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One last drive


In 1960, when I was 14 years old, my dad made a major change in his career. He had, for many years, been primarily a farmer and secondarily an insurance man, but made the decision to retire from farming and devote his full attention to his General Insurance Agency in Frederick, Oklahoma. He leased his farm to a friend for a four year period, so that my older brother Roger could start farming when he graduated from college four years later. The decision to retire from farming necessitated that Dad sell all his farm equipment, including tractors, combine, plows, truck, and a very special 1957 blue Ford Y2 ton pickup.

The Ford pickup was special to me and my older brother James, for one reason. It was fast! James was known as the kid with the fastest pickup truck in town. Now he was going to lose it. James and I both grieved over Dad’s plans to sell the pickup. We learned that he had made a deal to trade the pickup to another man for a tractor, and then he had traded the tractor for some insurance company stock.

After the agreement was made, the pickup was parked and Dad began driving his business car. One day, James and I rode the bus home from school, found no one else at home and the pickup sitting in the driveway. It had been moved from its former parking place, so James reckoned that someone had driven it, and it would be okay for us to take it for one last drive. We conveniently forgot that Dad had advised that the pickup was no longer his. I encouraged James to make the drive, because I wanted to ride in it one last time.

Well, after a few minutes of rationalizing (What could it hurt? Dad won’t even know.), we climbed in and James fired up that beautiful sounding V-8 for one last trip around the section (4 miles). As we made the first couple of miles, we both just delighted in how the pickup sounded and ran. Then, somewhere near the end of the third mile, James noticed that the temperature light had come on. This was not cause for great alarm, since we were very close to home, so we sped on. Then, just a short distance from the house, the engine began steaming and smoking, and finally just quit, about the time we pulled into the driveway.

This deal was so serious that we didn’t even try to hide it from Dad. We learned that he had drained the coolant from the engine, so that he could replace it with new coolant before the buyer took delivery. He was planning to put the new coolant in when he got home from work. After assessing the damage, it was determined that a new engine would be required. The new engine not only cost Dad his profit in the trade, but several hundred dollars more. Of course, since James was the driver and I was only a passenger, he was the only one severely punished. I know he was grounded for a long time. Maybe it was until 1977, the year that Dad passed away.

Perhaps the incident was not wasted, since James and I, as well as our two other brothers, learned to take good care of our own cars, and we have all been hesitant to borrow other peoples’ cars. I learned from this incident some of the great responsibility that goes along with owning and operating a motor vehicle. I didn’t tell Dad, but as the encourager, I probably should have been punished right along with James. Oh, well, it’s not hard to deal with a little guilt. Sorry, James! (David Barnett, February 17, 2003)

David Barnett Contributing columnist Barnett Contributing columnist

By David Barnett


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