My 1968 Calico Dream Machine
My parents promised to go in halfsies with me on my first vehicle. They had no idea of my expectations.
Let me back up a little.
In the Beginning
The day I turned 16 years old, my parents dropped me off with our 12-passenger family van at the local DMV to take my driver’s test—really, they dropped me off, it was a busy day for the family. After taking my test, and passing (BOOM!), I drove away from the DMV with a freshly minted driver’s license in my pocket and the world at my feet.
I knew I couldn’t live my life bargaining for use of the family van every time I needed to do something critical; like go to McDonald’s or head to the movies or a hockey game. Plus, showing up in a van repeatedly may have given me an unwanted nickname at school. Never a good thing and impossible to live-down.
Sharing my intentions to purchase a vehicle, my parents were gracious in offering to pay for half of the vehicle I found, and to cover my insurance. In retrospect, I think they were thrilled to add a “Rusty Taxi Service” to their household, alleviating some of their own errands around town, the result of having seven children (me being the eldest).
With that offer in mind, the hunt for my Dream Machine was afoot!
The Hunt for Freedom
At the time, we were living in Fairbanks, Alaska, with a population of about 60,000. The demographics and geography resulted in shy pickings. I probably came close to getting ink poisoning that summer from scouring the “Autos For Sale” section of our local newspaper.
After finding a couple contenders, I finally settled on a vehicle and talked to the owner. We had agreed upon a price and I was prepared to negotiate with my parents and show take them to my future dream machine. I had a small coffer of money in savings from a summertime job—driving a forklift at a lumber yard—and had enough money to enter the negotiation round with my parents.
The conversation went something like this:
“I found exactly what I wanted!” Me unable to contain my excitement.
“How much is it?” my father asked.
“It’s $600,” I scanned their reactions to the price, my retorts comfortably in the back of my mind.
“So we need to come up with $600?” They looked at each other, contemplating the amount.
At this point, they had fallen into my trap. Well played, indeed!—my inner voice chimed.
“Nope. The total cost is $600. I just need you to help with $300.” I looked like the cat that caught the canary.
Even with this financial win, they were hesitant to concede to a vehicle they hadn’t seen. “Let’s have a look at it.”
I’m not sure if they were more thrilled with the amount of money they were committed to, or more concerned about the possible shape of a $600 vehicle. Either way, I was committed to my dream. And by the way, it’s not overemotional to refer to it as my dream, I was 16 after all!
Show Me the Money
We drove in the family van to the guy’s house and knocked on the door. He told us that he would meet us around back. My parents and I walked around the side of the house and into view of the vehicle. My eyes glittered, their brows furrowed.
In front of us shimmered a 1968 Ford pickup truck. Short box. Color? Uh, many. There was no “one” color that was dominant over others. The old truck was quite a sight to see, depending on the lenses you were looking through. My rose-colored glasses converted this old dilapidated truck into a teenage transportation jackpot. I may have teared-up slightly (pretty sure it was just allergies, or not).
After standing there for a few moments, soaking in its beauty and the unbridled possibilities, I broke the silence with a solemn, “It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of.”
Amused by my comment and grinning from my over-infatuation with this sketchy truck, my mother responded, “If that’s everything you ever dreamed of, you’re going to be okay.”
Truck Win, Life Win
We made the deal and paid the guy cash—there was no PayPal back then.
That comment by my mother over 34 years ago has followed me. And you know what? She was right. I’m okay.
I still look back on that old truck with fondness. It represents a simpler time in my life. It reminds that I’m the dictionary of my own happiness. I define what happiness means to me. When I was 16 years old, my happiness was the freedom of travel driving my ’68 calico truck. And I was okay.
My current vehicle? A 2005 Chevy truck (I converted). It has over 160,000 miles on it. His name is Big Red. He and I have been through a lot. When I spotted it at the dealership years ago, I knew it was ‘my truck’. And it was only one color.
I’m pretty sure that my wife shook her head when I uttered, “It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of.”
Also published on Medium.