2007.01.10 Crashed

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

Clickclickclickclickclick.

“Oh crud,” I said.

This was two Saturdays ago. I knew that sound. That’s the sound your car makes when it doesn’t want to start. That’s the sound my car was making. I hate car trouble.

I got lucky this time. A customer at Gamble’s was kind enough to offer me a jump, but I ended up sinking 70 bones into a new car battery that I couldn’t figure out how to install. That’s the thing with cars these days—everything is so jammed in there that you can’t get anything done without a lift and thousands of dollars worth of specialized tools. The stay-at-home mechanic has essentially gone the way of the dodo.

Cars used to be fixable. I should know because I spent most of high school fixing them. Well, I should say, I spent most of high school fixing one—the one I couldn’t stop crashing.

It was an all white 1992 Chevy S-10 with a manual transmission, an all in all pretty nice little truck for a high school kid to zip around in. Since I had the model with the small V6, there was also the added bonus of being able to pull completely awesome fishtails on dirt roads.

I remember clearly the day of the first crash. I had just picked up my brother Jamie from school. After exiting the parking lot with a totally sweet tire-squealing burnout that I’m sure impressed the middle school girls, I accelerated toward a red light because it is the mantra of all young and stupid drivers to go as fast as possible and brake at the last second.

With an expressionless tough guy look on my face and rap music playing at full blast, I flipped some kid off as I drove past him.

Scholars call this hubris.

Not a half hour later the truck was nuzzled into a tree in front of the house and my mom was yelling at me so hard that I ran away. Literally. I took off on foot and never looked back, and 25 minutes later she chased me down to continue reaming me out in front of all the traffic on Hickory Ridge Road.

That crash was child’s play. All I did was slide into a tree in front of our house.

My brother John (70 percent), my dad (29.8 percent) and I (0.2 percent) had the car looking new within a week. We just had to replace the hood, right fender, grill and front clip. It was absolutely no fun.

Working under the truck was the worst, with all the little bits of grease and dirt and dead animal that I ran over dripping into my eyes and mouth. And all the cuts you get from reaching through tears in sheet metal to get at a bolt—they looked cool later, in scar form, but they didn’t make the work more enjoyable.

The next crash was the worst. It happened the next summer.

I was following my friend KJ back to my house when we came to a yellow light at an intersection. Everybody knows yellow means “gun it and blow through the light two seconds after it’s turned red,” but I guess KJ forgot that day. I rear-ended him and completely wrecked his Lumina. Right in front of the main entrance to Kensington Metro Park. Right in front of a crowded Dairy Queen. On a sunny summer Saturday.

When school began, several classmates reported how they saw me crying diligently, waiting for my mom to arrive.

I have the ill luck of having a mom with an accounting business. One of her clients, Bob Stevenson, owned a junkyard and was the nicest person in the world. While the crash had completely mangled the front end of the S-10, my dad determined it was fixable. Bob donated all kinds of parts and I donated $1,000 to KJ and the rest of my summer to creating what would become the red, white and gray GMC Chevy S-10 Blazer Jimmy 4x4. As you can see, we collected junk fenders and other parts from an assortment of vehicles.

My car was the laughingstock of the school parking lot, especially when I crashed it there a few weeks after school started. I pulled a U-turn right smack dab into an Expedition, busting the hood and both the fenders again and again crying until my mom showed up.

By then I knew the car inside and out, and I decided to fix things right. I emptied my bank account again and bought new parts and invested in a cheap paint job at Maaco, and except for a weekend-long adventure with Bondo and a spell where the distributor went on the fritz, I was done working at that car for good.

Now I drive, as my friend Dolley termed it, like “five old ladies all rolled into one.”

    - Jan. 10, 2007
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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