Friday, February 4, 2005

The Verge: May She Rest In Peace

I have many good memories of Verge even though she has been dead for many, many years. She was as reliable as could be desired and never let us down. She got us through some good times and some bad times without ever complaining about the burden. But eventually she started falling apart and smelled badly so we sold her one day to be dismembered for parts. For you see, Verge was my father's car.

I don't know why my father named the car Verge and I can't recall him even naming any of the other cars since, but because of him, I have always thought of my cars in the feminine sense as well. It's not too much of a stretch for my imagination because just like a woman, if you treat them well, they will love you back and are loyal companions. Despite thinking of my car in the feminine sense, I still haven't named mine but now that these memories have come crashing back, maybe I will.

Verge was an red Ford Pinto and had been my father's car for as long as I could remember. We were a two car family at that time and Verge was the farm car while my mom's car was the 'going to town' car. My recollection of the car can't be told in story form but is just a series of unattached memories. They must have all been filed under Verge in my brain because this morning when I thought of that car, they all came flooding back. So bear with me as I relate some of them to you in no particular order.

One year after a particularly bad ice storm, our gravel road was still a solid sheet of ice a week later. We had received a lot of snow that year so both sides of the road lined with snow drifts coated in an armor of ice. The gravel roads are crowned much like highways so that the water runs off and doesn't stand. As a result, anything standing on the center of the road slid down to the edge where they banged into the ice hardened snow drift. Finally for whatever reason, we all piled in the Verge to make our way off the farm. For the one half mile to the highway (and later on the way back) we slid helplessly side to side banging into the sides of the drifted in road like a pinball in a machine. Sure it put a few dents into the side of the car but we all laughed ourselves sick.

Our gravel road that we lived on always gets drifted in during winter storms and is one of the last to get plowed. So that often meant that we had to bust our way our or in (depending on where we were when the storm hit) with Verge. Now Ford Pintos are small cars and don't have a lot of mass so in order to compensate, we did it with speed. We would hit the drifts at a high rate of speed that would send us lurching forward in our seats while the snow would fly up in a cloud. With the windshield wipers slapping at full speed, we would pray that it would get the windshield clean in time for a course correction before the next drift. I remember many times coming back from many trips and busting through drifts until we got Verge hopelessly stuck in a bigger drift that she could bust through. It was then gather what you could and walk the rest of the way to the house in the dark. (I don't have any memories of doing this in daylight hours.) The next day we would walk over to our grandfather's house a mile away through the fields, get the tractor and pull Verge in the rest of the way.
Once when my father was driving into my grandfather's farm, he attempted to bust through a drift of snow to impress my brother and I who were riding with him. The snow had been there awhile and had solidified so instead of busting through it, Verge ended up on top of it with all four wheels in the air. Rather than risk dragging the who exhaust system off by pulling her off with a tractor, Verge stayed there for a couple weeks until the snow melted and lowered her gently back to the ground.

Another time my family was going to check on some fields after a particular hard rain and we came to a gate leading to one of the farms where a giant mud puddle had formed. My dad backed up 'in order to get up some speed' and tried ramming his way through the mud puddle. Unfortunately he had too much speed and ended up skipping across the surface of the puddle and hitting the big gate post on one side coming to rest right in the middle. Fortunately, the impact had sprung the hatchback open and my father was able to jump from the hatch to the edge of the puddle and begin the three mile walk back home to get the tractor to pull us out. The hatch never worked after that incident and from there after was sealed shut with a roll of duct tape from the outside.

Once on a trip over to grandfather's place for Thanksgiving, we had forgotten to bring in the stick of butter that we had brought over in Verge. It was a warm day and the sun quickly melted it so by the time we remembered it, there was nothing but a foil wrapper and butter soaked carpet. It smelled like butter for a couple of days but then it started smelling pretty rancid. Though we cleaned and cleaned her carpet many times, that rancid smell would always be there until the day we sold Verge.

My parents bought a farm adjacent to theirs and had terraced some parts of it that were steep to prevent erosion. Some of the terraces were gently rounded on both sides and others were called steep back terraces where the back sides were almost vertical. My father was checking out the progress of the terrace building and was driving over the rounded ones to give my brother and I that sense of vertigo from falling so fast. He evidently got confused once and went off, or should I say off, one of the steep back terraces. Verge hit nose first into the dirt sending a shower of debris towards the front windshield as every loose object in the car held on to it's momentum. I remember sitting there covered in dirt, pens, nuts, bolts, nails, rocks, etc. laughing hysterically at the joy of having jumped the terrace in Verge. The Verge fired right up and other than both front quarter panels being caved in under the front tires survived and drove us back home where we were sworn to secrecy not to tell mom.

Eventually Verge started rusting and one day while my father was going down the road a load screech and a bang emitted from his seat. I remember looking at him from the back seat and noticing that he was now sitting lower and at a odd angle that put his head up close to the window. When we got stopped and inspected her, we could see that the floor had rusted away and that the seat had fallen through and was resting on the exhaust system. At that time we didn't mind because it just added to the character of the car. It was dented in, duct taped together in places and only had one armrest assembly (both of which had fallen off long ago) that we had to pass back and forth to roll up/down the windows because the window crank was attached to it. Oh and did I mention it smelled like rancid butter?

When the seat had rusted through the floor, we didn't drive Verge long distances any more because of the safety but she still got driven back and forth to my grandfather's house. As a result of the holes now in the floor, a mouse had turned Verge into it's own private mansion, lived up under the dash somewhere and you could occasionally see it scrambling around while driving down the road. One day the rancid butter smell evidently made the mouse crazy because while my dad was driving, it ran our from under the dash, up my leg, up the window and with one last look at us, jumped out while Verge was still doing 55 mph. I've never seen another mouse commit suicide ever again.

Eventually the brakes went out of Verge and she sat behind our garage for a couple of years as the weeds grew up around her. My dad found an ad in the paper one day from someone seeking an engine out of a Ford Pinto and my dad ended up selling the car to him. As part of the deal my dad had to get the car to Pulaski which was a town ten miles away. Amazingly, Verge started right up after two years of being neglected behind the shed and my dad slowly drove her over the back roads to her demise using his foot out the open door as a brake. I never saw Verge again but the memories have remained.

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