Wednesday, December 4, 2013
By MORRIS STEPHENSON -
After almost six months, I was doing it again last Wednesday. I was singing the first words to the song "I'm Back in the Saddle Again." I was singing while driving "Goldie," my '86 Toyota 4Runner, back home after almost six months.
I had just left "Dr. Dale" Angell's shop at Crossroads and was returning home to transfer all my goodies back to Goldie from the "Little Mean Green Machine," a '98 Toyota Celica convertible.
In case you may have missed an earlier column, it was sometime back in June that the glass in the back door of Goldie was smashed into thousands of pieces. Wife Hazel had thought it was okay for her to shut the back door with me not knowing that it was in an up position.
But the glass is not supposed to go up when the tailgate part of the cargo department is open. On that day, the glass was up for the first time since I've owned it. The window was of the type glass that shatters when it's broken. And shatter it did!
So wife Hazel's grandson-in-law Patrick, who works for a glass company in Roanoke, brought the company truck to the house. Within minutes, he had all the tiny glass pieces vacuumed out of the cargo area. I was busy picking up all the pieces left in the driveway.
Patrick installed a large piece of clear, tough, sticky-on-one-side plastic across the window area. That plastic sealed the opening as well as the glass did. It was more than a month before I could find a replacement window.
Thanks to President Obama's "Cash for Clunkers" program, all the old 4Runners disappeared into the recycling yards across the country. A search of all the junk yards in the country turned up only two back windows that would fit Goldie. One was in California while the other was in Florida. Each had a price tag of $150 plus shipping.
One day Patrick's wife Jennifer decided to check Craig's List on the internet. Lo and behold, she found a glass for an '86 model in Colorado. Price plus shipping was $80, so she ordered it and had sent to Ferrum. Two days later it arrived and was stored in the couple's large shed behind their home.
Then summer arrived with all of its hot days and I elected to drive the little convertible, which had a great AC. Goldie's had stopped working so I was in no hurry to get the glass replaced.
Time passed and the back glass project was put on hold for awhile. When the chill in the air that arrives with fall rolled around I started thinking about getting the back glass replaced. After all, wife Hazel and I depend on always dependable Goldie to keep me going through the sleet, freezing rain and snow of winter..
Then on Aug. 30, wife Hazel had a stroke. Needless to say, the project took the back seat to her needs. After more than a week in Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital she was released for rehabilitation at Franklin Health Care.
After a little more than a month's stay there, she came home. It wasn't long before she had placed her walker and then later the cane in the basement. She was going up and down the basement stairs and was regaining her confidence at a rapid rate.
The next thing I knew, she was making short trips from the house to the Ferrum Minute Market and Dollar General, both within about a half mile of our home. Yes, things were going great at the Stephenson household.
However, it was not to be. On Nov. 10, while re-entering the door that goes into our kitchen, something happened and wife Hazel crashed onto the concrete carport, taking the full impact on her left side.
She broke her pelvis on the left side in two places in addition to fracturing her spine in two locations. So it was another trip to CRMH with the Ferrum Rescue Squad. After a four-day stay in the hospital came another transport trip to Franklin Health and Rehab.
A week ago Tuesday, I made arrangements with "Dr. Dale" for him to get the 4Runner and the glass from Jennifer. He had taken the cargo door of the 4Runner apart several times to replace switches that had gone bad.
He said he could replace the glass so arrangements were made. He called Wednesday to say he was discharging Goldie and she was ready to go home. It sure felt good looking through the rear view mirror and having a clear view of what was behind me.
It has taken me some time to get my mind changed over from driving a 5-speed instead of an automatic vehicle. Even now, I find myself stopping for a traffic signal and forgetting to push in on the clutch. It's only when Goldie starts jumping like a frog that I remember I'm not in the little car.
The Green Machine is small and has a short wheel base so it handles like a sports car. I have to pay attention to what I'm doing all the time while driving her. On the other hand, Goldie's steering wheel is above the dashboard when I drive while the one in the car is almost in my lap. There's as much difference as night and day between the two vehicles.
Of course, people I know are waving and blowing their horns when I drive Goldie. Those who know I don't pay any attention to other drivers they'll flash their headlights to get my attention. None of this went on when I was behind the wheel of the Green Machine.
Now I'm dealing with just one small problem with Goldie. When that problem is solved I'll be ready for the winter's approaching snows. I had forgotten that, just before the glass was broken, the window switch that operates the passenger side window suddenly stopped working. The top of the glass was stuck in a position even with the rain shield over the window.
I've discovered the shield keeps the rain out but it sure lets the cold air whistle through the vehicle. I hope another switch can be found on the Switch Doctor website where I was able to find the last one I needed.
Until that happens, I've got to come up with a solution on how to keep out the snow. Maybe a small strip of plastic held in place by tape will do the job until a switch arrives. So Goldie will have to make another trip to Dr. Dale's. I'm thinking about asking this fine young mechanic if he's be interested in adopting Goldie. Or I could make him Goldie's godfather of sorts.
All I can add is I'm glad to be writing a column again about my favorite transportation. I also hope I can spend another six months without having something negative to report.
After all Goldie and I have been through over all these years, I'm sure not going to write anything that will hurt her feelings and have her mad at me. This is especially true when we're bound to be getting some snow in the near future. With her small 4-cylinder engine, she only has enough power in the snow to keep me out of trouble.
ROAD KILL - Folks gathering for breakfast at their favorite fast food restaurant talk about the darnedest things. For some reason, high on the conversation is the topic of the increase in the number of "road kills" seen along the highways since late summer.
Perhaps the most infamous road kill of them all is the stupid, slow-moving possum, an occasional night visitor to my bird feeders. I've heard some folks say the animal is a tasty meal. As for me, I'll never find out. I don't even like looking at one so one will never appear on my kitchen table!
Also, it's been all over even the national news about the oak trees not producing acorns this fall. As a result, deer will be coming out of the woods in search of food, predictors say. And they are even saying many squirrels and deer will starve to death this winter due to lack of food.
That could be the reason for all the dead deer I've already spotted along the highways. But even before the acorn news became a hot story I had been seeing a lot of squirrels who weren't successful in crossing the road.
Squirrels have to be the world's worst in not being able to make up their minds which direction to take when starting to cross a road. A squirrel will get halfway onto the road and then change directions three or four times before darting to safety.
I give them a better chance by braking if one keeps changing directions in front of me. Of course, I always check my rear view mirror to make sure I won't be rear-ended. I've come close to running over one, but I've never heard that dreadful thump under a tire.
Since I feed the birds and squirrels around my house I have a soft spot in my heart for those little creatures. I have as many as 12 or more who visit twice daily for free food.
I lost one in my population recently. I was heading to the house when I saw something sticking up in the road. As I drew closer, I realized it was the tail of a squirrel that had been flattened by a car tire. It was a gross sight. Of course, I had to stop and get the remains out of the road and over an embankment. My pet graveyard behind the house is nearly full, so I can't start burying the not-so-lucky wild creatures.
It will remain to be seen how many deer are killed along our county's highways during the winter. From what I'm hearing, local hunters are having great success this year. Some folks have reported as many as two or three kills already and their freezers are full of deer meat. I, for one, enjoy a good deer steak if it's properly prepared.
THANKSGIVING - On a closing note, I hope everyone enjoyed Turkey Day, which I spent with wife Hazel at the rehab center. By the way, she walked 20 yards for the very first time on Friday after Thanksgiving and followed that with a 25-yard "performance" the next day. Her goal is to be home for Christmas!
I couldn't help but notice the "big box" stores and those not so big got an early start on Black Friday by having giant sales starting at 8 or 9 on Thursday night. I never thought I'd see that happen. But have you noticed the day after Halloween, Christmas candy fills the shelves.
I guess the next move is for doors to be opening for pre-Christmas specials earlier on Thanksgiving Day, eventually moving the time to 6 a.m. It may not happen in my day but I'd almost go out on a limb and predict that the Black Friday types of Christmas sales will eventually be moved ahead to start the morning after Halloween night. That would be nothing less than bad.