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TRUE BLUE

Kevin Wilkerson of Kingman, Arizona won this year's People's Choice Award at the 5th Annual Babbitt Ford Classic Cars Show in Flagstaff with his electric blue 1978 Ford F150 short-bed truck. The truck took about four years to entirely restore and modify according to Wilkerson, and placed fourth in the nation at the national LMC Truck Competition.  

Cold weather is hard on my truck. On such mornings, I have to have to perform a combination of CPR/magical incantation to get it to start. Pump the gas pedal six times.

Recite slowly the incantation, “Come on, baby, Come on,” as I turn the ignition. The old girl replies with a slow-witted “R-r-r-r” until it gasps with life and a cloud of exhaust.

So, this weekend I decided it was time to do a little vehicle maintenance. Cold as it’s been, I needed to wear a coat while I worked. My truck’s engine compartment isn’t exactly spotless. In fact, I think I could present evidence that every unencumbered spot in Coconino County has collected on my engine block like iron filings on a magnet. So, I needed to wear a coat I could get as dirty as I wanted without paying for the college education of my dry-cleaner’s daughter.

I wrestled through a thicket of hangers and old clothes at the back of my closet and found an old barn coat my Dad used to wear. I had seen him wearing it a hundred times. It’s been hanging in the back of the closet for 24 years now. I can’t remember why I kept it; maybe for just such a chore as the one ahead of me. It fits me just fine.

I have to take a few minutes, whenever I work on my truck, to stand there and remind myself what it is I actually know how to do. This usually involves a brief remedial tour of the engine compartment.

“There’s the battery. There’s the air filter. The radiator. What’s that thingamajig?”

I can’t wear gloves when I work on the engine, so I slipped my hands in the coat pockets to keep them warm. My fingers found some loose objects at the bottom of the pockets.

I pull out what I found in the right pocket: five finishing nails, Three screws, a couple of short bolts with nuts and lock washers on them, a quartz pebble, a .22 long cartridge, and a pinch of sand.

In the left pocket I found a piece of yellow tablet paper, half a torn sheet, with one word written on it.

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“Wire.”

All of it just some stuff in his pockets and a note to remind him what he needed the next time he went into town.

I was reminded of a book by Tim O’Brien, “Things They Carried.” The title story of his collection centers on the various weapons and equipment a platoon of grunts carried on a patrol. What they carried in their hearts weighed just as heavily as the grenade launchers and ammo.

I felt the heft of the artifacts in my hand. I put them back in the right pocket. You never know, when some of it might come in handy.

And as for the piece of paper, I crossed out “wire” and wrote “oil filter.” I folded it and put it in the left pocket. I’d be going into town later.

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