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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Father Far and Away: Part II

May, 1975. Dad, Mom, and my little brother Jim (age 7) had driven twelve hours south to pick my brother and I up after my first year of college (Dave was a junior, but did not have a car.). We hadn't been home since Christmas Break.

It was great to see the folks; it was great to see my little brother who had become my little buddy when our siblings had gone off to college without us. Now I, too, was away for most of the year, but we had three wonderful months waiting on the other end of a long, winding haul up I-75 to Michigan.

We carried our things from the dorm to the back of our Ford Country Squire. [Dad had sold the VW bus in 1966.]

Dave began loading his things in the folded down rear of the long station wagon, but Dad soon pulled the items out and re-packed them.

My brother stood back with a shrug, swallowing the urge to explain why he had packed the items as he had. He was only two years older than I but much closer to the rites of manhood, much more eager to take the lead, much more confident that he could pack a car without Dad's help. All this was in that subtle shrug my father did not see.

I was nineteen, but as the fourth-born child I was all too willing to stand back and let Dad do such things. After years of pitching tents, clearing land, building a barn, digging the well, and building our family home, I had learned both how to work and how to step back when Dad was in "I'd rather do it myself" mode.

This was a happy scene, but Dad's smile momentarily faded as his eyes assessed the mass, density, and breakability of each box and duffle bag we handed him until it was all as snug as a chick in an eggshell. Flipping up the tailgate with a thud, he raised the electric window with the twist of a key. His smile returned. Mom kissed us "hello" as if for the first time as we climbed into the car, and we were off. The plan was to drive all afternoon and evening with no stops except to grab some burgers and change drivers as needed.

In the five years prior to this trip, Dad and Mom had enrolled four children into college. Dad had purchased this 1964 Ford from his brother Bob a few years before. It had been a good car, one of three in the family fleet of old cars, each with well over 100,000 miles on them. My father's motto with cars was, "Use 'em up; wear 'em out; make 'em do; or do without." It was his intention to drive each of our cars until the wheels fell off. In some families that is just an expression, but I’m here to tell you that on that day in May, about halfway home in the late afternoon, on northbound I-75 just west of Berea, Kentucky.... the right rear wheel of our Country Squire station wagon literally fell off and began tumbling violently around in the well just behind my seat.

Fortunately we were in the right lane, the slow lane, the gas-saving lane, so the vehicle veered itself onto the shoulder of the interstate and Dad brought the lame thing to a halt. We were about to spend our first night in a motel.

To Be Continued...

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Blogger the walking man said...

Found On Road Dead...was also a common term of the time. All that tacky woodgrain shelf paper Ford used on the Squire was what made 'em die of embarrassment. Ha ha haha...

1975...that was the year for a lot of firsts.

18/6/08 2:48 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

The last few years of high school I drove that Country Squire. Dad knew it was un-cool, but he was in no hurry for his boys to drive something cool. In fact, to this day, I don't drive anything cool. But I do recall the F-O-R-D jokes like "Fix or Repair Daily" and "Found On Road Dead." That afternoon we were on the road but thankfully not dead. =)

18/6/08 8:05 AM  
Blogger the walking man said...

Tom in HS I drove a '67 Charger with a 383 four barrel. Actually in the movie "Big fish" that Charger except for the black interior was a deuce for the one I had.

My interior was white/4 bucket seats. The car was an executive perk from my fathers days as an engineer for Chrysler. I think they wanted me to race it on Telegraph. At least that was my thinking of the time. It was credible in moving that tonnage down the road, a Hemi would've been better.

It was good that none of you were dead on the road but also TYPICAL for the Fords of the time. They made money off of volume and waited for engineering from other car labs to become non-proprietary. Needless to say in the 60's their cars were built to a 50's standard. I wonder how much $$$ your pops spent on repairs to cars that had an atypical 100k on the wheels?

I liked those days though, for me everyone could be identified not so much by what they drove but rather what badge they loved. Dodge, Pontiac, Plymouth, Ford and on and on. Heady days for a burgeoning motor head,

19/6/08 2:39 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I had some friends who had muscle cars that they were constantly feeding. You're right about the badges. It was my Uncle Bob who was the Ford man. Dad bought whatever he came across in good running order. At the time of this story, we had a Plymouth Fury II, and Dodge Valiant, and this wagon.
In the late seventies, my brother, brother-in-law, and I started working at Ford (I only as summer 89-day help for 4 years of college). After that, there were more Fords in the family line up.

By the way, I was not inclinded to push the limits of that station wagon, but my brother Dave can tell you that it could go about 110 MPH on an open stretch of I-94 late at night.

19/6/08 7:55 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I remember at some point you mentioned college life in SC. Since I am about 12 hours from my sister in Michagin, I would assume you had to go to college very close to where I live in NC. Was your University close to the NC/SC line in Greenville? A strong religous University? I live 45 minutes away! I've visited the campus many times.

We would travel that same path to visit relatives in Indiana. I got car sick going through Kentucky... every trip!

Dad differences have surfaced... my dad was a chevy man until the day he died. No foreign cars, or FORDS! He would drive it until the wheels fell off and always paid cash for the next one. I look forward to your first motel experience.

Back from the beach, hubby needed to get back for business, we left everyone else having a great time.

19/6/08 9:39 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

You are a smart southern belle. There are so many fine schools in the area you mention... Furman, Clemson just a little further. I even used to travel with the debate team to Morehouse-Spellman in Atlanta. It's such a collegiate fruited plain down there in your area. (I even went to a friend's wedding in Winston-Salem, NC in '78. And I student taught at Traveler's Rest High School.)
I know you know I'm always strategically vague on the internet, and in this case doubly so (I could explain that better in an email), but it makes me smile to think you live so close to where I went to school. I haven't been back there for over 25 years but have heard things have changed slowly for the better in some ways. Greenville/Spartanburg was beginning to grow into a huge metro area even back in the late 70's. Julie and I have often said we need to take a family trip back down to that beautiful area in the South where a boy from Michigan met a girl from Kansas more than 30years ago. At the time of this story about the motel, none of that had happened yet.

20/6/08 8:37 AM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

I can hardly wait for the next part.

20/6/08 11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nancy said...
This is more fun than a jigsaw puzzle. I had no idea you met Julie there. When you take your family trip... hubby and I will meet you somewhere and take you and Julie out for dinner. There are plenty of fine resturants to choose from in that area- HUGE and still growing!

20/6/08 1:26 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Yes. Life sometimes is a puzzle spilled and it's fun to put the pieces together. Connections everywhere! If we ever get the chance to head down there beyond those lower Appalachian, we'll let you know. We loved it especially in May (but then we never were there in the summer).

20/6/08 7:57 PM  

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