Everyone remembers their first vehicle, am I right?
I'm confident that everyone reading this will say yes. After all, why wouldn't you remember your first set of four wheels? Well, I guess five is technically the right number if you want to count the steering wheel.
Our first vehicle becomes so memorable not only because of the good times/bad times/so-so times that are shared in it, but because of the simple reality that consists of 'Hey, this is my FIRST ever vehicle and it's all mine! Mine mine mine! This is HUGE news!!!'
What can I say? When you're 16 years old, no matter what year and model it is or what shape it's in, your first vehicle hits you right in the heart because it's the first machine that you're now going to make "grown-up" memories in. You've crossed that threshold and become a person who can legally drive, so as far as you're concerned, your days of walking or biking are long gone, my friend!
I bring this up because I've just learned that my first-ever vehicle that I was gifted from my dad was taken from the old farmyard north of town where it had been sitting for many years. It was old, it was broken down, and it was literally coming apart, so don't ask me why it was taken, because for the life of me, I don't know what use someone would get out of it! Hearing that this happened still hit me in the gut a little bit, though.
That first-ever vehicle of mine was a light brown 1979 Chevrolet pickup truck that, in time, came to be affectionately known as 'Brown Betty'. I wish I could claim credit to the name, but that would belong to my high school buddy, Jon Miquel. We went cruising one night and out came the name. It was perfect, so it stuck.
Brown Betty came into my life from my dad Jack, as he knew that I was approaching 16 years of age, getting my driver's license was imminent, and I would need a solid truck to perform my chore duties of hauling out water to the horses every day after school. As anyone would probably tell you about their first vehicle, it was a dearly special one to me, but not without its hiccups. The radio didn't work, so I just had the rumblings of the engine to keep me company on those solo rides, and the driver's side window didn't have a proper lever, so lowering or raising the glass had to be done by taking a pair of pliers and clamping down on the exposed steel knob before twisting it until the window sat to where your heart desired. Ah, such a great machine full of modern gadgets!
Brown Betty was there for me when I needed her most.
She was there when it was time to go to work taking care of the horses outside of town.
She was there when I came home with my driver's license in the spring of 2002, ready to be driven around, and this time from a *legal* standpoint!
She was there for me when I loaded up my friends for cruising around Outlook at noon hours, spare periods, after school, and on weekends. I would be the first one among my gang to get my license, so the old girl was kept pretty busy in those early days before the rest of the guys got that official piece of government paper.
She was there for me on that one crazy night in September of 2002 when Jon, Kyle and I went to the movies, and afterward we ended up playing a game of what I can only describe as "Hide 'N Seek, but with vehicles" with some girls in our grade. Soon enough, Kyle went home, at which point Jon and I hopped in Brown Betty and resumed the chase. We roared all over town, chasing each other down until at one point, the girls started tossing crushed ice from a freezer at us! Jon and I retreated, grabbing our own goodies and hunting them down again to hurl our payback at them. Looking back on it now, all I can do is shake my head, smile, and think to myself, 'Man, only in a small town!'
She was there for me on those late night drives where I wasn't really headed anywhere in particular and I didn't really care where I ended up.
That's the beauty of owning a vehicle, isn't it? Whether it's your first or your fifth, you can enjoy the freedom that comes with the open road. Maybe your destination is a simple one, maybe it's a little more complex, or maybe you don't have a set destination at all. Just you, a tank of gas, and a roaring vehicle that's en route to nowhere in particular. Sounds a lot like life.
I'll remember Dad giving me the keys to that truck, and I'll remember starting her up that first time.
I'll remember heading out to the barn to do my chores; each blue container of water swishing and sloshing in the back, undoubtedly moving here and there with each turn and each bump in the grid roads.
I'll remember those crazy nights in high school where my truck was the suspected mode of transportation in what were probably a small crime or three. Hey, you gotta get the stupid out of the way when you're young, don't you?
I'll remember the road trips, and the stops for gasoline along the way to each destination.
I'll remember the good times, the bad times, and all the average so-so times in between.
I've had a few vehicles since: an old Dodge pickup, an old GMC pickup, a Ford Fusion car, and at present time, a Ford Escape SUV, but it all started with Brown Betty. Don't get me wrong, I've made more than a fair share of memories with those vehicles listed above, especially the car and my current SUV, but it all started with that old brown Chevy truck when I was just a kid in small town Saskatchewan, dreaming of exploring the world - well, this small part of the world - while behind the wheel of something that I could call mine.
I can't imagine why she was taken from that old farmyard recently. I fail to think of any usable parts she may still have had after all these years of sitting dormant and exposed to the elements. But someone had to have decided that she fit the mold for something, and now she's gone.
There's something just a little bit unsettling about that to me.
But I had my time with Brown Betty, and what a marvelous time it was.
For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.