Friday, November 03, 2006

The Jeep

There's a cool old dude who regularly dumpster dives the rolling garbage bins in the alley that runs behind our house. He either does this as a hobby, or perhaps he's making a pretty good living out of it, since he drives a Dodge Pickup that can't be more than a few months old.

And yeah, it's got a Hemi.

In the dozen or so times we've crossed paths in the the open alley, we've always greeted each other with a neanderthal nod and a cordial smile. He seems to be interested only in the large dumpsters, leaving the small privately owned plastic receptacles alone.

The other day, he made a donation and left this by our side door.

I figure he's seen my daughter's at play in our yard at various times during his dogged pursuit of the treasures found in other's trash, and decided to make a gift of this particular find.

It's an older model and beat up some. It's once showroom finish has color faded to an ugly pukey purplely pink, no doubt a result of being left out in the harsh Oklahoma sun. Stickers advertising automotive products placed by a proud papa at one time are now just garrish reminders of a shade tree mechanic's penchance for an O'Reilly Auto parts buy-a-case-of-oil-to-get-a-free-decal promotion.

Sadly, no, this one did NOT have a Hemi.

But the drive motors were both there and the batteries were in place. Contacts were all rust free and the wiring didn't resemble my old Mazda's dashboard after a particular stereo was stolen from it.

Why then would someone have dumped this trash-to-treasure find of kiddie automotive importance?

Near as I can figure. the previous owner had to have been an Oklahoma transplant like myself, who sees the world as a temporary refuge for all the products of planned obsolescence spewed forth by the factories of the world.

See, a true Okie wouldn't dream of dumping such a find...working or not. Pick just about any farmer's homestead nearby, and you'll see the history of his automotive buying selection for the past 70 (or more) years. Old trucks and cars aren't disposed of here. They are just parked next to the one that was parked after it died 20, 40, and 50 years before that.

I've seen a '35 Ford pickup, parked next to a '49 Chevy pickup, parked next to a '62 GMC pickup, parked next to a 70-something Dodge pickup -- all in various states of rust, disrepair, and neglect. It was a veritable museum display of the metal and sweat that was used to bring that farm through the Dust Bowl and into the current century. Hey, if I had the room, I'd keep all my old cars as well.

Back to the Jeep. Turns out the twin 6-volt batteries needed to power the kiddie mobile wouldn't hold a charge. The twin motors appeared intact and in decent shape and the tires were good (no cracks in the plastic -- good for another 100,000 miles at least, with proper care and rotation).

My F-i-L checked the wiring and replaced a few frayed ends. I removed several creepy-crawlers who had taken refuge in the molded innerds of the "engine compartment." Then, in a fit of Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor-dom, we stuck a 12-volt lawn mower battery in the sucker, upped the inline fuse capacity for safety, Mickey-Ducked a few wires together and fired that bad boy right up.

Ever see a Fisher Price PowerWheel burn rubber?

Like any modern car driving woman, C wants to get a fresh coat of paint on her new whip, and lose the decals while she's at it. I've taught her how to hook it up to the battery charger so she can make sure it's juiced up for her next backyard off roading adventure.

I fully expect to find her pulling out an Oklahoma map and highlighting a path down old Route 66 someday soon. Guess I should start stocking up on the beef jerky now.

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