(first posted 1/23/2014) Maurice Calloway was often described as a “grizzled old bastard whose head has outlived at least four bodies.” To say that Maurice had lived in the fast lane was an understatement.
An auctioneer by trade, Maurice’s demeanor was one of seeming inconsistencies. While he drank heavily, he would not drink on Sunday. He also was prone to extremely profane language and copious amounts of tobacco, but he would not tolerate any smoking or colorful language from others if they were in the presence of women and especially children.
A physically large man, he was also quite proud of his compact Rambler.
Maurice could have purchased anything he wanted when he grew weary of his ’56 Oldsmobile. He had become annoyed with its appetite for fuel and had tired of its physical size. He figured if he was going to downsize, he wasn’t going to monkey around.
One Tuesday morning, Maurice drove to the Rambler dealership nearest his small town. The salesman was amusingly dismayed to see this large Oldsmobile driving man looking at the Ramblers on the lot. When he picked one out, a black one in bottom-level Deluxe trim, he pulled a wad of cash from the pocket of his pants and started peeling off $100 bills.
This Rambler was almost as basic as one could buy in 1960. Maurice had opted to spend the $23.50 for the dual headlights, $10.20 for the inside and outside rear-view mirrors, and $9.95 for back-up lights. Beyond that, the Rambler had no options whatsoever. Maurice figured it had a sturdy little six cylinder engine of 127 horsepower and a time tested three-speed manual. Like so many others of his World War I born generation, he figured the less equipment it had, the less there was to go wrong.
Upon his arrival back home, Maurice, a lifelong bachelor, started to receive some degree of grief about having dumped the Olds for a Rambler. He statement was usually, “piss on you, this Rambler will still be ticking long after I’m gone.”
After the initial surprise wore off, Maurice and his Rambler soon became synonymous with each other. Nearly every Saturday there was an auction somewhere in the central part of his state, and Maurice Calloway was the de facto auctioneer of choice. By 1970 Maurice and his black Rambler were as close to an institution as many could imagine.
Some were amused by how Maurice and his Rambler never seemed to age any as the 1970s unfolded. The skeptics would say that Maurice could not age due to his thorough degree of self-pickling, although everyone was simply astounded the now old Rambler was still looking as shiny as it ever had. Sure, there were a few little laugh lines around the Rambler, but it was amazingly blemish free for the number of miles Maurice had driven around the area to his almost weekly auctions.
Maurice knew of the amusement and astonishment about the condition of his Rambler. Only he and a select few confidants knew his secret. The sheer simplicity of his formula, and how it was totally lost on so many, was a source of constant humor for old Maurice.
As Maurice once told one of his so-called conspirators: “It’s simple; Rambler gave me a maintenance schedule to follow. So I follow it. I also have a garden hose, so I use it. I also park it inside. How tough is that?” Maurice knew that if you take care of your equipment it would take care of you. He was puzzled how such a simple concept could be lost on all the young, foolish people around the area.
Yet as we still know, Maurice was a man of inconsistencies. While everyone thought of him as a confirmed bachelor, Maurice did have a woman in his life. It seemed like nobody ever noticed a black Rambler going down a gravel road a few miles from his home.
Maurice had a son with a woman much younger than he. The woman’s husband had been drafted during the Korean War, about the same time Maurice and this younger woman began their illicit romance. Both had felt profound remorse about their actions during a time when a married woman’s husband was serving his country. The remorse was compounded when they realized their actions had culminated in a pregnancy about the time a clueless husband was killed in action.
With the baby having been born early, it was possible for the woman to pass off the child as that of her husband, an action that did not jeopardize her military pension. Neither the woman nor Maurice were proud of their self-created situation, but both maintained it was the pragmatic decision for the benefit of an innocent child growing up in a small town.
All this extramarital intrigue leads us back to Maurice and his black Rambler. Maurice was fifty when he had purchased his Rambler. Realizing he had been too flagrant of a spender in his life so far, he was determined to change that and give the son he could never claim a healthy start in life. The Rambler was part of a raw determination to build a solid financial foundation for his son. Just as Rambler was on the ascendancy in 1960, Maurice felt he was also, making the purchase a natural decision.
Starting on the day in 1960 when Maurice swapped off the Oldsmobile, the Rambler had served as the impetus and constant reminder of his never ending quest for frugality and practical solutions to those situations everyone encounters in life. While nobody realized it, this was the time Maurice doubled down on gaining auctioneer jobs and squirreled away every spare dollar he had. He knew his time on this earth had likely been compromised due to various bad decisions and he was determined to make things better for his son.
Maurice kept driving the Rambler until his death in 1987, at age 77. By now the old black Rambler had covered an unknown quantity of miles – the odometer had broken in 1976 and Maurice didn’t want to spend money to fix it as it did not directly relate to the functioning of the car. Spending money to maintain it did not cover such frivolities; Maurice was a man of inconsistencies.
It was at the time of Maurice’s death that his son, at age 34, finally learned of his true heritage. The news didn’t really surprise him as he had always suspected something. He knew Maurice had to be more than simply a concerned friend of his mother’s.
Maurice’s son was the sole recipient of his father’s now sizable estate. Despite it all, the Rambler is the item Maurice’s son has treasured most. Twenty-seven years later, the sheer sight of it still brings him back to warm childhood memories of a loving, grizzled looking old man taking him on the adventures all children deserve.
While the Rambler is clearly starting to show its nearly fifty-four years of existence, it is still starting as reliably as it ever has. While the compression of its old straight-six isn’t what it used to be, and it has had a little bit of a rattle for a few years now, it is still giving Maurice’s son everything it has.
The son has contemplated some degree of restoration of the old Rambler, but he has been reluctant to do so. His thought process is that any refurbishment will erode the overall aura of a car that reminds him of a simpler time in his life. The car is so ingrained in his psyche, the fact of owning it as long as his father had eludes him.
Even with the diminished state of the old Rambler, Maurice’s son knows his dad was right; it would still be ticking long after he was gone.