To my surprise, for her first car, my daughter wanted a beat up old 1976 Ford pickup. Being a staunch believer that every person on the planet should understand basic auto repair, I felt this one would likely offer many learning opportunities.
As all fathers do, I wanted to ensure it is road worthy and safe for her to drive and since the truck came with a full tank of gas (which nearly doubled its value) I decided to drive it back and forth to work for a few days. You know to sort out any bugs or as it were, “rodents”.
Let me digress for a moment here, during the negotiations to purchase this fine hunk of American steel I initiated an age-old process known by many names,” the Haggle” or “the Wrangle” or for those fancy folks out East, “the Quibble”.
It’s a balancing act of sorts, give and take, but once the seller started threatening to siphon out all the gas, I quickly responded, “How much gas are we talking about here?” To which he replied, “A full tank.” I got excited, gas was almost $6.00 per gallon at the time, I started thinking I might actually make money on this deal.
I quickly “took” back my offer and “gave” him full price. The problem with this logic is that the truck depreciated at a rate of 11 MPG as I drove it home. Anyway, on the first day of the test drive period, I climbed into the truck dressed in slacks, a work shirt and tie and headed to the office with coffee in hand and ready to put the old truck through its paces.
I placed my mug on the dash, inserted the key and give it a turn. The engine roared to life. In no time at all I am racing down the road, with the wind in my face, and sunshine gleaming through the windshield. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement.
Initially I was convinced there was something dislodged from under the seat, but I drive on. So, let me rephrase my last statement, something was definitely down there and ‘scurrying’ around the floorboard. Now I am not at all afraid of mice, but they have no business test driving cars.
Curiosity gets the better of the mouse and he scurried up the passenger’s door, pausing momentarily to make sure I wasn’t watching. I averted my eyes for a second and looked back to find he’s vanished. Nervously, I took a sip of coffee, and as I lowered the mug, I saw the little mouse sitting on the dash directly in front of me, peering over the edge of the steering wheel.
For a few long seconds, we exchanged stares. Each of us contemplated the others existence. As quick as a lightning strike in an Oklahoma thunderstorm, he leaped to the steering wheel, I swerved into the opposite lane then back again, and the truck responded like a sports car.
I attempted to dowse him with hot coffee, but I missed and drenched the inside of the windshield and my shirt instead. I frantically turned on the windshield wipers, and the defroster which quickly cleared the window. Using the steering wheel as a springboard for his next acrobatic trick, he took another leap.
Obviously aiming for my eyes, I blinked which caused him to lose his grip. I squealed and the mouse then ran down my shirt, I whacked myself in the chest with the coffee mug and he leaped onto the floor. I stomped my feet wildly on the floorboard, which, by the way, seemed to be solid.
In a last-ditch effort to end the onslaught I dug into the brakes and the truck screeched to a halt. Looking down I saw the mouse sitting on my shoe, holding the cuff of my pants with an evil smile on his face.
As I envisioned the worst possible scenario, he ran up my pant leg! I caught him at about my knee, threw open the door and when I attempted to escape, the seatbelt caught me violently.
I twitched and jerked against my strap and hit my head on the steering wheel. Back and forth I undulated until I find myself lying in the seat on my back. Still fending off my attacker with one hand, I slid out of the truck. The seatbelt caught under my nose and I realized I was in an awkward position with my feet on the ground and my head in the seat.
I kicked my free leg wildly, so hard in fact that my shoe flew off, trying to find leverage. I hear a car honk as my shoe lands in the road. “POP!”, my nose pushed past the restraint. Eyes watering, coffee stained, and sweating like a prize hog at a bar-b-que, the family who had swerved around my shoe pulled over just in front of the truck.
Clearly, I am in distress and probably would require medical attention. Bouncing around in circles, kicking like a hillbilly dancing a jig I felt little claws dig into my flesh. Panic is replaced with terror. I quickly fumbled with my belt, the good Samaritan jumped into the road.
Pointing to his car he urged his wife and children to stay put, “You okay mister? You need help, he asked?” Bent over with watery, unfocused eyes darting about madly, I tugged aimlessly at my belt. Incoherent muffled “grunts” and “hmmpphs” pushed through my pursed lips.
My belt came loose and I ripped it through all the belt loops at once and throw it into the air with one smooth motion, “FOOMP SWISH!” I didn’t bother to unbutton my pants, I shimmied and tug them down. Relief at last, I look down at my crumpled pants.
The mouse’s watery, unfocused eyes darted about madly. The look of shell shock slowly settled over him. After a few seconds he managed to shake it off, shuffled between my feet and disappeared into the woods. “Wut in the hecks’s wrong with you? You are a sick individual. I should call the law on you, said the onlooker.”
I was flushed into reality by the man’s voice. “I got kids in the car. My wife don’t want ta see your drawers, I don’t won’t ta see your drawers, NOBODY wont’s ta see your drawers, he finished.” He then stomped back to his car, threw his hands in the air, and drove off.
So, let’s recap, the steering is tight, the windshield wipers work, the defroster works, the floorboards are sound, the horn honks and the seatbelts are way too tight, the brakes are probably worn out now, but they were working great the last time I checked.
All-in-all I would say this is a pretty good truck and my daughter suggests we turn it into a rat rod.