murder.

My earliest memory in a string of doomed vehicles was a two-toned green farm truck that looked like it was jumped into a street gang. The large dent in the side was from a cow that had been tied off nearby and in a panic the cow moved sideways into the truck. Boom. Cow’s ass sized dent. Looking back it is strange to me that there was never any real emotion wasted on damaged trucks on the farm. They were tools or livestock even. They served a purpose and getting beaten to pieces was apparently part of the job.

The second truck I remember was a clean looking short-bed Chevy, black, single cab. It had electric door locks which, at the time, was akin to a phaser from Star Trek. You could push a button and the locks would go up or down. Magic. This truck was the nicest vehicle I can remember us having for a long time. I think I even remember my mother and stepfather discussing after making the purchase, “Well… We needed a truck and we will drive it until the wheels fall off.” I should have known how it would end, after all we gave it the extremely caring name of “The Black Truck”.

Have you ever looked at yourself in old pictures and thought, “Man… This is not what I remember. How did I get from here to there?” A scar above the left eye. Teeth that seem to be playing musical chairs. Back hair. When the hell did I get back hair? I am slowly morphing into something that doesn’t remind people of the thing that I used to be. The last time I saw The Black Truck I felt the same about it.

I have pondered the laundry list of abuse that transformed it from a sparkling new vehicle worthy of a five year note into something a scrap metal vendor would be uncomfortable carting off for free.

We drove it like the Dukes of Hazzard across fields and through woods. The luxurious air conditioner died slowly and several times. The door panels never quite fit right after the electric window malfunctioned. I think the rearview mirror fell off at some point. Dirt and hay dust permeated every part of the truck. The glass fell out of the window once. The antenna from our trendy cellular bag phone left rusty rings on top of the truck cab. The bushings on the doors relaxed to the point that you needed to lift up while slamming the door for it to shut. Basically, you had to throw the door upward while shutting it. One time I was tasked with unhooking the truck from the gooseneck trailer and I didn’t drop the tailgate. I noticed this when the truck jerk to a stop and I turned around to see the tailgate bent in a perfect ninety degree angle. From then on the CHEVROLET that used to adorn the back just said CHE—LET. This seemed a little odd until the UV coating on the paint broke down and large chunks of black paint fell off and revealed the primer layer underneath. Sort of a wounded dairy cow theme.

Hunting, hauling, and farm life formed The Black Truck into a cracked clump of half-dried clay. Then it finally happened. Rust formed inside some important connections and the front wheel actually fell off. It was attached to the frame by the shock but hung sideways facing the ground as if the wheel was physically embarrassed to be attached to the truck. It had been driven until the wheels fell off.

We had other cars that were used and abused. The Mazda had an entire box of Crayola crayons melted into the rear cloth seats which accented the permanent mildew smell from an accident that left it leaky for a period of time. A snazzy Jeep Cherokee lost a side mirror because we left a dog leash hanging from the mirror and it found its way under a wheel. The same Jeep suffered door trauma from a freak accident backing into the garage. I believe that since there was no side mirror, the door was being held open while the driver looked directly behind the car backing into the garage. (Just like in “Tommy Boy” no consideration was given to the open door and the brick edge of the garage bent it backwards.)

Cars for us were like Nemo being given to the dentist’s niece, Darla. A death sentence.

Maybe that is why I chuckle when people talk about cars being an investment or holding their value. From my perspective, a car is something that you use until it is a jumbled mass of blue smoke and duct tape that makes other people nervous to witness in motion. It is something that is passed off only when it is a withered husk of the car that rolled off the line in Detroit. Maybe it gets parked at the edge of a field and buried under a pile of other broken shit, who knows? But a luxury item that is groomed and sold before it loses value… that is a new concept.

Maybe somehow my children will show better planning and restraint than I do in the car department but statistics say, probably not. After all, I came by it honest. If you drive things until the wheels fall off, this post is for you. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.