Monday, July 5, 2010

My Fury, Final Chapter

You may remember a previous post in which I detailed the history of my very first car, a Plymouth Fury, sold to me when I was a college sophomore by my friend Jon Wesick, who was graduating and moving to Maryland. Jon is now a well-respected poet in California, but I digress. When I went overseas the first time I lent the car to a family member who abandoned it on the family farm, where it has sat since 1979. Buried to its axles in mud, DH and I tried twice this spring to remove it, but heavy rains, bad tires, a broken spring in the trunk, and a steep narrow incline up which it had to be towed kept the car right where it was, lodged in the woods behind an old Corvair and a Chevy truck.

I documented our first couple of visits in this blog on February 6. A few weeks later, our son came along and the two he-men wrestled off the four doors, the hood and the trunk lid, which brought about $40 at the recycling place. We had to leave the rest of the car. DH inflated three of the four tires but one was too far gone to hold air. On that visit we almost mired our own truck in a muddy patch just before the incline.

Today we returned with a replacement tire, and the third time's a charm, as the cliche goes. DH re-inflated all four tires and hooked the car up to a cable behind our red Dodge truck.

"I need you to steer the Fury," he said.

I looked doubtfully at the driver's seat of the old car. It was covered with dirt, leaves, pieces of rubber foam and who knows what else. I imagined mice, or worse, snakes, living under the floor. "I'll stand outside and steer it from there," I said.

"We have to go fast to get up that hill."

Glad to have a baseball cap to protect my scalp from whatever was hanging from the ceiling, I brushed off the seat and got in the car. I could feel a couple of inches of skin exposed on my back and prayed the snakes wouldn't notice and bite me there. It took all my strength to move the steering wheel. The car jerked into motion. I strained to keep it going in the same direction as the truck in front of me. We slid around in the muddy patch, but didn't get stuck, and started up the hill. I kept my eyes on the Dodge's red taillights and wrenched the steering wheel from left to right to avoid hitting any of the other junked cars in our family's scrap metal graveyard as we raced up the incline. Intent on keeping the car on track, I didn't notice until too late that we had made it up the hill and were headed back down. DH parked his truck and, without brakes, the Plymouth rolled right into it.

Fortunately there was no damage to the truck and we hugged happily and changed places to tow the car the rest of the way off the farm. We put it on a tow dolly at the end of the driveway and took it straight to the scrap metal place, where I proudly explained to the young guy on duty that it was my very first car. He looked me over and I imagined him thinking I didn't look to be in much better shape than my old car. After dropping the Fury near the scrap pile, we got back on the scales and discovered that the old car weighed 3,480 pounds even without all the pieces we had already removed.

As I looked at my old car one last time, I said, "I don't know what I was thinking when I bought this big heavy car." Then I saw the crunched-up left rear corner and remembered.

In the summer of 1978, five of us IU students took turns driving my car out to Fort Riley, Kansas for Army ROTC summer camp. One of us turned out to be a pretty terrible driver; while the rest of us slept, he pulled the car in front of a tractor-trailer. It could have been a deadly accident--both vehicles were going about 60 miles an hour. The metal over my left taillight folded like cake frosting, but the taillight still worked and no one was hurt. The tractor-trailer sustained considerable damage and had to be towed away. Maybe I didn't know what I was doing when I bought that big, heavy car, but my guardian angel was hard at work as usual.

I stayed in the truck while DH went inside to collect our money--a whopping $261. When he came back he said, "They asked if you were crying."

I laughed.

"I told them you were glad to see it go."

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