Friday, June 11, 2010

I’ve Loved Jeeps Since I was 4 Years Old!

With the exception of a 1957 Chevy, I think my cars have always been Jeeps (now called Wranglers) or Porsche’s, both for a lot of the same reasons, e.g. they let you feel the road etc.danmeier2

Trading out my Jeep Wrangler for another this week, brought back memories of my first, a red 1952 CJ3A, just like the one in the image that has been restored.

I was 4 years old when my Dad, a vet, brought it home to the ranch.  I was 16 when I totaled it coming home from my job at Salvage Variety one school night.

I still remember the song that was playing on the radio, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling recorded by the Righteous Brothers.

But my first accident in that same Jeep was when I was 5 or 6.  Coming home one winter night in a blizzard with my Dad, the sides of the country road, barely one lane wide with towering banks of snow on each side, thrown by the county snow plow.

As we turned the corner to go the last quarter mile to the ranch house, we clipped one of the banks and flipped upside down.  My Dad pushed me to the floor board as we flipped and we both got out and walked home to a very upset Mom.

But I also remember racing to town sitting next to my Dad holding his left hand outside the window, gushing blood, with his knuckles ripped open from an accident with a saw.

We also used that Jeep to rush one of our neighbors to town after he was hit while on horseback by his elderly parents when the sun got in their eyes going up the hill just past the gate to our ranch.  Both he and his horse died.

I remember going to “work” in that Jeep with my Grandfather during the summers before I came of age.  He had homesteaded the horse and cattle ranch (we also farmed feed) before having heart trouble and turning it over to my Dad while he was still in High School.  So he/we  could only do certain tasks like digging post holes, mending fence, shoeing horses and such.

I remember streaking dust from the back of that Jeep’s visor onto my face so I could look like I had “really” worked when I got home.  I also remember afternoon rides to town with a stop on “doctor’s orders” at Ott’s Place (a tavern, billiard parlor and poker joint) where my Grandpa would have a beer and I would sit up by the front window reading the calendar with the birthdates marked for everyone in and around the town of Ashton.

I learned to drive in that same Jeep the same year my Grandfather died and my parents and grandparents gave it to me when I got old enough to get my license.  My Grandmother, re-painted it by “hand” although still red, making it a real conversation piece at school:)  Not sure it was a chick-magnet then as my daughter Emily called Jeep Wranglers as she was starting to date in another era.

My Dad blamed himself for my accident.  The Jeep didn’t have side mirrors or seat belts, of course, and as I changed lanes to let someone merge that night, while I was looking over my shoulder, another car stopped dead in the road in the lane I moved to and I never even got a chance to hit the breaks.

No one in the car I hit from behind was hurt but I remember the back window popped out intact and laid teetering on the trunk.  I had time to grip the steering wheel which helped project me head first through the windshield and then back but kept it from crushing my chest.

I don’t remember if I was helped, I just remember next sitting against a tree with warm liquid running down my face.  I had just missed the top frame of the windshield but the glass has scalped me from a cut across both eyelids up my forehead.

He didn’t recognize me at first but the EMT working on me in the ambulance was my scout master Dean.  He called my parents who drove by the mangled Jeep on the way to the hospital.  Dr. Knight did a great job sewing me up with only the scar showing now when I close my eyelids and of course a crease across the top of my nose.

My Dad, who nothing ever seemed to bother, passed out and fell into a bunch of stuff in the corner as he came into the room where I waited between x-rays and being sewed up.  I don’t know if it was the sight of me, all the rushing to get there or seeing the Catholic Priest who was praying over me.

I recovered just fine although a completely red eye was a conversation piece at school and I managed to do the same thing to the other eye prior to the start of football practice when a pack horse spooked and ran over me on a summer trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana.

I always wonder if Dr. Walsh at Duke Eye Center can tell when she does my annual exam.  By the way, the judge didn’t buy my Dad trying to take responsibility for my accident and my license was suspended for six months.

The Jeep wasn’t salvageable and the six months gave me time to save up for the ‘57 Chevy.  But interspersed with several Porsche’s (they used to be affordable, e.g. 356, 912, 911S, Boxster) I’ve had 6  more Jeep Wranglers but nothing as memorable as that red 1952 CJ3A.

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