You get road-respect when you drive a 28-year-old junker that roars, lurches, and looks like an accident waiting to happen.
I bought the green machine from an old friend for $500.
"What's the little pillow for", I asked.
"Don't throw it away", he warned.
"You'll need it unless you want the seat spring to tear you a new you-know-what."
He also gave me a long list of maintenance notes, jotted on a used envelope from the Model T Ford Club of America.
"High beam mostly does not work -- probably switch.
"Automatic choke does not work.
"Horn needs new pigtail or shim or part from Jeff's
"Heater fan does not work -- probably motor -- remove -- check -- have another from Jeff's truck.
"Running down road with relaxed throttle then giving gas usually makes truck buck. Has always done that -- probably carburetor.
"Sometimes comes to stop sign then doesn't want to idle -- has always self fixed soon after.
Okay, it wasn't perfect, but let's face it, heaters are for wusses.
Yes, the windshield fogs up in cold weather, but you know what? Crank down the window and the problem is gone.
The roof leaked too, but a little caulking fixed that.
Now it looks like the great speckled bird once perched there.
But who cares, it's served me well, and the neighbors always know when I'm coming and going.
I've dragged logs with it, and hauled tons of supplies, rock, lumber and firewood in it.
When I lob a flitch of manzanita into the bed, I don't worry about the paint job.
And Fred loves it. Drop the tail gate and he comes running for a ride. Recently he's taken to napping in the cab.
Did Johnny Cash write those words?
Well, that's what I've learned.
Old folks give me a wide berth, yield the right-of-way even when it's theirs, and show grace and forbearance when I'm straining up a hill at 35 mph.
And if some punk passes me in a hurry, I rock in the seat like I can't make it to the top without human momentum.
But my friends, there's trouble in River City.
The green machine didn't pass smog inspection.
"I'm sorry", apologized the inspector, " but your car's now classified as a Gross Polluter".
The green machine was declared an outlaw, which means I had to get the mechanical deficiencies corrected and have it reinspected at a Gold Shield Smog Inspection station.
If it didn't pass reinspection. . . . well . . . . you know what that means. (Damn, I'm choking up.)
I felt like a criminal when I broke the news to the redhead.
"You're a gross polluter!?", she gasped with revulsion and rolled her eyes.
The needful was done, I paid the mechanic, and with that the green machine's value doubled.
He handed me the keys and I noticed that old greenie had a certain soft glow, like a ripe Granny Smith apple.
"You know, I haven't driven it yet, but it even looks better on the outside."
"That's because it feels better", my mechanic sympathized.
I haven't yet adjusted to the loss of the roar, and the new sound isn't exactly a purr.
In fact it sounds more like a geckering binturong.
But I'm feeling good. The green machine is an outlaw no more.
Nota bene: If you really want to know about geckering binturongs see: Wemmer, C. and J. Murtaugh. 1981. Copulatory behavior and reproduction in the binturong, Arctictis binturong. J. Mamm, 62:342-352.