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The Caddy Truck is No More

A Lament to a good friend

Posted Apr 13, 2012 by Mark's Kaddy Korner

It is with a heavy heart I write this week’s Kaddy Korner, the last few days have been tough and a lot of difficult decisions have had to be made. I’ve lost a lot of good friends since last summer and I think I’m about to lose another. The Indian Car, my faithful 2002 Rendevous van is resting comfortably in mom’s front yard under a shady oak but I think she has seen her last road trip on her own four wheels.

There may be one more tow bar assisted trip in May to green pastures in northern Wisconsin, consultations with Little Earl and Tom, my car doctors in Mellen, before I give last rites but her long haul days are over. She may have another life after 370,000 miles but she’s going to need a lot of doctoring, TLC and some cash I don’t have at the moment to get her up and running. It’s tough to admit I can’t trust an old friend but all night Sunday road trips aren’t possible.

The old time loopers formed emotional bonds with their vehicles; the new age “fairway technicians” spend most of their time flying first class, a few fly privately, renting cars and don’t spend that therapeutic time behind the windshield. Although chipped and scarred the Indian Car glass provided a great view all over this country the last eight years. “Scruffy” still drives an ancient LTD with wooden front bumper and who can forget the Whittle brothers’ old van “Betsy”. But, the all-time classic was Artie’s four door sedan with lawn chairs bolted to the front floor board and the top cut out with a blow torch, a classic convertible.

She didn’t quite do the trips, Santa Monica pier to Miami via southern Illinois in two days, like the old Previa but she performed admirably over the years with only a few hiccups, I was proud of her. I guess I should have heeded the hints in Biloxi her last days were near. She ran out of gas twice and didn’t want to leave the covered parking at the Memphis airport; the hot, humid air was good for her chassis.    

Not a lot of people remember her in her prime. In December of ’03 I drove her off a southern Texas car lot after Kath and I haggled with a family friend over price. I definitely got my money’s worth, $16,000 for a beautiful van with 30,000 miles. Of course, I had to caddyize her, make her comfortable for the long hauls and occasional sleepovers in truck stops, rest areas, naps in caddy lots during rain delays and the, seldom these days, dive-bar parking lot emergency quick 40 winks after a nice session with the locals. There were only two seats, enough room for my junk and a spot to stretch out, not many folks travelled with me, she was all mine.

Today, everyone talks about the flashing dashboard lights, rough steering, musical popping sounds in the springs before she warms up; they don’t remember her glory days. Those hot, humid summer Sundays waiting for me in the caddy lot guarding the cooler and ready to head out for the next tournament. Many Sunday afternoons one or two cold ones were quaffed while taking my caddy shower on her tailgate before embarking in who knows what direction. I think there are Johnson & Johnson baby powder, with cornstarch, stains on her bumper, it was always so accommodating.

She made it to all four corners of the U.S. mostly on the Interstates but occasionally we got off the beaten path, grabbed a campsite, did a little fishing or just laid on a picnic table and watched the stars together. She was definitely a Cub fan and after I installed XM radio we spent a lot of evenings listening, no agonizing over games. I’d get some strange looks while I was beating on her dashboard, steering wheel, or roof during the late innings in the hotel parking lot, she was so comfortable.

The cops only caught up with us a few times and there were no major accidents. Dad’s Illinois Sheriffs Association bumper stickers watched over us, guided us, and provided a conversation piece whenever the trooper was leaning through the window. They listened to my story, talked a little golf and county jail stories then, if there were golf balls in the back, there always was, I slip them a little memento. They were always amazed how many miles the old girl had on her.

Her last trip was stoic; I could tell she was struggling. She rattled and wobbled out of cow pasture caddy lot, the gas mileage wasn’t the same and that damned service engine light kept flickering. Oh well, I nursed her north towards home, curled up in a quaint rest stop around Cairo, IL for my last nap with her and picked up mom at my sister’s in Mahomet. We made it to Havana Monday afternoon and Tuesday she said “no mas”.

When I stopped by Atwater’s shop Wednesday morning the Indian Car was hooked up to a life support system and the mechanics were gathered around the computer monitor shaking their heads. They sat me down and quietly gave me the news, “It’s time for a nice salvage yard, we’ll make some calls for you.” I stammered, “Let me think about it, there’s no chance of repair?”

I picked her up a few days later, nursed her to the beach through the back roads and unloaded all my worldly goods while listening to a Cub spring training game. She’s not going to a salvage yard yet, I can’t do that to an old friend.

I guess I’m looking for a new ride, something in a used Subaru Forrester or a small pick-up truck. Let me know if you’ve got something sitting in your yard, I’ll show it the country and some good times.

- Mark Huber

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