Our first brand new car after we married was a 1966 Dodge Dart. It was a basic car, with no air conditioner, no radio, no bells and whistles of any kind. Well, it did have a heater. Under the hood was a strangely placed straight six-cylinder engine, hunkering down in a slant. In fact, it was called a slant six. We both loved that car because it smelled new; it was efficient, comfortable and, after three years of payments, it was ours! What’s more, it still looked and drove like a new car, even after I got it paid for.
We put over 100,000 miles on it and never had any car trouble to speak of. Then, I sold it to a family member who ran it many more miles before passing it on to yet another family member for several thousand more miles. I’m not sure how the Dart died, but I’m glad I don’t, because it had been in the family so long, it had developed a kind of human personality.
I had a friend in Monticello known as Mars Hall who loved his Bronco. He named the vehicle “Bucky” and spoke of it as if it were human. His real name is Gary Marshall, but he broke his last name up into to as a nom de plume. He was quite a poet, one of the few people I have known who is a loyal journal keeper. He wrote down random thoughts daily and then occasionally revised the promising thoughts into poems.
Once Mars and I went on a canoe trip down the Saline River. I followed Mars in my truck with the canoe in the back down to a certain spot on the river, where we left Bucky to stand by for our arrival by water six or eight hours later. Then we drove my truck up to our point of embarkation. It was a lovely canoe trip, full of easy paddling and good conversation. About every 10 minutes, Mars would say, “I hope Bucky is OK.” When it got later, he would murmur something about Bucky getting impatient, or lonely or apprehensive. I tried to be as comforting to Mars as I could under the circumstances, but I couldn’t quite bring myself into his mindset of Bucky as a living, breathing entity with feelings.
I never saw a person get as excited as Mars did when, about seven hours into our slow glide down the river, he got a glimpse of his friend up on the bank. Bucky was glinting in the sunlight, actually looking a little relieved that his master had made it back. I thought, surely Mars will not hug the Bronco when we get up there, but he did. What is more, he seemed a little concerned that I didn’t share his joy in greeting his old friend.
We never felt quite as attached to the old Dodge Dart as Mars did to Bucky. We simply called it “The Dart” and never gave it human attributes in our imagination. If I had ever started talking about The Dart the way Mars talked about Bucky, my wife would have brought me back to reality instantly. She is good at that.