The Family Tank
Winter snowfalls remind me of the automobile “Year-end Clearance” sales years ago, when we hastily needed to replace our car. Our favorite choices had quickly sold out weeks earlier, but luckily we found a reasonable, higher-end replacement. We thought! Our teenagers, hoping for a sporty, flashy model admitted they “wouldn’t want to be seen in that TANK.” The name stuck.
Mid-western winters provided a challenge to our kinship. Our transportation depended on the TANK’S locked doors that would occasionally refuse to open. A short blast from a blowtorch would heat the key that we’d insert in the lock to melt the trapped ice. At first the kids were hysterical at the usual routine until it became an embarrassing annoyance. Animosity hung thick in the garage so we tried pampering our newest occupant. The structure barely accommodated the new tenant so we rested an old six-foot couch cushion by the back wall. By gently pressing it with the front bumper of the new car, the overhead door had just enough clearance to close.
The car did have one redeeming quality. It had no fear of snow. One Saturday, the rain from the previous day had shortened my shopping trip, then changed to a heavy snowfall overnight. My son needed to work on a project at a friend’s house. I could drop him off and finish my errands! I inched my way out of the garage and fearlessly drove down the messy roads for the two mile trip. I passed a man shoveling snow. He beamed a broad smile back to me. Then, an oncoming driver in a four wheeler grinned as he passed. My ego was bursting. Arriving at our destination, my son ran toward the friend’s driveway and turned to wave. The same grin that encouraged my journey to this point appeared on his face. He walked to the front of the car, reached down and pulled a frozen six-foot couch cushion off the bumper! I think the TANK did this on purpose!
Trouble continued one day when the kids and I stopped at the corner gas station. I drove in the side driveway, unaware the owner, placed used tires across this path to the pumps. I hoped to straddle the cumbersome things, but as we passed over them, I heard a CLUNK. I asked the attendant to see if I picked up a tire. He bent down, looked underneath and said, “Nothin’ there lady, you’re fine.” We got our gas and left. Out the main exit I heard a faint drag. So did the kids. “Mom, what’s that funny sound? Did we steal a tire back there?” I made it to a wide driveway at a supermarket. A bounce in a chuckhole set the tire free. I followed the stowaway in hot pursuit while yelling to my daughter, “Go get that thing and put it in a shopping cart!”
One day I noticed a small crack in the outside layer of the windshield. The infraction grew. Was this the nucleus of a massive web that would ravage this metal hulk with me inside? It was time to sell the car! A commuter was happy to buy our nemesis! Hurrah! It was just what he wanted!
Weeks passed when I found the “For Sale” sign we had used for our crazed car. It was the perfect shovel for the leaves I was raking in the yard. Paying no attention to the sirens in the distance, I continued to challenge the howling, angry breeze. My daughter came home several minutes later and informed me she had passed an accident and the TANK was involved. “No injuries, but the car’s a total loss,” she said. I then remembered the wailing wind I had heard earlier. It sounded like a faint snicker that changed to a slow, choking moan. Some may argue I was hallucinating, but I knew better. I had been witness to the final gasp of a legend.
I'm a retired Sun Newspaper typist. I've been writing freelance articles for the past twenty five years. Some of them are personal experiences having to do with my family of eight children and a total of twenty grandchildren. They keep me busy with a variety of subject matter.