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Driving toward the 'Big Junkyard in the Sky'

That 1948 Studebaker, My First Car, and my body are developing several things in common. That vintage Studebaker, for those of you who missed that era and have since shown no interest in it, was a bonified eye catcher.

One reason it drew so much attention was because you couldn't tell whether or not it was going down the road frontwards or backwards, due to the identical design of the trunk and the hood.

So, that's one thing my body and it have in common. It's often impossible nowadays to predict whether I'm going forward or backward. My body, just like the Studebaker, has passed into antique status.

People go backwards, or nowheres at all, in different ways. Out here on the farm, there are many opportunities to not go forward. For example, there's a tree that needs to be cut down. It's not very big; anyone but an antique would tackle it with an axe or a crosscut saw.

Antiques don't tackle. So the antique goes looking for the chain saw. It's buried over in the corner of the garage beneath the Christmas lights from two winters ago, the ones that are all corroded because they stayed outside in the trees for two years. The Christmas lights are buried behind six sheets of warped sheetrock for a project that's been going nowhere now for one and a half years. The six sheets of sheetrock are behind the mattress that's still not been taken to the landfill. Three projects that are going nowhere, which when it was broken down, the Studebaker didn't either. It went nowhere a lot. That's the classic clue something's an antique.

The last time the chain saw was gotten out, it wouldn't start, so it went to the repairman, who called up and asked: "Did anyone borrow your saw?"

No, I don't think so. Why do you ask?

"Because someone put bar oil in the gas tank and gas in the bar oiler." His voice dripped disbelief.

Huh. Some old fart must have borrowed it.

"That's what I figured," said the voice. "You'd never do something like that."

The voice didn't say: "Unless you're turning into a 1948 Studebaker."

The other weird reason it was difficult to tell which way the Studebaker was going down the road was because the rear doors were "suicide" doors. That means they opened backwards, so if one were driving down the road and for example entered a flock of pigeons, one could open the back doors and scoop them in.

Whether or not one realizes it, looking at the door configuration tells one a lot about which direction a car is headed.

As it is with Studebakers, it's not always easy to look at people and tell exactly which way they're going. We all look pretty normal on the surface. Underneath, we get older and break down. Go nowhere. Underneath, there's rust, and pieces feel like they're falling off. And the continuing problem of not knowing whether we're going forwards or backwards.

The Stud, as we boldly called it back then, had a six-volt system. Pretty wimpy. At night, any speed over 30 miles per hour was seriously overdriving the headlights.

The other day in church, I noticed that the light wasn't as good as it used to be, and the print in my hymnal was harder to read. Strangely enough, the print in the hymnal held by the lady in the pew in front of me was easier to read. I tried reading over her shoulder, but she turned and gave me a 12-volt look.

Like the Studebaker, I need more voltage these days.

The Stud made a lot of strange grating noises as it went down the road. It had no springs at all; instead, the engineers decided to use twisting steel torsion rods. They'd pop and creak and, on occasion, let the car almost tip over.

When we all stood up in church to examine our hymnals in the worsening light, part of my knee suspension let out a pop so loud that the new minister stepped back behind the pulpit for protection. Being new and from the south side of Chicago, drive-by shootings aren't unexpected. Well, they're unexpected here, but he didn't know that.

The knee hurt. I moaned out loud. I said, "God!" Someone up front shouted out, "Hallelujah!" Another chorus of people said, "Amen!" The organist began to play.

They're all older folks. We're going to rename the church the United We Stand, Kneeling We Fall.

We'll use a Studebaker for an altar. Makes sense, this close to the Big Junkyard in the Sky.