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.
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.