I should have realized that the truck was possessed when I found the stash of switches in the glove compartment. The salesman assured me they were all old switches, that everything had been replaced.
I really liked the ugly little truck, and figured it just needed some tender loving care. I had precisely enough cash to buy the truck and get the tags.
So the Mighty Mouse came home — and soon began to smell like a rendering house rat.
The truck had two undented fenders when I bought it, and a crack in the windshield that I was promised would pass inspection. The windows decided not to close. That really wasn’t an issue, since the front brakes locked up at 60 miles an hour on U.S. 74 one day.
They released after a few minutes of screaming, burning and swerving, and I crept on into town. I called a friend with a tow truck, but he couldn’t hear me over the rusted tin can of a muffler (not to mention the roar of the windows that wouldn’t close).
When I got stopped, I called my friend again, who dispatched a wrecker. He promised to call me with an estimate that he figured it was “maybe” two or three hundred bucks.
It turned out the Mouse now had a box of stripped gears where it had once had a transmission.The level of repair was beyond my friend’s, so his mechanic suggested a specialist at the other end of the county. I made contact with the gentleman, who was kind of dour, who said he could handle the work for a price that sounded reasonable.
Now, there were two things my beloved Miss Rhonda liked about that truck — the stereo system which was likely worth more than the truck, and the sunroof.When I arrived at the dour gentleman’s garage, the sunroof was shattered, and rain had poured into the cab. He said it arrived in that condition. The wrecker driver swore it was intact when he left it. The stereo was ruined, of course.
Several months later, I was told that the replacement transmission couldn’t be found closer than California, and which would cost an additional “five or six hundred” dollars. No, the money that I had already paid down couldn’t be refunded. No, he didn’t want to buy the truck.
So began a series of misadventures; I would stop by his shop every few days and rearrange the tarp (which was stolen) to protect what was left of the interior. I fixed the window switches, but the battery was stolen — twice.
I am fairly sure that had automobiles been invented when Dante wrote The Inferno, there would have been a level of Hell where a truck owner had to keep fighting with tarp and battery thieves, whilst being flogged by a mechanic.
Eventually I paid my penance and my bill, and we headed happily home, once again a two-car family. Miss Rhonda and I spent a Saturday making and installing a metal replacement for the sunroof, and managed to get the windows to roll up. That was a major blessing, since the next week, her car had to go in the shop, and I had to drive her to work. The second or third day, we were caught in a thunderstorm that produced a tornado that seemed to follow us most of the way home. That was when we discovered that the patch wasn’t exactly sealed, and the roof collected rainwater. The water would spill out when the truck turned hard right. Unfortunately, the water had a tendency to pour on whomever happened to be in the passenger seat. My wife didn’t like me very much for a few days.
That thunderstorm preceded a tropical storm, during which one of the rear wheels flew off. In the dark. In the middle of nowhere. We later limped the truck (minus all but two lugs on the runaway wheel) to our farm, where a slow but meticulous friend replaced the lugs. That was after the auto parts store, 20-plus miles away, finally gave us the right lugs. On the second trip.
During the time the truck was lame, two chickens made their nests inside, and went broody. Why they could defend their eggs so viciously against humans yet allow a coon to eat them is beyond me. I am confident that the demon residing in the truck had something do with the demise of the chicks-to-be.
When we moved, the truck developed not one but two flat tires en route.
Thankfully they were slow leaks, and with the application of several expensive cans of Fix-a-flat, we made our destination just before the radiator blew. The Mouse was allowed to sit to one side and brood, planning its next move.
One lovely spring day, I whimsically decided to see if I could get the Mouse started. I had visions of using it to run around Valhallasboro, hauling hay and logs, fixing fence while Disney-esque birds, dogs and horses sang happy songs to encourage my work, while my overalls stayed immaculate.
A new battery, a little starting fluid, and some fresh fuel, and the Mouse roared back to life. I was fairly sure there was a bluebird on my shoulder as I cheerfully drove around the pasture with the windows down, loosening up things that had set idle for entirely too long.
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, indeed, with some yee-haw for good measure.
Then the truck wouldn’t stop.
There was zero brake pressure.I had adjusted the idle screw too far, too, so there was no slowing down. I kept turning circles in the pasture, frightening the horses, the ducks, and even the geese, which is quite an accomplishment.
Finally, I aimed the truck at a little rise that I was sure would cause it to slow down enough for me to wreck that gold-plated transmission. The Mouse roared over the rise like one of those offload commercials — except in this case, the truck wasn’t blasting through the wide open spaces, but toward a grove of mature
oaks and pines. Somehow, I got the truck to slow down enough that it just barely bumped the largest of the trees.
And there the truck sat for two years, home to chickens, cats and the occasional possum. I finally pulled it out the other day, intent on moving it to the back of the barn for repairs or an exorcism, whichever came first. It promptly stopped crossways in the driveway, blocking everything.
With the application of multiple tow straps, a chain, four-wheel-drive and a sacrificial chicken, I finally got the Mouse moving again — and it ran directly into the compost barrel, but at least it stopped. One of these days, I might try swapping a battery from another vehicle, pumping up the tires, cleaning out the pine straw, and seeing if the old girl can finally be turned into a utility vehicle.
But for now — I’m content to let sleeping trucks lie, especially since we have a broody hen in need of a nest.