Monday, September 22, 2014

The Poopmobile

****Author's note**** 

The following story is from my latest book Scrunchie-Fried and tells the story of my family car, the Poopmobile, and the fun we had in it. I hope you enjoy it.

 Growing up in southern Ohio during the 70s and 80s was a lot of fun. We lived on a small farm in rural Ohio about forty miles from Cincinnati in Adams County. I lived midway between two towns, Winchester and Cherry Fork, where about the only exciting thing happening was chasing the neighbor's cows when they got out or riding my Shetland pony, Silver, which was not for the faint of heart. That pony could buck anyone off (except Dad), usually in a matter of seconds.

In 1978, after several discussions, Mom and Dad decided it was time to purchase a new car.  There were only two choices to pick from and that was a Ford or a Chevy. My parents decided on a Ford and that's how we became the proud owners of a new, silver Ford LTD.  Mom would be driving the car to work and it also became the family car. The one early memory of the car that I have is that the payment was going to be $206 a month.  Back in the day, that was a huge amount, and mom had it taken out of her credit union so they wouldn't have to face the daunting task of writing a check for that amount every month.

By the time of my sophomore year when it was time to get my driver's license it had become obvious that I wasn't going to have my own car. Dad had lost his job at the pants factory in Manchester where he was a pattern marker for the Hercules Trouser Company and was unemployed.  Mom was still holding onto her job as a supervisor at the Robertshaw Controls Company in Hillsboro but every product line she managed seemed to get shipped off to a foreign country, namely Haiti. Jobs were hard to come by and money was tight. The idea of a 16-year-old girl finding a job and making enough money to purchase a car seemed totally out of reach at the time, so the LTD would have to do. It would become my ride and ferry me and my friends up one side of the street and down the other.  After all, it was 1983, and cruising was the name of the game.

The LTD was a large car, not quite the land yacht of the day like a Caddy or Lincoln Continental, but large enough to hold the starting five on the boy's basketball team and my friend, Barbie and me. Barbara Thomas Downing, named after her father, Tom, was two years younger than me, lived about a half mile or an easy bike ride away and had the only paved driveway with a basketball hoop in the area.  We went to church together but didn't really start hanging out until she reached high school.  That fall, we started riding to basketball practice together, and before too long, became fast friends.

My house was at the top of a hill and surrounded by trees. Parking was outside, on the gravel driveway or in the yard; we never had a garage.  Come to think of it, the only people that had a garage were Barbie and her family; no wonder everyone always hung out there.  One side effect of living in a rural area surrounded by trees is birds.  Birds were everywhere. And for some reason, all of those birds were attracted to my mom's silver LTD. 

I don't know if it was because of the color or maybe the birds could see their reflection or thought it was another bird. I'm not sure, but for whatever reason, the birds pooped, messed, pooped some more and even splattered on the windows at a breath-taking pace.  The LTD, or Poopmobile, as it was to become known as was more decorated than any city statue of a long forgotten war hero and was certainly as well covered as the Plaza Piazza in Venice, Italy.

I'm not sure who came up with the name Poopmobile but I think it might have been Nancy Doorneweerd, who was in the same grade as me. As a teenager you would have thought that I would have been totally embarrassed by it; I mean riding around in a vehicle with bird crap all over it ain't exactly the best way to attract a date if you know what I mean.  But, if I wanted to get out of the house, it was the only way to go. A typical night consisted of putting $3 worth of gas in it, always checking the oil because that car used a lot of it and hitting the road.

 We usually rode up to old Doc Salamon's office, back down through town and made a right on Highway 770 and went around Sam (Sam's) McClellan's Frostee Freeze. We usually ended back at Sam's sometime during the evening (if you could find a place to park) to grab a pizza burger and a chocolate ice cream cone. After turning around at Sam's we would go back into town and make a right on Highway 247 and then go up and turn around at the car wash owned by the Hall family and head back to Doc Salamon's office.
The amount of time that it took to complete this loop invariably depended on who else was cruising that night. Depending on the time of year and what crops were being planted or harvested usually dictated who was out and about. It was farm country and there was always lots of work to be done. I should know, because we raised tobacco and it was some of the hardest and nastiest work that I have ever done. But, it didn't matter because it put food on the table and usually provided us with our Christmas presents each year.

I guess the story I remember the best about my time spent with the Poopmobile was a Sunday night in December that we all decided to skip church and travel to Blue Creek to check out Rudd's Christmas Farm. Every year, Mr. Rudd decorated entire hillsides with Christmas lights. Over the years, people came from all over the world to view the "Lights" as we locals called it.  At least three carloads of teenagers set off from Winchester to travel the twenty some miles to Blue Creek. Along the way we made a pit stop in Blue Creek where I showed my friends where my Granny lived. (We didn't actually cross the water bridge to go see her because the creek was too high and she wouldn't have approved that we had skipped church to go.)

In the car with me as I remember it was me, Barbie, maybe Anita and most of the starting five from the high school boys' basketball team. Roger, Tim, Bill, Jason and possibly David were crammed in as tight as a can of sardines.  Following along behind us with another van full of kids was Tammy and another car behind her was stuffed too. Sometime during the trip we had to make a pit stop because the lid of the trunk popped open. The Poopmobile had suffered two serious incidents in a relatively short period of time. Mom had hit a deer in the front of the car and my brother, Kevin, had been rear-ended during a winter storm. Neither of these accidents had taken the Poopmobile off the road; it just wasn't particularly pleasant to look at.

After repeated attempts to close the trunk it became apparent that it was going to have to be tied down. There were four boys in the car but none of them had on a belt. Luckily, the gold, stretchy metal belts that were so popular back then was around my waist and it worked perfectly. We tied down the trunk and continued on our way. We laughed the whole way and when we reached the "Lights" and started spilling out of the car, folks were amazed at how many kids it would hold. It was a super fun night and one I'll always remember.

The Poopmobile was a fun part of my high school years. Its legend will be forever immortalized in our Class of '85 yearbook.  In my class will, I dedicated my car, the Poopmobile, to others so that they could continue to make their curfews on time and have as much fun as possible.

Yes, it was covered in bird crap, but in the big scheme of things, isn't it what's on the inside that matters most? And the inside of this car was always filled with a lot of laughs, and, most importantly, lots of love.

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