Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Adventures on Wheels

This is a little long and I have added a few pix but it's the mini-essay I wrote at the Writer's Group on Friday. May evoke a few memories or chuckles from the younger ones here!

            Cars did not play a big role for me until I was a teenager. However, they've always been there and a way of getting from here to there and especially to various adventures. The first one I vaguely remember was the 1939 Ford coupe (two door passenger car for you youngsters!), black of course. It carried my parents, with toddler-aged me, from Kansas City, MO, then my father’s family home, to central Arizona in the early weeks of 1946. I really do not recall the trip as I was not quite three. It was a long journey but we arrived in Cottonwood, AZ perhaps in February or March. A few weeks later we landed in Jerome, the old mining camp on the hill above the Verde Valley.

            For another year or two the old Ford served us well but then in about 1948 it was traded for a much more exotic set of wheels!  Dad got a 1949 Willy’s Jeep Universal, one of the first sold for commercial use after the vehicle had been
created for the military during World War II. It, too, was black but also had a tan canvas top and kind of cab that zipped and snapped over a frame, almost a convertible of sorts. There were two bucket seats in front and a small bench seat in the back but it was usually out of the vehicle to make room for supplies, camp gear, luggage etc. That meant I sat between the buckets on a pillow or two straddling the gear shifts. Not the most comfy spot. No radio, no air, and not a lot of frills. There may have been a heater; I'm not sure.
            Thus I hated long trips of which we took quite a few. I was too short to see out and my seat was lumpy and hard.  Already I knew better than to whine but I suspect that is about the time I began to make up stories to entertain myself. I do recall I always got a terrible headache and cried quietly for many miles with my eyes squeezed closed.
            That car took us camping, out to southern California where Dad’s sisters had moved, and then out to Camp Wood, a tiny settlement miles out of Prescott where dad taught the one room school for the 1951-52 and 1952-53 school years. It even went up to the North Kaibab in the intervening summer where the folks ran a fire lookout tower for the Forest Service.
            Late in 1951, the family got an addition when my first brother was born. For that winter Mom stayed home in Jerome with the new baby and I did part of the time as well. Mom and Dad decided they needed a better vehicle to safely transport an infant and the little Jeep was traded. The new car was another Jeep but a pickup this time, and gray instead of black. It had a nice wide bench seat and definitely a heater. Wow. Still no radio or air but it was a big improvement for me. We kept it for several years and then acquired another, very similar, that was with us into the latter part of the 1950s. I’d have to check when we traded it off.
            Those two trucks took us on many adventures and pulled a trailer to take horses and mules to the end of the road from which we rode off here and there. They appeared in a number of illustrations for articles Dad wrote for outdoor adventure magazines. After the Jeeps there were two very similar white Ford pickups and the second one was the car I learned to drive with. However, the first car I ever drove was a dusty gray-green coupe --maybe a Chevy?--of about mid 1930s vintage that belonged to the brother of a girl friend of mine. He and I dated a few times and once he let me drive the car. Another wow. It was a long while before I finally got my license, a fact I resented greatly for a time.
            About this time a local doctor got one of the new sporty little Fords called a Thunderbird! It was white and had the round windows, one on each side  behind the doors. Now a teen, I suddenly got car conscious! I wanted one of those fast, fancy and sexy little cars in the worst way and dreamed I would paint it turquoise or lavender, my favorite colors.
            I was always a Ford girl but my loyalties wavered for a bit. A boy I got a crush on had a refurbished older Corvette, screaming red, that I coveted and then a 1957 Plymouth Fury, both ‘cool’ cars in a teen’s eyes. About the same time, Ford debuted the Ranchero pickup and I really wanted one of them. They are still neat in my estimate!
            Finally, still license-less and car-less, I went off to college. No longer able to drive a ranch truck on back roads, I did drive a few roommates’ cars to keep my hand in. Then it was time to move on and start adult life with a job. I needed to rent an Econoline type van to carry my stuff from Flagstaff after four years at NAU to Sierra Vista. To do that, I had to have a license. I used my friend and current roomie’s blue Maverick, aced the written test and squeaked by on the road test part. At  last, a bona fide legal driver!
            Shortly after I began my first formal job at Fort Huachuca, I realized I needed a car. I rented one in Sierra Vista and drove to Tucson. I believe it was Earnhart, but at any rate, a Ford dealership was my first stop. The young salesman saw me eyeing the Pinto in the show room and did not have a lot of trouble selling me one. The two available were a white and a lime green. I drove the white one home. He promised to handle the rental car for me and I guess he did as they never came after me! My own wheels and freedom at last! It was a wonderful heady feeling even though my princely new salary of $8.098 a year was taxed with renting an apartment, buying personal necessities and now a car payment and gasoline—well under $1.00 a gallon at that time but still not cheap if you drove a lot, which I did.
           I know Ralph Nadar said the Pinto was unsafe but mine never caused me any concern. It did eat starters though and unless you loosened the engine mounts and jacked the engine up a few inches you had to pull a five-inch object through a three-inch hole which was a painful challenge. But otherwise it was a great little car and well loved. I drove it for several years and put about 100,000 miles on it.
           Since then there have been many. In the fall of 1971 I married and acquired part ownership of an Opal Kadet and use of an old blue GMC (1957?) along with a spouse and three step children. A year or two later the paid-off Opal was traded for a green Chevy pickup of early 60s vintage and the old GMC went back to my father-in-law. About that time we moved to Colorado with the Chevy and my Pinto.
            In 1975 when my father-in-law died as an odd result of a minor accident, we acquired his little Datsun (now Nissan) pickup. That’s what my middle stepson learned to drive and flipped once, luckily without harm to himself or his buddy. They were not drunk or high but just took a gravel road corner a little too fast. When it was fixed we had it repainted from olive to blue. After we endured a blizzard for some eighteen hours in the Pinto we decided to trade the Chevy in on a Plymouth Trailduster SUV, which is a clone of the Dodge Ramcharger made for the Canadian market but also sold some in the USA. We got it in the spring of 1977 and that fall ended up moving to California. I passed the Pinto along to my brother’s then girlfriend who needed a car for herself and her two little kids. I've kicked myself ever since.
            We took the Datsun and the Trailduster to California and used them until we moved back to Arizona in 1983. Finally I needed a new car to get to work–back at Fort Huachuca again—and had in succession a white Ford Escort, a golden-tan Plymouth Reliant K-car, and finally a blue gray Buick Century after I had retired. My husband and I took some fun trips with it during the next few years. It was a nice car. By the way the Plymie was the first car with air conditioning that I ever owned!
            When the DH passed away in 2003, I soon sold the old Trailduster which had wiring issues and would sometimes spark or smoke in odd ways and scared me. The Datsun had been sold earlier. I soon decided I wanted a truck and got a good deal on a 2002 Mazda B3000 on which I assumed payments and soon paid off. Then, when my youngest brother died suddenly from an aneurysm in 2005, I got his little white Ford Focus wagon, a 2000 model. My other brother took the old 1969 white F-250 pickup which our dad had gotten from El Paso Gas in Farmington, NM in about 1971. It is a family heirloom now and will stay in the family until we are gone!
            At one point, about 2006, I even had a Thunderbird, a 1966 model which
was too new and too big but I could not resist. It had been partly restored with most of the mechanical work done but needed body and interior work. I finally realized I could not afford to have it done and sold it for what I had paid for it. I hardly drove it at all but at least it decorated my yard for awhile!
            I've loved the little red Mazda, especially since it is a clone of the Ford Ranger, and put about 60,000 miles on it with many good trips, even if I am not a fan of red cars. As a joke, because I was writing ‘steamy’ romance novels by that time, I named it “Red Hot Mama”—not me, but the truck, I hasten to add! As for the Focus, it became “the Pattie Wagon” when I lived for a few months in Hurley, NM on Pattie Ave. The names of all the others have faded but I still have and drive those two and probably they will be my last cars.
            As there have been a number of guys named Jim in my life, there have been a lot of white vehicles with the Ford logo on them. Coincidence or something else? Who knows!

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