The Farm Chronicles: That old Chrysler

It’s kind of funny how those early memories pop into your mind. Mom and Dad had this 1957 Chrysler four door when I was about six years old. I think the original paint on it was two-tone white and beige. They had it repainted for whatever reason to a turquoise and white. It looked pretty flashy and seemed to have some new life to it. But it was the same old car. Mom always had problems getting it started. Of course, Dad was usually out working one of his three jobs—farmer, fuel delivery, custom combining—so there was no one who could help get that car started. But, you know, when Dad came home, he would patiently listen to Mom’s complaints about the car, go out and sit in the front seat and turn the key.

It would automatically start right up. He seemed to have the “touch.” We could never figure out how. Mom wasn’t the best at mechanics. So if the car wouldn’t start up right away, she would just keep turning the ignition until the battery ran down. Then, we would get the pick-up truck or if that wasn’t available, call Grandpa Wilson, and he would come with his car, hook up the jumper cables, and try to get it to start. Sometimes it would start and we would be off on our errands. Other times, that old Chrysler would just grind away and never fire up. Mom would leave it sit until Dad came home. He would go turn the key and, varoom, it would start right up. He would say that Mom must be doing something wrong.

They would sit in the car. Dad would show her how to make sure it was in park by pushing one of the buttons on the dashboard. Turn the key, and it always started for him. She would get in the driver’s seat, make sure the park button was pushed in, turn the key and if Dad was sitting next to her, the Chrysler would start right up. So Dad concluded there was nothing wrong with the car. Until the next time and the car wouldn’t start for her. It was a crisis in the making. She was so frustrated and I’m sure she spent an hour or more on the party line raging about it with my Aunt Dory, who always had cars that worked. It was both frustrating and embarrassing to Mom. One day, the car wouldn’t start and Mom decided to have my brother and me push it down the driveway, hoping to pop it in gear and turn over the engine.

Well, at six years old, I wasn’t much help. But we tried. It didn’t work. Next up, hook it to the tractor and pull it down the road as fast as the tractor would go. Yep. My brother was conscripted against his objection that this might ruin the car. They got a running start and that old Farmall M was chugging as fast as it could go. Mom pushed the “drive” button, and sure enough, the car started. The old hydraulic pump in the transmission pumped enough oil at about 30 mph to turn the engine. Mom was victorious and had made her point. I think this was like the persistent widow in Luke 18 where finally in verse 5, the judge finally gives in “lest by her continual coming she will wear me out.” It wasn’t long until we got another car.

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Bill Wilson

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