Saturday, February 2, 2008

Horse With No Name

The Harrington Cherokee at Arches National Park.

My Dad and I had very different attitudes about cars, and they were very different from our attitudes about everything else.

Dad, a child of the Depression, was meticulously cheap. I have a box full of steno notebooks in which he recorded every purchase he made at gasoline pumps from 1950 until his death half a century later, for example, and (if I hadn’t destroyed them after his death) similar bulky records, to the penny, of absolutely everything else he ever spent anything under a few thousand dollars on. Major purchases had their own tracking, I guess, so he didn’t feel a need to scurry after their pennies in a similar way.

A major exception to his penuriousness was cars.

He’d keep a wallet or a belt until it wore down to dust, but he wouldn’t keep a car beyond two years. This manic trading-in of nearly-new cars had a benefit for me, of course – I got to enjoy NEW CARS almost all the time! Some of his vehicles can be seen by clicking here.

I, on the other hand, am about as negligent as one can imagine about daily economy. I don’t even balance my own checkbook every month, for example, trusting the bank to get those sorts of things right. If my Dad were still alive, that admission on my part would launch him into the aether, spitting and screaming.

But I am a fanatic about milking every possible mile out of a car.

The first photo ever taken of the Harrington Cherokee: May, 1992. I had just driven the truck back to our apartment complex, and (respectively) Colin, Diane, and Ryan were thrilled to see it, since they were used to being crammed into an old, broken-down VW squareback until then. To see a more recent picture of Colin and Ryan – at Ryan’s wedding in 2006 – click here. (In that picture, Ryan’s wife, Christel, is holding my granddaughter, Doug and Adrianne's girl, Grace.)

I am sixty years old. Until the beginning of this millennium, I had owned exactly three cars. I had a 1964 Rambler from 1969 to 1972, a 1972 VW Squareback from 1972 to 1992, and this post’s 1992 Jeep Cherokee from 1992 to…


(Since the turn of the millennium, I have acquired two more vehicles: a Y2K Jeep Wrangler and a 2005 Dodge pickup. I must be getting sloppy.)

The Cherokee is one of those mechanical beasts that somehow manages to worm its way into the heart as though it were alive. Diane and I love(d) it to pieces, and are sad to see it go. We didn’t love it enough to give it a sweet nickname (as some folks do for their cars in a bit of over-anthropomorphizing), but, if we had, it would have been “Refrigerator Box.” When Diane first mentioned that she wanted a Cherokee in the early ‘90’s, I snidely characterized the model as such a box. Good box, it turns out.

Cherokee traversing an Arches National Park back trail.

But, tomorrow, the Cherokee will no longer be ours. I'll transfer its ownership to someone who will make good use of its goat-like terrain navigation capabilities to research, on the ground, a work on Joshua Trees. He will not, I imagine, mind its peripheral aging, such as its dead radio or sagging headliner, but will appreciate its solid drive train and magnificent off-road swagger. I hope he will, at any rate.

Kelsey and Emma loved riding in the Cherokee.

The Cherokee was a working truck (note the haybale in the back.)

The Cherokee loves National Parks. And, I suspect, its dance within them is not quite done yet.

The Cherokee’s replacement at Ft. Harrington, posing in Yosemite above Bridalveil Fall. Its styling is far from the classic, squared-off panels of the Cherokee, but (given its owner’s proclivities) it will probably be truckin’ along in 2025.

'Bye, Cherokee. You did us well, and you did us well long. Here's hoping you do your new driver as well for at least a little while.


Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

I think it's going to enjoy its new job - and i hope it appears in the author's jacket photo!

ronnie said...

Husband named his 1989 Honda Civic "Yvette" for reasons I'd best explain to you in private email :)

She was with him longer than I was, and I swear he loved us equally for some years.

As readers of my blog know, we retired Yvette a year and a bit ago. Husband and I used to say to each other, "Well, she'll be some OTHER kid's first car", but really, we assumed she would be "parted out", as they say around our parts, or sold for scrap.

Imagine my delight when I saw her across the street from my (then) job, being driven by a kid who looks like a college or university student, all fixed up and still running like a top. It was her, all right - If I didn't know her profile like the back of my hand, I know her license plate number like I know my own name.

We've seen her around town a buncha times since, as have other family members. She has a new life as 'some kid's' first car, I reckon.


When we got the new car, we discussed naming it. We have named it - Kathleen, or Kate (after Hepburn) for short - but the name for the new, fancier car feels more artificial.

Not like Yvette. She was - and is - a classic.


Mike said...

I'm currently driving a 14-year-old Dodge Caravan, the principal value of which is that both dogs fit in the back. In fact, it's kind of a clubhouse for them. However, it was never a very good car to begin with and is not improving with age. At this stage, grim as it is to admit it, I'm just kind of hoping it will last as long as the elder dog, because I'd like to replace it with something smaller, but not if I have to slather them with Crisco to get them into it. But let me be clear about Elder Dog -- he was a very good dog to begin with and is improving with age. This is about cars, not dogs.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Oy, car stories are prime comment-gatherers, aren't they! And I LOVE it, especially ronnie's great negation of my belittlement of naming mechanical members of the family!

Mike, I've alerted Adam to your account of the Caravan... because of his Aunt Brooke's connection thereto.

Yeah, Ruth, I'd like a jacket photo of the
Cherokee, but I'm not going to hold my breath.