The Maple in the Malibu

April 24th, 2019

Hans likes old pickup trucks. Apparently, he likes them best when they are barely running. At this point, Hans owns three trucks, only one of which is mobile. Two of the vehicles are currently resting in somebody’s field, slowly being camouflaged by the tall weeds growing nearby. One of the static displays has an irreparable transmission. The other one has an engine that overheated to the point self-destruction.

Hans showed me the truck that still is operating condition. It is a 1980 Dodge D150, with a slant six engine. As we were looking at it, Hans lit up a Pall Mall, and told me,

“Yeah, Dad. She needs a little work.”

A little work? Well, let’s see… 

Hans explained to me that the headlights don’t work, but the blinkers do. The truck shifts intermittently. The carburetor is very fickle. The only gauges on the dashboard that work are the engine temperature and the oil pressure. The windshield has a spiderweb crack that looks like it might have been caused by a bullet.

Hans opened up the large and heavy hood to show me the engine. I noted that the engine compartment looked almost empty.

Hans took a drag on his cigarette. He replied,

“Well, the heater’s missing, and so is the power steering. All we got here is the engine, the carburetor and the alternator. It gives me a lot of room to do repair work.”

“Yeah, I bet.”

Hans cracked open a Hella Chela, a local IPA beer with the delicate taste of ghost peppers. The stuff is undrinkable, even for me. Hans took a sip and said,

“All I need is some time and some money to get this thing all fixed up.”

The problem is that Hans has neither time nor money.  He works at the concrete company for seventy to eighty hours a week. He is trying to support his family with his wages. The truth is that this Dodge probably will not get fixed.

Before coming to Texas to visit with Hans, Karin and I spent two nights at Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas. We checked out the gift shop while we were there. Karin wanted to buy a rosary and a crucifix. While in the store, we talked a bit with Donna, who runs the place. I spoke to her about our son’s love of disabled vehicles. With her southern twang, she told us a story.

“My nephew, he bought himself an old Malibu. It was a 70’s model, or maybe 60’s. I can’t remember. He drove that thing for a few months before he fried the electrical system. Then it sat in his daddy’s field forever. Eventually, a maple tree grew up right through the middle of the car. They had to cut down the tree in order to finally remove the car.

I wonder if any trees are growing in Hans’ trucks.




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