It all started on a beautiful autumn morning. One of those days it is easy to arise early, but you don’t want to spend the day working, or worse, spend it inside a classroom. That morning I was filling the time between breakfast and catching the bus deep in one of my many coloring books. Mom was taking my older sister into school early that morning. As I colored away at the dining room table Mom relayed instructions that I was in charge of getting my younger sister and myself to the end of the lane in time to catch the bus. Now, I believe in personal responsibility, but I put part of the blame on what was soon to happen upon Mother. You cannot expect a novice bus rider beginning his second year of elementary school to digest all that information whilst ignoring you with crayon to paper. My wife can attest that to this day I cannot be trusted with vital information without eye contact and rapt attention.
I assured Mom multiple times that I would indeed make sure my sister and I were ready and waiting for the bus when it arrived. Mom headed out for town, albeit with some hesitant looks as she and my older sister drove down the lane. I proceeded to color, and at this age I had absolutely no concept of time, especially when engrossed in a coloring book. I still feel naked without a watch strapped to my wrist, and still get too engrossed in tasks at hand. However, even I thought I had been coloring a long time. Suddenly I paused thinking I heard the faint sound of a horn. Then I heard it again with my ears standing at attention. A mortifying fear flooded over me. The bus! The second horn meant all was lost. I knew the second horn was merely an obligatory effort on the part of the driver having seen this same episode countless times from the seats on the other side of the bus window.
I bolted out the door, without my book-bag let alone my younger sister. I darted down the lane as the sun streamed through the towering walnuts above me. I rounded the large steel mailbox that sat proudly at the end of our lane like a major league ball player rounding second on the way to third trying to stretch a double to a triple. I cleared the large grove of trees that sat to the west of our place and there it was. My long yellow nemesis was pulling away from the neighbor’s place on the adjacent blacktop. I continued down the gravel road making my way to the blacktop all the while violently waving my arms above my head and yelling in a vain attempt to flag down the bus that became smaller and smaller. I stopped, dropping my hands to my knees panting like a dog. A horrifying feeling flooded over my entire being. I had missed the bus! My sister soon joined me as we both stood their catching our breath in the middle of that desolate country gravel road. I did not know if I was more fearful of missing the bus with no way to get to school, or the consequences of Mom getting the call that my sister and I were not at school.
This was no time to panic. I had to keep a clear head and act fast. What the heck would MacGyver have done? Perhaps if it was just me I would have stayed home on that beautiful day and dismantled bombs all day with duck tape and my Swiss Army knife. No, I was in charge of assuring my little sister got the education she deserved. One rule I had learned is you do not call Dad at work unless you had to use the rotary phone with your nose because both your arms were severed from your body, and an atomic ICBM also had to be emminent while this was happening. I could not possibly call Mom after assuring her I would take care of everything. That would be admitting defeat, humiliation, and a very long ride into town on a sore backside. The contemplation of hoofing it into town on foot was a fleeting proposition. Even on a bike I knew a ten minute drive into town translated into one long trip of pedaling; plus, I did not want to listen to my sister complain the entire way. The last option that sprung into my head was to call the only number I had memorized besides 911, Grandma.
I placed the call for what seemed an eternity on the rotary phone. To my elation Grandma picked up on the other side of the line. I had to tell my sister to quit bawling so I could stoically tell Grandma the events that had transpired that morning (perhaps that was the other way around). I calmed down, relayed the emergency on our hands, and soon Grandma was to the rescue in her 1980 Ford Fairmont station wagon.
In no time we saw the glorious sight of its gleaming chrome pull down our lane, a knight in shinning armor rescuing us from our plight. We climbed in and we were off like a rocket.
This was to be the day I found out my Grandma was cool, a station wagon could go 80 miles per hour, and you take backroads if you want to get somewhere quick. Grandma only slowed for the speed bump that was the railroad crossing in the tiny burg of Sexton, Iowa. On the way into town I sat in awe as Grandma had the composure to take hard corners and fly down county blacktops all while assuring us everything would be alright. Over time I learned and appreciated the fact that this woman lived through the Great Depression and World War II. What was barreling down the road in a station wagon to her?
We pulled up to the elementary school in record time. Grandma managed to get us to school a full ten minutes before the school buses pulled up. All in all, I got ten extra minutes to play outside on a glorious fall morning, finished my page in my coloring book, and thought I was off scot free. It never occured to me Granma may tell Dad about our morning escapade when he came over for lunch that day as he did everyday.
I still remember that day vividly back in 1988. I have recently inherited my grandmother’s Flyin’ Ford Fairmont, which is fitting since we were born the same year, 1980.
I still try to get that year to register on the speedometer every once in awhile, if nothing for the memory of that day I rode shotgun while Grandma flew down the back roads to get her grandkids to school on time. And that is how the Flyin’ Ford Fairmont got its name.