[October 22, 2023] It didn’t look like much. It was old, with fading paint, rusty rims, worn-out seats, a cracked passenger window, missing window handles, and terrible gas mileage. Shortly after starting High School as a sophomore, I finished my Driver’s Education and obtained my Texas Driver’s License. A friendly neighbor sold me his old car, a 1953, brown over tan Chevrolet One-Fifty four-door. The car was almost older than me. But it was a car; in Texas, a car is a must to get around. But it was my car, and I paid $100 cash. It had a straight-six cylinder engine, a standard three-on-tree shift on the steering column, vacuum windshield wipers (that didn’t work when it rained), and yet built like a tank. If I’d ever hit anything, there would be minor damage.
I took the car everywhere. Of course, like any 15-year-old, I wanted a sleek, fast, sporty, and cool muscle car. Not my car. “Douglas, you’ll have to just suck it up until you get enough money to upgrade to a better car,” my father said. I felt everyone staring at me wherever I went: the goofy car with the skinny kid inside. One of my close friends had a 1965 green Camaro; another had a white 1964 Chevrolet Corsair. I envied them for their newer, great cars. While I had the less desirable car, mine was more reliable. I learned a lot about cars working on it, as cars were required then.
I had my first blind date that year shortly after getting my car. I must have been unimpressive on the date; I don’t remember her name. I was nervous. It was my first formal date as a teenager. After picking her up at school and we sat down briefly to talk, l tried to scratch my eyebrow, and my finger went up my nose, just the first of the embarrassing mistakes I made that day. Later, I dropped an ice cream cone on her chocolate, which didn’t look too good on her brightly colored dress and white shoes. I’m sure the young lady was horrified. We saw the movie, “Cool Hand Luke” starring Paul Newman with a famous cast and the movie was actually what I’d planned as the highlight of the date. She hated it. I thought it was great. I dropped her off at her parents’ home, walked her up to the house, and gave her a handshake good night at about 7 p.m. And that was that.
“Don’t get wrapped around the axle.” My dad used to tell me this often, or at least it seems that way. I would get mentally worked up over my school work, part-time job, friends, going on a date, and the stupid family dog (a spaniel without brains or good disposition). Yes, maybe I was a little high-strung too. We had just relocated to Abilene, Texas, and our family had moved five times to three different states in three years. It was tough on us kids, tougher on my parents, and with our new sister Paula, born earlier in 1966, those were stressful times.
I’ve always had the mind to be free, roam without restriction, run, ride my bike everywhere, yell, and “do my own thing.” But America in the 1960s was the decade of the hippie, dressing in ragged but colorful clothes (or Nehru Jacket), having long hair, peace signs, VW vans painted in psychedelic colors, harmful drugs, motorcycles and hotrods, rejecting conventional rules and insulting the main culture. It was also a time of the Civil Rights movement, protests against the Vietnam War, high crime rates, and a general unease. My dad was a great guy and always tried his best to teach me the rules of the grown-up game. Despite being a stubborn learner, I occasionally listened to what he said. Stay calm, even when circumstances are out of your control; be a rock in the stream for others. Good people do this. They are calm, ready, capable, and don’t get wrapped around the axle.
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