“Ode to an old car” December 6, 2012

   I made a big step this week in my goal to get rid of stuff and to simplify things. No it wasn’t something drastic. I didn’t quit a job or get rid of a house or a wife, or anything like that. I sold my antique 1962 Ford Galaxie 500, this week. A car I had since I bought it in 1990, twenty two years ago. One gets attached to old cars and this one was no exception. You see Ol’ Galaxie was no ordinary car, neither in our adventures, its attributes, or how I got it.

I bought this car from a man in Fairmont Minnesota named Leonard Hale. Leonard bought this car new in 1962 for two thousand fifty dollars. Leonard babied this car and never missed a parade with it or so he told me, and took it on a least one big trip every year he owned it. I only knew Mr. Hale for about a week. You see, Leonard had end stage lung cancer, and was the first person I ever put a chest tube in when I was a medical student. He was a veteran, a low grade national hero, but unfortunately a smoker.

He told me about this car every day I rounded on him, so much so that I promised to come and see it if he got discharged. A week later, surprisingly, he did. A man of my word, I went to his house and saw it. It was fieldstone brown, 4-doored, and featured a ‘sprite’ two speed transmission with the smallest V-8 ever made in America. It went from 0-60 in maybe a few minutes. Besides that it was in nearly perfect shape. Leonard told me that it was the last thing he had to take care of before he died. It needed a good home. Feeling some guilt about his illness, and I don’t know, maybe a need to help the guy out, I gave him $2250 for the car, most of my net worth at the time. Leonard was a man of his word, he died the next day having finished his tasks here on earth and the first trip I made with the car was to his funeral.

Ol’ Galaxie moved along with us, from Fairmont to Minneapolis and then out to Pennsylvania. Whether Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Pennsyvania, it only spent two or three days in the years I owned it outside. While in Pennsylvania, I decided to fix what I thought was a vacuum leak that took its power away. It was my one and only time in being an auto mechanic. I also replaced a break cylinder at the same time.  It ended up being a six month process. I got a part off which I couldn’t get back on. I also never was able to change the right spark plug nearest the firewall, it was just an impossibility. In the end after replacing all the cables, seven plugs, and redoing the rings on the vacuum, it turned out that I got the same lack of power as before. This big car with the little 292 V-8, and a two speed was just that slow. Ford never put the engine in any vehicle after 1962.

My last real adventure with the car we drove it pre children to the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia with my family on a vacation. It was quite an adventure, and was like being back in the 1960s. We even ran into, literally, a real redneck named Brady. He tried to pass my car when I was parked and locked my front bumper. Then angry as rednecks get, apparently, he backed up and then went forward. All the while, a park ranger and I watched as my chrome steel bumper, put a full length six inch gouge in his Pontiac Firebird. He destroyed both quarter panels and a door. Ol’ Galaxie tough as Minnesota steel, got a small two inch dent. He didn’t even scratch my paint. Brady stalked us in Pennsylvania for over a year after my insurance denied payment to him after testimony of the witnesses. He never found us after we moved, thankfully and we stayed out of Virginia for nearly fifteen years.

My Grandmother Danielson and I almost died as did Ol’ Galaxie, when while pulling the car on a car trailer when we were moving to Iowa. Coming down I-80 in Pennsylvania near the summit of the Appalachians west of Snowshoe Pennsylvania, the trailer broke the ball on the hitch and I had a runaway trailer on my hands on the busiest trucker road in the USA.  I had a two hundred foot gorge six feet to my left.  I was beyond scared, grandmother screamed. Through total luck, I let the front of the trailer hit the back of my dad’s pickup and the trailer lowering assembly got wedged in the hole between the back plate of the hitch and the hitch itself. This was enough for me to be able to slow down and direct the trailer now miraculously centered behind me onto the shoulder and stop a few feet from the guard rail. There were so many trucks and the passenger door was too close to the guard rail to open it that I had to walk outside through the back window of the pickup. It was quite a harrowing adventure getting the trailer on a small ball my dad had and then going slowly to the exit. It took six hours to weld the hitch back on, and then in Ohio, I had to back wire all the electrical system of the trailer and tail light as that got damaged in the accident, but luckily except for that wire, there was not a scratch on either the pickup or Ol’ Galaxie. In all likelihood Grandma and I should have died or at least the car and trailer should have went over the cliff.

I have neglected the car in recent years but drove it once in a while, usually in the fall as summers just seemed too busy. But I have some guilt about it now, much guilt, I should have been a better steward of Mr. Hale’s property. I just had too much going on and the Galaxie always got in the wrong end of the garage.

The Bible says that if your arm cuases you to sin, cut it off and if your eye causes you to fall away from God pluck it out. Ol’ Galaxie didn’t cause me to sin, but this message is more meaningful to me about things obstructing life. Too many times we think we can’t leave a job, or a spouse, or a town, but in many of those cases it is time to move on. With this car, it was also time to move on. It is just a car and it is just a car that someone else should appreciate. We get too attached to our junk and on Sunday, I pushed it on a trailer in the plan of taking it to a friend of mine.

Then an odd thing happened a few minutes later.  My electrician who had seen it two years earlier called me and wondered if I would sell it. He was driving on the other side of the state…odd coincidence. The next morning I traded Ol’ Galxie for seventeen hundred dollar bills. Now she is sitting by his house. It was sad but it was time after twenty two years to pluck it out…sorry Mr. Hale.

Keep moving on my friends, or you may rust in one place.

Olaf,  just maybe the most interesting man in the word

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