Memories From a Red Ford Station Wagon



My life started as a snot-nosed kid with curly blond hair riding unbelted in the back seat of my parent's red 1955 Ford station wagon. That was a very good year to be born.


Maybe five years old, I stood bouncing on the back seat and leaned over my dad's shoulder to see how fast we were going—67 miles per hour, roughly speaking. It was not a digital display. "Sit down!" my mother warned, thinking it safer to be sitting if rear-ended. I sit back down, just able to peer over the top of the rear door. Much I saw was just a blur. At that age, most things are a blur, as much has yet to be discovered.


You can imagine my shock when I learned in one of my early grades that the earth was traveling too. Around and around the sun it goes at 67,000 miles per hour. "Is that why we have hurricanes, Ms. Margaret?" I asked. My first-grade teacher smiled, having been asked sillier questions than that. Sixty-seven miles an hour, and life is a blur and much too windy to stick my head out the window- but earth hurtling at 110,000/km an hour and nye a leaf flutters and the night stars are as clear as crystal. The concept of speed and time was as blur-inducing as electricity and gravity and the weight of all that snow atop the mountains in the far distance I could see clearly.


My chin bounces off the window ledge as we rumble over an old bridge. Mostly a blur, but I'm able to see the river below. Ms. Margaret says that when the snow melts, it turns into water. The water in the river is from the snow off that mountain. Ahhh... a couple of dots get connected. What starts as snow melts to water becomes a river which flows downhill to the sea. The world is just a bit less blurry.


Mother admonishes me again. This time for the last time, she says. I sit back down again.


Up against a far fence, I see some black furry spots. A dozen or so four-legged steers peacefully graze on a lush pasture kept green by rain blown in from the ocean. Is this another of nature's systems? The rain keeps the grass green, providing all the elements necessary to turn a steer into a roly-poly package of protein and critical nutrients vital to healthy human living. The grass a steer eats, chews, and swallows three times started as a single water molecule evaporating into a lighter than air gas and then rained down on their backs, of which they take no notice. I have to admit that my awe and appreciation for nature's beauty and symmetry came much later. In the meantime, a couple more dots get connected like cowpies in a pasture. As the cowpies slowly contribute back to the soil, my dad swings the red station wagon into the Voo, the local hamburger drive-thru.


I'm back to bouncing on the back seat with unbridled anticipation. A picture sign just outside the car is that of a hamburger- an old fashion burger. Maybe Bill painted the sign. Thick and juicy with just a curl of smoke escaping from the still sizzling patty. My mouth waters. A deep orange slice of cheese melts at the corners, and ketchup as red as molten lava flowing slowly down the sides. I bounce a little higher as I hear my dad order a cheeseburger just for me. I sit down again when my mother turns to look at who's rocking the station wagon. I must be patient.


It's the first hamburger I remember eating. To make the experience last, I eat it real slow. I nibble the edges all around the burger as if it the earth and I the sun. At the center, I'll find the epoch; the prize, the toy in a box of crackerjacks; the beef will be the thickest and juiciest. I examine it slowly, not wanting this moment to end.


Mother, noticing my smile of satisfaction, smiles back. She reaches over with a napkin to wipe the ketchup that covers my mouth. Then she moistens her fingers with her tongue and dampens a rouge curl into submission on the top of my head, like a mother cat giving a kitten a licking. Years later, I imagined a line of hair care products that contained mother nature's secret to great-looking hair. It was to be called 'Mothers Saliva.'


Thousands of burgers and six decades later, you can imagine my shock when I find that some talk of banning meat. They say that meat animals pollute and cause environmental damage leading to heating or cooling and hurricanes, and forest fires. They claim that mother nature is broken and can no longer find her equilibrium- as if fragile and made weak by capitalism, fossil fuels, and, perhaps, human freedoms. Boldly, they claim humans do not possess the capacity to choose right from wrong and must be coerced into eating plant-based faux meats (most faux hamburgers are made with soy and peas).

Some pretend 'savior' status and write books suggesting the coming climate calamity, like religious zealots claiming they know the end is near and what the cause will be. For $29.95, they'll tell you the circumstances by which we can avoid an earth-ending global something. Something of a modern-day Mr. Rogers, billionaire Bill Gates recently published just such a book.


If some dream of a meatless future and ultimately hold sway, then I am forced to imagine the circumstances to my very last hamburger- and I have. My musings have evolved into a dystopian novel set in 2039. My novel is not yet finished and remains untitled. I intend to share my progress with you in my emails. My wish is that you offer your assistance with ideas, critiques, and suggestions. At the least, I hope you enjoy Wayne, the protagonist, as he lives out his final years in a world he never dreamed possible.


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