"If you find the words, there's always a chance you'll find the way"
- Seamus Heaney

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Rolling with Willy

I drove my first truck without a driver’s license, without insurance, registration and most days without brakes. Over the first six months I became competent at filling the master reservoir from the supply of brake fluid I kept with two gallons of anti freeze, two gallons of water, one gallon of motor oil, rags and flashlight, behind the driver’s seat. Filling the cylinder gave me pump power until the small knuckled container pressured out drop-by-drop, losing brake blood. I engaged in an emergency transfusion, life or death, every time the pedal hit the floor. There were other specialties that came with my green 1957 Jeep Willys pick-up. The beach tires that carried my new chariot, on our maiden voyage up state from New York City, blew almost simultaneously before we cleared the Bronx, causing my older brother Andre to foot the bill for four new all terrain tires.

One time driving from New York city to Saratoga Springs a three hour drive through many toll booths, I had to down shift each approach, pump the pedal, and merge in and out of traffic finally coming to a stop to pay the toll. On that same trip I drove into a curtain of rain just as I took exit 24 off the New York Thruway. Flicking the wiper switch brought nothing but the distinct smell of melting rubber followed by a puff of smoke under the dash. I was stopped dead and had to park and sleep cramped and cold on the damp vinyl bench. The rain quit in the night and I woke to a stone gray day. Again I had to improvise. As the mud splashed up from the road, I reached my arm out the window and poured water, while driving, from my military canteen, clearing just enough windshield to get where I was going.

As a young girl I spent endless hours fantasizing about purchasing a cool old truck, one I could turn into a hippy house on wheels. I spun a vision in my mind and it cast a warm fuzzy cloud around my thinking that day, the day I laid eyes on "the perfect truck". Without looking under the hood or paying any attention to the general condition of the old truck I bought it. I did survive! And I became a safe and responsible driver. With the help and generosity of my brother Andre we made Willy road worthy and enjoyed a few years of amazing road trips before she retired to the field behind the house in Maine.

#Essays