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Excerpt – Like a Snake Around My Neck

Old Ford Pickup

Excerpt – Like a Snake Around My Neck

“The truck was a dilapidated, old white pick-up, sold at auction by someone sane enough to realize that it was no longer safe to drive, bought and used daily by my father, who did not share the same good sense.

The body was more rust than a body. The old plastic upholstery had cracks in its cracks. You had to wear jeans to avoid being gashed by the sharp edges. The brakes were so poor; you had to practically stand on the brake pedal to get it to stop. You’d better anticipate your stop well in advance of needing it (a good life lesson); you would need a couple of thousand feet. The steering wheel was so loose it needed to be turned 90 degrees in either direction to get it to engage. This meant driving down the road, turning the wheel back and forth like a child driving that old quarter-slot, pretend cars, and making the vroom-vroom sound.

It was so absurd; it was scary and funny at the same time. Upon departure, I always wondered if we would come back in one piece. I suppose it encouraged mindful gratefulness for being alive after each ride. The experience also provided a healthy dose of adrenaline, which may explain why I never needed to experiment with recreational drugs.

Most often, we went to town to get a tool, a box of nails, screws, wallboard, or some other such construction-related material. Sometimes these trips were three times per day—once to get what dad thought we needed, once to get what we really needed, and once to get the materials we needed to fix what broke when trying to force the materials he thought we needed to work.

Dad was building his dream home fashioned after the Alhambra—one brick at a time. Except for the foundation and the roof, he did everything, with a little help from an army of Mexican migrant workers, his wife, and his children whenever we visited. For this, our father deserves a great deal of credit for ingenuity, self-reliance, perseverance, and sheer gumption. Qualities that we all deeply learned from example, not through lectures…”

Alamo, TX

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