Saturday, March 3, 2012

It Wasn't ALL My Fault

"You're the reason Mom sold Henry!" Rita angrily exclaimed.

"It wasn't ALL my fault!", I whined.

"If you hadn't taken Henry out and got lost and ended up in Baker,  Mom wouldn't have sold it."

Henry was a 1960 something Ford Falcon 4 Door Station Wagon.  I don't remember what year  exactly. I'm guessing it was between 1965-1968.  It was blue and white.  It was the car Mom drove.  It was the car Rita used when Mom taught her to drive, when she was twelve.

Mom was teaching in a one room school miles from town.  She decided that Rita should know how to drive.  So she made a track behind the school.  Taught Rita the basics and let her practice.  Rita loved that car!

The night in question, I had come home from work and was really upset.  Gene, my boyfriend came over.  He suggested we take a ride.  So I told Mom we would be back in a little while.  He drove and headed out of town.  We had been driving a long time when I said we had better get back.

He suggested taking a short cut and turned on an unmarked dirt road.  We drove for quite a distance when we thought we saw a fire burning up ahead.  You could see yellow and orange lighting up the sky.  Strangely there was no scent of smoke in the air.

I remember several Y's in the road. I kept hoping we would see lights or perhaps a sign.
We finally realized there was no fire out of control.  It was a huge harvest moon slowly rising in the night sky.  That was when Gene admitted he didn't know where we were, or which road led back to Miles City.  So he kept driving.

I had left the house without my purse, without my drivers license, without any cash.  When I asked him if he had any money he said no.  Nor did he have his driver's license.  I checked the ashtray for change.  There was a quarter and a nickel.

The gas gauge was plunging towards empty.  The thermostat was moving towards hot as we drove into Baker.  Later I was to learn we had traveled through part of the Custer Forest (few trees in that section).

We stopped at a motel to use the phone.  I called collect.  Mom answered the phone.  She sounded relieved to hear my voice even as I explained that we were in Baker, Henry was acting up, and we had no money but we were heading home.  Gene asked her to call his mother.

Gene popped the hood of the Falcon and tried to see what if anything he could do.  The motel owner took exception to us being in his parking lot.  A police cruiser swung by to see what the problem was.

I explained that we were having car trouble, needed water and were headed back to Miles City.  I was quick to tell the officer our plight.   I wanted to distract him from asking us for our licenses.  He told us to follow him and we could get some water at the Fair Grounds.  We did.

The water was in a trough for the horses.  There was a can nearby that we used to dip the water.  The police officer waited while we drew the water.  He followed us to the city limits as we drove away.

Gene pointed Henry home and I prayed that we would get there.  We had about 80 miles to go. We didn't quite make it.  Henry started making choking noises, he jerked and jagged almost convulsing as the needle dove below the E.  Gene pulled to the side of the road and we waited for morning.  We waited for help to arrive.

My Mother had contacted a friend for help.  Leon, and his wife, Sheila and my mother brought gas. Henry happily headed home.

Ted Dale was a master mechanic.  He kept Henry running.  Parts were not always easy to come by so he often manufactured the parts himself.  Almost always when Mom came to town, Ted's repair shop was one of her stops.  Ted died in November 1976.

Mom decided that she needed a more reliable form of transportation.  Someone sold her an olive green 1973 Galaxie 500.  A week later she found an olive green 1974 Ford LTD.  She helped me purchase the LTD.

Sadly, I don't remember who she sold Henry to.


  1. Love your car story! I taught in Baltimore City Schools my first year of teaching and spent a lot of time driving back and forth from Baltimore to Hartville, Ohio via the Pennsylvania Turpike. One time, my radiator went on the drive home. (This was before cell phones of course). So I was stuck on the highway for a bit before a tow truck came...lots of praying going on...

  2. This would make a great scene in a movie.

  3. I am always amazed at how the cars in our lives have such special moments and memories. I loved reading your story and eagerly scrolled down to find out what happened to Henry. It quickly brought memories back about my mom's baby blue Bobcat. I just loved that car.

  4. We name our cars too....Right now I drive Matilda (who magically - almost- gets 42 mpg) and my husband drives Blue (a sturdy but boring blue VW Passat wagon with lots of miles). A few years ago, we had Heidi - who just like Heidi Klum loved to take off her top!
    Great memories those cars with names have....I once even tried to get my car naming story published....maybe it will be a slice of life post...gotta keep up with this writerly life of ours!

  5. I was hoping for another gripping car story...and was rewarded! It's amazing to remember all the scrapes we somehow managed to survive in our youth.

  6. Oh, Ruth, what adventures you have had with our cars! I love this one with Henry, & you had me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen. We Americans seem to have such a fondness for autos. I have so many old pictures of people standing by their cars. Thanks for telling!

  7. Very much enjoying your car series. Thanks for entertaining us. Hope you're enjoying the trip down memory lane, too.

  8. I really enjoyed how you crafted this story! You conjured up memories of my first hand me down car, a Plymouth reliant station wagon I named Lucille.

  9. I love this story! You really created such a great feeling. I could see myself in the middle of I-don't-know-where, could see that glorious harvest moon, hear the silence of the night ... wow, you did such a great job telling this story!

    I'm interested in how unfriendly the motel owner and the police officer seemed to be, so not what I expected!

    Thanks for sharing this slice. And no, definitely not ALL your fault!

  10. I think the motel owner had many issues involving fear. It was very late at night and I'm sure by that time and being scared ourselves that we looked a little rough.

    He probably thought we were up to "no good". I'm sure that is the message that was relayed to the police officer.

    My personal experience has been when people feel threatened or fearful they are less likely to act with tolerance and understanding.


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