WHEN A KID BUYS HIS FIRST CAR IN THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM [HUNTER GRAY AUGUST 30 2002] UPDATED DECEMBER 12 2007
A charming story, with a happy ending.
nice story indeed
i hope that under socialism, at least in cities, some form of car sharing and collective car care can be organized
This is the story -- with a couple of updates -- of a kid getting his first motor vehicle. Practically everyone -- youth or adult -- can empathize with this. Thomas Gray Salter, of course, is our grandson/son with whom all of us have been much involved since he hatched very early in 1982 at Grand Forks, ND. [It was 25 below that night.] He wanted a vehicle and he eventually got it -- an old Jeep Cherokee. And soon thereafter, Thomas began heroic service in carrying me, usually via his wheels but occasionally in mine, to and from countless medical appointments and a few hospital incarcerations. And the Jeep waited faithfully outside while Thomas stuck with me at every point. In 2004, he married Mimie [Yrengah] Chilinda of Zambia who he met at Idaho State. They got another vehicle but the Jeep stayed. He and Mimie left here for UMD [University of Minnesota at Duluth] and Med school in 2005 -- initially in the "regular car" which they used at Duluth while the faithful Jeep waited with us. And then they returned by air during a short break to load their gear here into a huge U-Haul trailer. The trailer had its very impressive and special vehicle towing rig and thus they and Chocolate [a Siberian Husky mix who, too, had remained with us] and the happy Jeep rode back to Duluth -- all of them together -- over the high mountains of Idaho and Montana and into the high plains and finally the forests of Minnesota. That was an odyssey in its own right -- during which we received regular cell phone reports. After two years at Duluth, they all -- with the Jeep -- moved to Minneapolis and the main University campus where Thomas, now well into his third year of Med school, uses it every day -- glad it has 4 wheel drive. Meanwhile, Josie and Cameron got a Jeep Cherokee -- and Josie very faithfully packs us around town. And, of course, we have our own Jeep, which mostly languishes in our garage. [A decade old, it hasn't yet hit 51,000 miles.]
A few days ago, Thomas called me. Having just a little trouble getting his Jeep going. I went through a point-by-point check list and prescribed a quick and conventional and quite inexpensive approach. That worked nicely and all well.
After all, I have a very strong bond with that particular Jeep. Obviously, too, our whole family likes Jeep Cherokees [ they're UAW-made, of course].
Been getting a little more sleep lately.
This doesn't mean I've been able to bury my conscience a little deeper -- or
that there's been a reduction in the number of hostile Idaho noises outside
in the early morning hours. Or, that I'm no longer drawn out and around in
connection with various night-time crises.
[Coyote howling and Lion cries never bother me at all.]
It means that my 20 year old grandson, Thomas, who with his mother [Maria,
our oldest] and his little sister [Samantha], has lived with Eldri and
Josie [my youngest] and me for going on six years now has finally --
finally --gotten his first vehicle.
It wasn't easy. I'd rather do the Grand Canyon six times running --
literally -- than go through this again. And I was only a marginal player
in the Burningly Intensive Socio-Drama.
Firearms, which I know very well indeed, are basic and down-to-earth
compared to cars. [Most gunowners and dealers are honest.] But, if there's
anything that epitomizes the Larceny of Capitalism, it's the Used Car
Gambling Strip. The odds in Reno are far, far more favorable to the human
Thomas, an Idaho State pre-med student and certainly the most easy-going
member of our entire and generally turbulent family [sometimes attributed to
the fact that he's one-half Mississippi Choctaw], has been saving money for
a long, long time. Following a successful summer stint as an Upward Bound
counselor at Idaho State, he finally accumulated the almost four thousand
bucks he needed to do cash business.
And that's when it all began. The Search. For the Gas-Eating Grail. A
Used One. A Good One.
A flood of newspaper and related ads and notices were soon descending on us
from the very Four Directions -- like a hard-ice storm in North Dakota.
Since Tom is a popular kid, peers of his -- of every ethnicity and degree of
good sense or lack of it -- began arriving via our doorstep and telephone at
all hours with a multitude of possibility-reports.
Car talk filled the house and yard for most waking moments -- and deeply
into the night.
Going into the field day after day, Tom and friends traveled through
virtually every used car lot in the Pocatello region.
But he didn't jump precipitously. It simply isn't in his thoughtful,
deliberate nature -- and, besides, he'd heard all sorts of used-car horror
stories from my two sons -- John and Peter -- and plenty of them from me.
After my first Teen motor love, an even-then ancient '29 Model A Ford coupe
with incredible loyalty and power and stamina [we once fixed its distributor
with a piece of fence wire], I had a number of heavy used-car disasters and,
as soon as I could swing it, got on the new-vehicle-always track -- even if
it took five years to pay the damn thing off.
Tom looked at many and rejected most. On one, about which he was becoming
serious, he came to me as the Ultimate Authority [ and much about this I do
NOT know] and, on the basis of his description alone, I could legitimately
nix that sale.
On another occasion, we went together to look at The High Probable. This
turned out to be a sleek, freshly repainted little [red] sports car.
Crowded with other used vehicles [most looking very used indeed], it sat in
a tiny, hard-scrabble lot under a bedraggled tree of some kind. The salesmen
had gone off somewhere and the mechanic -- who looked like he'd bathed once
as a baby -- came out to sing the praises of Tom's interest. Cynically, I
looked under It and wasn't surprised to see a big, dark puddle of Leak. At
that very moment, a battered vehicle drove up with two really scrubby
characters -- one of whom yelled coarsely that he wanted his money back.
Tom and I left, telling the mechanic, "We'll think this over." But, of
course, we didn't have to.
Doing my Prophet thing, I had consistently been telling Tom that his best
shot might well lie with a private individual. And after the near-disaster
with Red Sports -- and with the maelstrom still continuing unabated around
us -- he began checking out those individual ads in earnest.
And then, one day! There was a thing in the paper from a private person who
had a '92 Jeep Cherokee. I have a '98 Cherokee that's been perfect for
us -- 4WD and all -- and, more than that, SUVs [Sports Utility Vehicles]
generally are in-models for Tom's peer group. So this struck resonance --
cautiously so -- with all of us.
He hopped over immediately to see that one -- finding it in a nice section
of town. The owner had, after 105,000 miles, decided to get a new Jeep
Cherokee. The vehicle was clean, tight, solid. Encouragingly, Tom noted
that one of its stickers was Machinists' Union. I had suggested to Tom that
he check the underside to make certain it hadn't been destructively
"cow-boyed" in off-road stuff. Tom did, and that was all unmarred, OK. The
owner seemed fine to Tom and even suggested that, if serious, he take it to
a mechanic for a prior-purchase checkover. That night, everyone talked this
one over -- optimistically.
The next day, Tom took the Cherokee to a peer buddy -- a sharp, aspiring
mechanic who pronounced it Fit and Fine. Effectively negotiating a somewhat
lower price, Tom made a basic purchase commitment and, that evening, the
owner called to make arrangements for a meeting at the bank always used by
our family members. I took the call and the seller and I, quickly and
intuitively determining a prime mutual interest, talked congenially for 20
minutes about our respective firearms -- each of us pleased that the other
was into traditional Western rifles. I knew then for certain that he was OK.
Next afternoon, we met at our bank -- the most traditional Mormon bank in
the whole heavily LDS Eastern Idaho region and strictly Idaho-owned.
Whenever possible, our family does business with Indians and other
minorities and with Mormons -- all of whom we trust -- and often there is
an overlap between ethnicities and LDS. Tom paid, I left my Jeep in the
safety of the Bank's secure parking-place, and we went off together with
the former owner -- in his new Jeep -- to his home for the '92.
It was my first sighting of The Prize and it looked great. And there indeed
right on it was the Machinists' Union logo. And maintenance stickers
indicated it had been serviced every 3,000 miles!
And the final reassurance of all: The man and his whole family -- and all of
their cats and the dog -- gathered to tell the Jeep a very special Adios and
to wish it well. Our kind of folks. Honest.
The proud new owner driving, we headed off to our family's [Mormon]
insurance man -- where, with Tom's solid Idaho State GPA, a good deal was
worked out for him pronto.
I know Tom -- and all of us -- have done very well. And it's indeed a great
vehicle -- with lots of good and effective life to go.
And I am getting a hell of a lot more sleep now -- even under Capitalism.
Question: Under socialism -- then what? Well, there'll be cars. And kids
will still want'em -- and quicker than yesterday. Prices should be
better -- and wages, if there are wages, should be a whole lot greater.
But we'll still need to find honest sellers. Always and forevermore.
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
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