COAL Dust • The Rest of the Stories + Afterword

That battery cable incident with the Jetta wasn’t the only time I gave my sister a car-related assist, and neither was the four-wheel-dolly tow of that same car from Illinois to Colorado. There’s another of those stories about the ’80 Stinkoln Town Car. I was a few years younger—hence behind her in school—and one day when she was 15 and I was 12 she came home with homework from her driver’s-ed class: have your parent (it probably said “father”) show you around a car and complete a worksheet with questions about things like oil and transmission dipsticks and radiator caps, batteries and windshield washer fluid tanks, tire pressure valves and gauges. Dad and mother looked at each other, looked at me, and I picked up the worksheet and said “Come with me”. At that time—and still now—it brought this scene to mind:

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It’s amazing what you find in old cars. There hadn’t been any noteworthy treasures in the Lancer, which hadn’t been driven enough to accumulate any before we got it, and all the treasures in D’Valiant were deliberately loaded in from the seller’s garage, so I wasn’t really attuned to this effect until I worked at the wrecking yard, where the damnedest things turned up in turned-in cars. But y’buy enough old cars, sooner and later y’gonna find interesting artefacts. Or more like Dartefacts, such as the Horsepower Chicken (as the Slant-6 board brigade called it) in my ’71 Dart. I don’t remember what happened to that chicken, but it wasn’t the only Dartefact. My 1973 Dart came with a Blessed Virgin Mary atop the dashboard. There’s a song about this, and it’s been recorded many times; here’s the relevant part of the original:

I didn’t need or wish to be watched over by Mary while driving the Dart, and instead she became integral to some of Bill’s work as a photographic artist. She appears in photos № 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 of this collection; here’s a sample:

We have an altar in our home, a glass-covered cupboard with meaningful things. Neither of us is Catholic or otherwise Christian, but that Mary touched my Dart and his art, and so there she is. Also a 1962 Lancer windshield wiper or headlight switch knob, and a 1963-’64 Dart-Valiant-Barracuda park lever knob, amongst other things:

There are other relevant remnants, relics, and mementos sprinkled about, as well. I’ve always liked the ’60-’61 (+’62, at least in some countries) flying-saucer hubcap. Don’t think I ever owned a car with ’em, though maybe that ’61 Valiant had them. I bought and sold at least one set of them over my time in the hobby. Some years back I found one made into a clock:

Hey, kids, what time is it? Why, lookit there, it’s 2:25:06!


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