On Development: The VW Bug.Read Now
There are periods of time that shape your life and define who you are. Things that build the steely resolve and fortitude that turns you from a young man with boyish charm and a bowl cut into a young adult with a crooked grin and a bowl cut. That take you from infant in the game of life to college having the time of your life (without a bowl cut).
For me, that was, as I call it, the VW era.
It was the summer I would turn 14. My uncle had the most sexy vehicle I had ever seen and he was willing to sell it, for a price. That vehicle, a 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle (note the super) with a former hounds tooth cover and a sparkling black finish that sucked you in like the salmon of Capistrano was perched in his driveway all mine for the taking.
It was sex on wheels and it could be mine. For a price.
That price was working for 2 weeks (maybe more) at my uncles batch concrete processing plant. Doing menial labor jobs that nobody wanted or had the time to do (or were too big to do). I shoveled sand that had fallen off the conveyor in impossibly small and crouched spaces. I greased every know piece of working equipment (called Zerks if you care to know). And then I cleaned and stained their garage door and exposed wood beams at their house, encountering more black widows along the way than I'd care to remember.
But after slaving away. She was mine. Black Lightning. She was perfect. With the exception of a burnt out wiring harness, leaky gasline, non-existent brakes, an ignition switch that was re-routed to the former cigarette lighter (and a block of wood in the old switch - this is foreshadowing). The interior needed replaced and the panels were rotted out. The glass was stained with whatever evaporated from the decades old vinyl. The radio (which didn't work) still had the push button radio presets. And lets not forget to mention that Bugs are air cooled. Which means no radiator and no air conditioning. Incredible heat, but no AC. The Flye Windows would provide an ambient temperature breeze that would at least provide your glistening brow with evaporative cooling - if you were moving.
My dad and uncle swapped the wiring harness out when they came to pick me up after my tour of duty. I learned a lot of new words that day.
Grateful, we drove the bug home. Carefully keeping distance because the stopping power of this thing was about 1700x its length. And it sounded like grating metal. The awful, nails on a chalkboard tone of impossibly sharp metal on metal. The fork scraping across teeth type of sound. Hairs up instantly.
We got it home and I dove in (with Dad leading the way). It was a teaching and learning montage to be seen. over the next two years I cut out new side panels, learned how to use a jigsaw, changed the interior carpet, got a dash cover, cleaned it out, fined tuned the motor.
We were checking boxes left and right. The engine purred like only a VW Bug could. A soft purr with just a hint of depth to it (that's 1600cc of pure power for you). Freshman year came. At this point, my brother would drive me home (much to his irritation) after school and my parents would be at work for another hour to an hour and a half. We were to do homework. and not ruin the house while they were away. They had trust in us. Rightfully so as my mom worked in the school district and literally knew our every move before we did. It was like video surveillance without the video. - the phone contact list would light up upon any suspicion of ill intent. We were good kids who lived on 13 acres. We had space and time on our side.
So one fine afterschool day our best friends came home with us. 3 brothers, Tony, Peter and Ben (all aged matched with the exception of Ben) would come home and hang out. Peter was driving at the time and he had a monster OLD Dodge that was lifted with huge tires. Probably 2 tons of pure iron and a 6MPG rating, but it was big, and strong.
We shot the shit for a while and then I decided the Bug needed to show Tony and Ben a good time.
We grabbed our favorite CDs, put it in the portable CD player plugged into the computer speakers velcro-ed to my dash mat and cranked the volume. And we rode. We cruised every know path on that farm. And then explored the ditches.
Around the farm I grew up on are 10+ foot washes/ ditches for irrigation run off that returns to the river. There are service dirt roads on either side with the intermittent "bridge" across the wash to turn around on.
We made several laps, pumping up the jams, dust flying behind us as the windows were open and the beautiful Colorado sky absorbed all we had to offer it via sound.
We were cruising about 10-15 miles an hour listening to the soundtrack to American Werewolf in Paris. Bush's "Mouth" was on. I rounded the corner to make the drive back home. And then the unthinkable happened. Remember that blocked original ignition? Well that block fell out. And, in those cars, when you turn the wheel far enough without a key in it, the steering wheel locks in a certain position. So the block comes out. The steering wheel locks with the car fully turned doing a U-Turn next to a ten foot drainage ditch. So, being the calm, cool and collected fellow I am I slam on my brakes.
And I'm met with the most empty soft brake pedal and the sound of grinding metal as my car slows incrementally. Foot by foot, inch by inch we crept closer to the edge of the ditch. Grinding metal. Tony, somewhere said, "Oh lord here we go..." (for reference, in my exact recollection this has been said to me by him at least 5 times in our career together and 4/5 were related to this VW Bug).
Ben was awkwardly silent in the back seat. I pulled up hard on the E-Brake. Nothing, soft . My passenger front tire slipped off the edge in slow motion. In reflection, I feel that if we had opened the doors and Fred Flinstoned this thing it would have stopped. But we didn't and we inched forward. And then tipped. And went straight into the ditch.
In an accident there is an awkward moment of uncanny silence. Dust was settling, we all were probably mouthing "What the Fuck" and Bush was singing about someone's Mouth. I still, to this day, have no idea how that piece of crap portable CD player didn't skip while crashing in a car but couldn't be bothered to let me walk with it. That's another story another day.
So there we were - 3 underage kids, my passenger's front half of my car submerged in water and perched at a 45 degree angle in a ditch. So we did what any reasonable kid would do. Run. To our brothers and beg them to help.
To my surprised they rallied and brought that monster dodge and attached tow straps to it. But alas. No luck, there was too much weight and not enough leverage and my car remained in the ditch. Time was ticking. And ticking and ticking. Slow and fast at the same time. Peter, at some point in this endeavor actually ruined his clutch trying to get this thing out.
And then it happened. My mom and dad got home. Deflated I went to relay the news, accepting my fate of a permanent bowl cut and losing my prized possession that was to guarantee my successful sex life. But to my surprise, while yes they were thrilled, they weren't pissed either. Action took over and 'let's figure this out' came into play. So between monster Dodge and my parents 80's style Landcruiser they managed to pull my half submerged Bug out of the ditch.
Certain I was doomed my parents looked at me and said: "Well, drive it back."
What a moment . They were mad, no doubt. But they also showed me that accidents happen. That shit happens, and you must push on. You get back on that pony. And so I did. Bowl cut and all. I am grateful for that moment of forgiveness The understanding. As a parent now I'm encountering more and more moments of the "Well, I did that too" and how to be graceful in those moments. I'm glad my parents chose to teach a lesson vs punish in that moment. And it won't be forgotten. And I will for sure teach my kids the same.
Be prepared to hear more about this beautiful vehicle as I blog further because it was a feature and fixture of my life for so long.
11/10/2022 06:39:37 am
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