The dust is settling around here. It’s been a ragged month in Raggedland. One bright spot occurred in mid-October when the engine of the pickup truck I’d been driving for the last four years overheated beyond repair.
I knew there was a problem with the vehicle for about a month: the engine was getting louder for one thing. Not a big issue since everyone drives with their windows up and the heater on around here until late April. I’d have six months to fix that. Then I began having trouble keeping it running when I’d return after a quick visit to the supermarket or . . . well that’s the only place I visit these days. . . and while stopped at a stop light. I had to keep the revs up, or it would quit, and it would take fast, delicate action with clutch and gas pedal to get rolling again. The transmission didn’t seem to be a problem.
When I left home to make an early start at the aviation museum at a few minutes after 5 am, I really had trouble keeping the engine going and was lucky that I had only a few red lights on the way to the airport. When it was time to leave for my regular employer about 9, I had serious reservations about taking the once-dependable machine, so I had it towed to a repair shop. The prospect of the engine quitting in rush hour traffic bothered the bejeebers out of me. My employer directed a fellow employee to pick me up on his way in, and my friend Al did; happy to help.
The news from the repair shop was that the engine could not be fixed. They had found not one drop of coolant in the radiator and not one drop of oil in the tank. I needed a replacement engine, and it would cost at least $2,600 to make it happen.
It helped that the truck wasn’t mine. Since my last “ride” — an ’86 Ford Escort I inherited from my dad after he died in 1994 — had become SERIOUSLY DANGEROUS with horrible brakes and a litany of other “squawks” my employer had let me drive a the black Chevy S10 pickup truck he had seldom used since IT began to go to Helena Handbasket. Driving that, and the tomato picker’s wages I’ve been earning there prevented any HOPE of buying another car to replace the Escort, and it was pure luck and the extraordinary kindness of my employer that I had dependable “wheels” I could drive at all. My employer — I’ll call him George — had the un-driveable black Chevy towed to his personal maintenance guy who will either repair it for a cost he can recoup by selling it or sell it as is to a junkyard.
In the meantime, it was a Thursday, and I was suddenly sans wheels. George didn’t have anymore cars or trucks to loan me. so it was OBVIOUS as UPPER CASE TIMES NEW ROMAN that I WOULD HAVE TO BUY A TRUCK OF MY OWN.
Less than two hours after arriving at work, I found the truck I would purchase: a 1995 Chevy S10 with a slightly larger cabin. It was offered on Craig’s List by a vehicle maintenance shop wh0se name is GOLDEN in Springfield, Illinois: Jack Stoldt Auto Service Center on the corner of Fifth at Lawrence. My friend Al took me by to see it before lunch, and I committed to purchasing it no later than next Tuesday. I didn’t even test drive it (There were no license plates on it, though I’m sure they could have mounted some dealer plates.), but Al and I listened to the engine. It sounded okay.
I picked it up and paid for it Monday on the way home from work. It’s a larger truck than I was used to, but it is perfect for me. It was obviously well taken care of by the previous owner. Unlike “Old Black Truck” which had manual transmission, this has automatic, and what appears to be a working air conditioner and an interior that looks like it rolled out of the factory! It took some getting used to, but I actually look forward to driving it, even if I have to drive it to work. And yes, I am particularly happy to have a job at all these days, and I’m trying, damn near desperately, to get along with George who lets me do the show room manager thing. I so appreciated the white truck that for the first time in my life, I decided to give it a name.
FLASHBACK — the year was 1955 and I was seven or eight when the mother of a girl my age, two lived three door north of my family on Whittier Avenue . . . the mother’s name was Anne. I won’t name last names. Anne was the second woman I fell in love with. The first was Miss Allen, my second grade teacher at Lawrence School, but that another story. I didn’t know what sex appeal and SEX were at the time; I simply thought Anne was beautiful. I would have married her then IF she would have married me and her husband didn’t mind.
Later, I fell in love with Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a fine poet, essayist and wife of Charles Lindbergh who flew to Paris in 1927. I decided sometime between high school and the approach of aged decrepitude, about age 50 for me, that I would marry Anne SOMEBODY. Later I met an Anne-with-an-e who was my younger brother’s second or third wife. She was the daughter of a college English professor, bright, easy on the eyes, She and my brother created two children who are absolute delights. Earlier this year when I announced on Facebook I was going to name my truck Anne-with-an-e, I confessed (though I met her only once) that I thought she had married the wrong brother. I should have tried harder to marry an English professor’s daughter even if she wasn’t named Anne. I would have become a hellofalot better hummin’ bean than I’ve turned out to be. Aaaaaaaand I’ve dated and loved a few terrific, patient. women on this life. But I had to MARRY — I thought — a woman named Anne . . . . . and it just didn’t happen that way.
So friends, Romulans and countrypersons, meet Anne, christened in the tradition of “nose art” on airplanes. It was most often applied in front of the airplane canopy’s windshield and slightly below. The pilot of the B-29 that dropped the first atom bomb used in war named is airplane “Enola Gay” after his mother. Often the nose art included a bawdy painting of someone. I don’t need a bawdy painting. My friend Chuck who owns Parkway Printing on North Dirksen Parkway here in Springfield made the name from red vinyl sign material and applied it himself last Friday.
Every time I approach Anne, I admire the four red letters and briefly thank God for the good ride I’m getting to know intimately. She is sweet of voice with a stereo AM/FM with speakers behind me and a heart and transmission that are smooth as silk. Like a namesake I’ve not met, Anne lets me go where I want to go. That’s all I’ve ever asked of anything or anyone: Linda, Janet, Joyce, JoAnn, Carole, Mary Ann, Penney, Ellen. I believe if I had connected, just for a few good years, with an Anne, any Anne, I would not be the rusty bucket of woe in Raggedland that I have become.