Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Jeep Story

I've said it before , but I'm gonna say it again. I consider myself a storyteller first an a writer second. I've had to fight and struggle to learn the nuts, bolts, and mechanics of putting words on the page, but for as long as I can remember I've enjoyed sitting around, telling a good tale over a few beers or leaned up against the tailgate of a pickup. Or God forbid I corner you at some writer's conference. I'm liable to talk your ear off.

I feel like I have strayed a bit from my story-telling tendencies here on this blog, and while I don't know how long my commitment will lat for the time being I'm going to try and devote one post a week to the telling of a story. Most will be funny, others could be sad or ironic, -- but I'm hoping that they will all be entertaining. I haven't decided what this new weekly feature will be titled and I'll make no commitment to post the tales on any particular day of the week. They will be the tales of my life and knowing my tendencies they will be 95% true but I am declaring artistic freedom to tweak and embellish as necessary for the sake of entertainment value. I might even repeat a few of the tales I wrote in the early stage of this blog when less people read this blog than.

Here is the first installment.

Jeepity Do Dah

1977. That's the year my father in law bought a brand new Levi addition Jeep CJ-5.

Fast forward to 1992. That's when I first met my wife Jennifer. In true Texas fashion we met amidst the dirt floor of a rodeo arena. Not even the stench of bullshit could deter the attraction between us. The story of our meeting i one I've told before and may do again. But not today.

Back to the Jeep. By 1992 the deep rich blue denim seat had faded, The 8 track radio no longer worked and the fenders had began to rust. Nevertheless, Jennifer drove the Jeep. But soon after we met, the motor went out and it sat abandoned in her parent's backyard. A year or so later, her dad had the motor replaced, but then the transmission went out a few months later. Another couple of years went by and the transmission was replaced, but time had not been kind. The brake lines had corroded, the tires had rotted and the cloth top had been reduced to tattered shreds.

Jennifer tried to drive it but gave up once it became apparent that there were too many things wrong. The jeep once again took up residence in the back yard and for the better part of a decade it's sole purpose in life was to shelter the weeds that flourished beneath the fenders.

My wife and I married and one day my father-in-law asked if we wanted the Jeep. I said yes and immediately began ordering parts from Ebay. About six weeks and lots of dollars alter the Jeep was back up running. Not running well but running.

At the time we only had one other vehicle besides the Jeep, and work was sending me to Norman, Oklahoma for technical training. My wife had to have the one car, so unless I wanted to be trapped in Norman, Oklahoma for three weeks without wheels I had to take the Jeep.

Friends, family, and my mechanic ridiculed me for thinking the vehicle could make the 300 mile trip. But I had faith.

I was more worried about learning how to drive a standard transmission than I was with the Jeep making the journey.

With my wife as my instructor I managed to learn a herky-jerky stule of shifting in time so I loaded all of my tools in the jeep as well as my suitcase and headed for Okie land.

The gas gage didn't work and my wife had warned me that the jeep had only gotten six or seven miles to the gallon in the best of times. So I stopped twice to top off the tank.

But as I neared the training center I had to smile I'd made it despite the naysayers predictions.

Just as I was feeling cocky and pulling into a parking spot the Jeep shuddered and died. It refused to start so I pushed it five or six feet so it would be within the confines of the parking space.

It would start and run again until my last week there. Bumming rides back and forth to the parts store, I worked on it every afternoon after class. Many of my fellow students helped out and pretty soon the Jeep had become a class project.

When it was time to come home it was running better than it had when I left Amarillo. At the end of my three week I drove back home thinking I would keep my little mechanical setback from all those doubting Thomas's.

I can proudly say I made it home without incidence.

Monday morning I was once again feeling cocky as I drove into work. I was looking forward to bragging that both me an the Jeep had made it back in one piece.

I was tooling along in the northbound lane at 65 when all hell broke loose. The jeep screeched and suddenly began spinning to the left. One. Twice. Nearly three times I spun in jerky circles before coming to a shuddering stop in the opposite bar ditch. Facing the way I''d just came from I waited for my ass to unpucker, as slowly, the vehicles behind me proceeded forward.

Morning traffic as heavy and a good dozen cars had gathered behind my vehicular acrobatics. One after the other they shot me dirty looks or vulgar hand gestures.

I gathered my wits in time to smile and wave at the last couple. I should have gotten out and taken a bow since they apparently thought I'd nearly shit my pants and become a stunt driver for the sole purpose of screwing up their morning commute.

Fours years after that event the CJ-5 now sits in my driveway gathering dust. The transfer case needs replaced and having survived once I'm hesitant to tackle the Jeep from hell a second time.


Bubblewench said...

ba ha haha ha ha ha! I have to laugh at you! That's too funny!

Don't you want to fix that jeep up and give it to your kids? C'mon!

Anonymous said...

It was the coolest thing to drive when I was in High School. You failed to mention the Super Swamper tires and it was as loud as it could possibly be. I totaled a brand new pick up with that jeep and my friend lost her two front teeth falling out of it while running through mud holes at the Canadian river. That Jeep has many stories, I beat the hell out of a girl for making fun of my "girly" transportation. That is a whole story entirely. It has lots of potential for the future as well.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds like the Jeep has a lot of personality, and most of it bad.

Cloudia said...

Enjoyable (and very visual) story!
You spinning around in the jeep; then waving at the idiots who thought, what? That you were showing off? Glad you survived. Reminds me of the time in the family car (mom, dad, bro & me) traveling north on 94 in snowy Connecticut. We spun out, spun around - were facing a giant greyhound bus about to head-on us, then pirouetted to simply kiss bumpers and end up safe on the side. During: Mom screamed. Dad yelled. Bro & I shook hands and said "It's been a blast!"
Wish we were as close today . . .
ive since then: bonus points!
Aloha from Waikiki-

Cloudia said...

excuse me, "Life since then is all bonus points."

Spy Scribbler said...

Awwww, I took in my Jeep this summer, only a '95, and they said it wasn't worth fixing and that I should move on.

I told them over my dead body.

I went somewhere else, and it's doing great. The engine is in GREAT shape, the suspension, new muffler, transmission just fine. A fair bit of rust on the underside, and it needs new tires.

But it's pretty. I'll try to take a picture and put it up on my blog.

I'm planning on at least another 10 or so years.

Vodka Mom said...

That was a great story!! I had a volkswagon that I took to school and blew up the engine because I forgot to put oil in it!!!

dammit. Best damn car I ever had.

Angie Ledbetter said...

I gotta 10+-year-old Jeep Cherokee and none of the guages works. I guess that means everything's okay? :) I DO know (now) when to put gas in by the mileage!

Then there was the VW with no reverse gear my twin and I drove to LSU. But one day I'll get another 66Mustang and ride in high style again.

Angie Ledbetter said...

*Apparently my spelling "guages" don't "works" neither* :)

G. B. Miller said...


Adventures in driving.

Have you driven a stick since?

Phats said...

This story is awesome it made me laugh!!! I always wanted a jeep never got one though. I was born in 77!! :)

PastelGuy said...

Great story. I think just about everyone has an old-car-they-refuse-to-junk story. Mine was an old '69 VW bug...

Barbara Martin said...

That was a good 'un Travis. Reminded me of the ride'em lawn mower I had once called the Yak.

Barbara Martin said...

I forgot to add to my last comment, that you should save that old Jeep for your boys when they grow old enough to drive.

Chick said...

Great storytelling.

Joshua said...

lmaol, very funny and cool man.

Unknown said...

great story! I have fond memories of my husbands 78 camaro, too... Most of which will NOT be repeated for the whole world to read!;)

Anonymous said...

My best car memory was my 73 Ford Pinto - it never blew up - I learned to change voltage regulators almost as frequently as adding oil. On a trip to Amarillo, my cousin would shift the gears at the appropriate time. My Grandad argued with me that it was NOT a Pinto, but Grandad is a totally different story :)!!!!

Melissa Amateis said...

I have tears in my eyes and had to fight not to laugh out loud at work! Great story, Travis.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi Travis,

You sure can tell a story.


That Janie Girl said...

Okay, you're scaring the SH!T out of me.

I just bought a jeep.

Did you know that?

A USED Jeep.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Travis-As a reader first and foremost, would you consider having your lovely wife take a picture of you reading with your kids to post on my site. Only if you want to, of course.

Jess said...

LOL! Although, sorry, but your wife's story was the winner here. You MUST tell the full details sometime, okay?