Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Go West Young Woman, Go West

It is approximately 400 miles from Miles City to Helena, Montana's capital.  I accepted a job in the USPFO - MT National Guard in July of 79.  One of the women in the Finance Department located an apartment for me. Housing was very hard to come by.  This one hadn't even been advertised.

 As I looked at the packed car my eyes did a visual inspection.  The front looked good.  The oil had started to drip.  The trunk had finally been opened and I now spent my change on new bungee cords.  Otherwise the trunk lid would fly up at inopportune moments en route. I finished packing my belongings in the LTD then headed west. 

After starting my new job I soon became acquainted with the unit mechanics.  I had been there a few months when Sgt Petik said he would change my oil.  I was in the bay when he popped the hood.  Looked it over, poked and prodded.

"Hrmf. Ruth this oil is pretty clean."

"I changed it a couple of months ago,"  He poked and prodded some more. Shook his head. Started the car and listened to the engine.

"This engine sounds pretty good.  You cared for it?"

"Yeah, try to.  You're surprised?"

"Mmhmm.  Looking at the body I figured you probably didn't."  He then asked what happened to the back bumper and trunk.  After listening to my story he made a suggestion.

"Could put a hasp on the trunk and add a padlock.  Should work better than the bungee cords."  He got a hasp and drilled holes in the trunk lid.  Then bolted it down.  He was right it worked great.  The hood never flew up on me again.

As time went by and the miles racked up I spent more time at service stations checking the gas and filling the oil.  Actually, I bought oil by the case.

One of the auditors told me about a government car auction.  These were cars that had been removed from service and were auctioned off to the public.  The auction in question was being held right on post - Fort Harrison, Helena, MT.

I went to the auction about 20 minutes before it started and picked out a bronze 77 Plymouth Fury.  It seemed to call to me.  When it came up for auction I bid and got it for $300.00.

The next day I drove it to a training site for drill.  After drill several of the guys came out to look it over.  Skip a local mechanic was one of them.

"Ruth, did you have someone check the car out before you bought it?"

"No."  They looked at each other,  shook their collective heads.  Then popped the hood.

It evidently had a souped up engine, because they were drooling.  Maybe a better word would be lusting.

'You want to sell it?"

"No, I bought it to drive."

"I'll give you $500 for the engine."

"Don't I need the engine to make it go?"

"Yah, but Ruth its SWEET.  You made a really good buy."

He was right it had power.  That machine rode smooth and I had to keep it in check because it cruised at 90 if I wasn't watching close.  There was no cruise control.  When I read the records on the car it had been an unmarked "police" vehicle.

One of my coworkers bought the LTD.  It broke my heart when I learned they planned to use it in a demolition derby.  I felt like I had betrayed a good friend.


  1. My first car drank oil by the case too. I was thrilled to say goodbye to that one!

  2. I'm trying to picture you whooshing by at 90 mph without cruise control. Only in Big Sky Country!

  3. When I would realize it was doing that I would bring it back down. But that machine loved to go.

  4. You have drawn me in with your car series. I look for it every day. Makes me wish I had some car stories; only I can't even remember what cars I owned, let alone their "stories."

  5. I love this latest saga: "In The Cars, by Ruth Ferris" could be a book title. Do you realize that if not a book, I bet you could sell a long article to one of the car magazines. You've got me thinking about my cars, although I haven't had so many & I can't remember as much about them, but as you write, more is coming into my memory. What a car you wrote about this time. Sometimes luck is on our side. Fun that the LTD was headed for demolition-the last hurrah I guess. Thanks Ruth for another terrific story.

  6. Linda's right. You could write a book of all your car stories. I've never that attached to any vehicle I've had...and I certainly never tried to fix them. But, I always know the name of a good mechanic!

  7. First time I've read one of your posts. Not much of a car buff but I truly enjoyed it. This story made me go back into time and some of the cars I had when I was younger--an Olds that was a boat but oh so smooth and my Nova with an eight--didn't even have to put my foot on the gas!! Thanks for the memories!

  8. I'm enjoying your car talk! What great memories. My son should start writing about his cars. I'm sure he has some good ones he hasn't told his dear old mom. And they do make for interesting reads!
    Sorry about the demolition derby.

  9. Boy, I loved your story.I have never owned a car or vehicle of my own but I understand the care of something. I try to take care of things and I can actually understand how you felt like you betrayed the car-your old friend when you sold it.  A nice job writing.  You pulled me right in!  Thanks for sharing! Happy Slicing!  :)

  10. StorykeeperferrisMarch 8, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    I am glad you enjoyed the story.  I have just set up disqus for comments.  So this system is new.  My cars and I have shared many adventures.  I hadn't realized how attached I was until I started writing about them.  

  11. It can be hard to let go of a good car that you've lived with everyday. Think of the derby as one last adventure!

  12. StorykeeperferrisMarch 8, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    That is a sweet thought.  One the LTD would have savored.


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