Retro Style Toy Racing Bike in a living room
Personal Stories

The Silver Fox

Life can sometimes be viewed by what vehicles are owned


“She is a beauty.”  She, was my first car in High School, the first of many, and no less a ’57 Chevy.  Now the car was a little rough – I mean it was old and the paint was a little really faded.  But that could be fixed and my father even offered to help in that area.

Those were the days of “poor man” decisions.

You might recognize “poor man” decisions – they are life decisions that are made when you have very little money and also little faith. So…instead of rational decisions, all decision is made to fit the available cash.

The first decision I made – buy one tire. Why one, well again, that’s all the money my girlfriend (currently AKA wife) and I could pony up – so we purchased the new tire, determined which tire to replace and we moved on.

Now, fortunately, my father, who had offered to help me re-paint the car, also had access to paint – so I was fine on the financial front for repainting.

But, I was a little suspect of my dad’s abilities.

You see, he rode around in a bright blue truck with equally bright red hubcaps.  I didn’t want to say anything to him, but even at my young age, I could recognize color mismatch.  And since my car didn’t need to look any worse than it already did, I posed the question to my mom.

“Your dad’s color blind” she offered “everything is either black, white or shades of gray.”

Well, poor man or not, I was at least going to pick out the colors.

Things went relatively well with the ’57 after that bit of revelation.  I mean the paint job was a little amateurish, actually, it looked like we painted it with a broom. But, the colors were a nice combination of blue and green not bright but muted.  And, it actually lasted through high school – not bad for $400.

I don’t even know what brand my next car was.  It too was blue and if I had to describe it, it was a little foreign job, I believe English – kind of like a Morris Minor.

In any event, I was now in the Navy in Hawaii and while parked shortly after it was purchased, someone ran into the driver’s side door.

Not only did that not help with the ascetics but it also made the door interoperable.

I mean I had to climb in and out of the car on the passenger side.

It was a little car but I’m not a little guy so jumping over a stick shift to pop onto the passenger’s seat while all the while looking as nonchalant as possible, was not an easy task.

When my girlfriend (again, currently AKA wife) came to visit in the summer it really looked strange with the two of us jumping in and out of the car on the same passenger’s side.

If you can recall the old college pranks of jamming as many people as possible in a VW bug, we looked like the precursor to that movement.

I’m sure that I had insurance and I’m sure that I looked into thought about fixing the door but either I owned a policy which only covered the bare minimum under the law – or the deductible was more than I could afford.

Either way, the door never got fixed and I just got used to the alternative entrance/exit – the passenger door.  I was glad that it at least had a second door – youth has a way of enduring…


My next vehicle was a VW bug, still in the Navy now with my bride Sharon we were living in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The bug had four good tires, a decent paint job (gray as I recall – although I believe they were all gray then) and both doors worked.

We were moving on up.

The only thing it didn’t have was heat.

Now, we were happy to be living in Lincoln because both of our families lived in Denver Colorado and Denver was only 500 miles away – a straight shot on Interstate 80.

Gas was cheap, the bug drank very little and we were easily up to the task of driving the 500 miles to Denver on Friday night, running around with family on Saturday and shooting back another 500 miles on Sunday – that again is youth.

This got a little tougher since Lincoln seems to have winter nine months out of the year – which left one month for spring, one month for summer and one month for fall.  But fully nine months of winter, or so it seemed.

500 miles each without heat, but that’s what wool socks were for – anyway, we survived.

While on a sunny summer day drive (during the one month summer season) in the Nebraskan countryside, the bug was damaged when another car passed us on the left while we were making a left-hand turn.

I’m pretty sure that he was at fault – I mean, that’s kind of why there are solid lines around intersections – don’t pass, people might be turning.

In any event, the bug was near the end of its’ useful life and although it had trouble turning left, it went straight fine and had no difficulty going clockwise.  Again, we never did fix it because of – you guessed it, no money.

Besides, it would be nice to get a car with heat.


The Silver Fox


There were a number of intervening cars after the bug, like the Toyota which needed five bags of sand in the trunk so as to have a fighting chance of driving on the snowy streets of Denver.

The hatchback Pontiac which doubled as a roasting pan, and the gold Volvo which I sold, unknowingly, right before every drop of oil simply drained out of the engine.

But none topped my final bad car – a silver Audi Fox station wagon.

Actually, it wasn’t really a purchase, it was a gift – well part gift, part purchase – let’s just say the price was more than right, the financing – zero interest – was acceptable, and we wouldn’t be able to qualify for anything else so the stars seemed to be all aligning.

At this time in our lives, we had four kids, just out of college and I’m sure Sharon was beginning to accept the fact that we would simply be eternally poor – highly educated to be sure, but none the less poor.

Certainly, you could track our vehicle ownership records and conclude – yes, long time poor people.  The Audi Fox was the ultimate poor man decision, not in its purchase but … well, you’ll see.

When I say silver in color you need to visualize the depth of silver.

What body paint survived on the vehicle was silver to be sure.  But the silver color of the metal itself was also visible.

It was truly two-tone silver.

Tires, okay, and doors – four now (yea, more options) were all fine.

The back seat had springs which protruded through the seat cushion – but nothing that a decent bath towel couldn’t cover and besides, the kids were young so they could handle it.

The kids, however, were just beginning to be more socially aware and would plead with Sharon to let them off a few blocks before school so that they wouldn’t be seen in the Silver Fox.

No problem, Sharon was happy to oblige.  Actually, it provided another disciplinary opportunity.  If they behaved, they got dropped a few blocks away from school.  If not, she would threaten to drop them right in front of the school and honk the horn (I believe it actually worked) a few time for good measure. The threat worked amazingly well.

But the paint and the back seat weren’t the worse of it on the Audi.

You see it didn’t have a reverse gear.

I mean, it was a five-speed and you could drive forward but you couldn’t go backward – or, at least not on its own power.

Here was our ultimate poor man decision, it could have been something very simple to fix, but we never found out – we simply learned to drive without reverse.

How is that done? – well let me tell you – you actually have three (3) options.

  • Number one – park only in spots where you’re able to drive out by going forward.  That may put you facing a different direction than the surrounding cars but it works.
  • Number two – and this was the most creative technique – park 1 1/2 to 2 feet away from the concrete parking blocks or curb.  What you do when you want to leave the parking space is put the car in first, drive forward fast enough to bounce the tires off the concrete barrier and actually bounce backwards out of the parking space.  You had to be careful, but, it worked.
  • The third possibility was really only to be used rarely – Sharon would get out and push the car backwards.  Okay, okay, the kids couldn’t do it and someone had to steer.  I know what your thinking but that’s why I said rarely.

Interestingly the lack of reverse saved our precious Audi from being stolen.

We once left the keys in the ignition and returned to find the car slightly moved and the keys tossed on the ground.

Some frustrated thief simply didn’t know the three methods of backing the car out of the parking spot without the use of a reverse.  On second thought had the thief been successful we might have recovered some money from the Audi…hmmm.


” Now Timmy…”

In the old TV series “Lassie”,  Jan Clayton, the mom always ended the show with “Now Timmy, you see…” and then she would relate some real-life lesson.  I sometimes feel like Timmy’s mom with my posts, but what did I learn?

I know God uses trials for us to learn.  And if we don’t learn, usually by simply refusing, we just face the same trials over and over and over again until we do learn.

My “poor man” decisions were really examples of refusing to learn.

I mean, I never considered the possibilities that might exist, I simply cut my losses and failed to even investigate other options – read that as “no faith”.

Driving a car around without reverse may seem funny but it does border on life-threatening.

So does not having a viable driver’s side exit.

And what, God couldn’t take care of me?

I might have been poor but He wasn’t.  Actually, He did help, He didn’t allow any dire emergencies to occur. He certainly could and would have done more – but, at least at that time, I wouldn’t let Him…

I end this with Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

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