When I turned sixteen, my parents bought me a 1997 Ford Taurus. It was teal on the outside, grey cloth on the inside.

It was not, I repeat, NOT a good way to pick up chicks.

Once, because we could not borrow my friend’s dad’s pickup, we tried (and failed) to strap a canoe to the hood of the Taurus using some tie-downs. Apparently Abram Carman’s skinny arms couldn’t hold his side of the canoe! The result was a perfectly round indentation that was the exact opposite of John Lithgow’s 1970 Ford LTD Country Squire from one of my favorite movies growing up, "Harry and the Hendersons." For those less film-savvy, or at least use their brain power on more practical memories, Harry - a bigfoot - cannot fit into the vehicle. Thus, when he sits up straight, he pops the roof out a few inches. Yes, you do need the visual for proper context, but work with me here.

My sister and I had everything we needed growing up; don’t get me wrong. The car was affordable, but my parents were obviously nonplussed about my choice to jerry-rig my mode of freedom-granting transportation. It was freeing for them too to not have to run me all over the place.

Another time, with the same canoeing cohort, we were returning from a fishing excursion to Schaefer Lake… not Lake Shafer which would be a better use of the word. The reason we were calling it quits and heading home was because it began raining. Also, per context of this tale, we had driven separately. Driving behind Abe, I watched as he took a ninety-degree turn like a professional stunt driver. The wetness of the road aided in his maneuvering, I think. He had the nicer ride, late ‘90s Grand Am, which I might note had a button for traction control. You can guess how often that sucker got used.

The mentality of a sixteen-year-old boy with a freshly-attained license, and a fear of nothing is not to be underestimated. Not to be bested, I planned out how I would outdo his feat, thus starting an automotive game of H-O-R-S-E.

I did not win.

As I approached the hard left turn, a smile slowly formed on my then handsome and hairless mug. Whatever I thought I was going to pull never happened and I skyrocketed in a cornfield. (Are there any other kinds in Indiana, really?) My bald tires never gained an iota of traction. By the grace of God, I somehow got back onto the road and regained control. Equally as startling was the fact that my buddy’s car was stopped a little ways up the road. His door was open and he was not in sight. I thought, perhaps, he head ran through the field to my assistance, but I was wrong. His punk self was on the ground, laughing… uncontrollably. He needed more room… to laugh. Shameful.

Apparently, right after he had gone through the turn, he - knowing exactly what I’d do - looked in his rearview mirror just in time to see me jettison from left to right across the surface like a failed Evel Knievel. I suppose I would have had the same reaction.

I cannot remember what precise, beautifully laced together profanity flew from my gob during that brief ten seconds that felt even longer, but everytime my friend recalls that story, he doubles over picturing that particular antic. There are many more, but for another time. Wish I would have known what my air time was though….

After a hosing down to clean off the mud, some double-handed effort to remove a cornstalk or two from my grill, my ride was back to its former glory. Well, maybe former glory isn’t accurate if you had no glory to claim in the first place, but you get the idea. Regardless, it was not enough to get my parents to notice, which was what I was really worried about.

Those were really the last bonehead moves that I made in vehicles, at least those ending in near injury or jail time. Since then I have had two Jeeps and am currently driving a 1999 Mercury Grand Marquis, which just saw 200,000 miles on the odometer! Shortly before that, I had just gotten back on the road thanks to the automotive help of my dear friend Luke Manley who accepts good conversation and great grub as a form of payment. When your vehicle options are as ‘phistocated (as my Mamaw says) as mine, you learn to take care of them and make what you have work.

I love that old car, partially because of how well it rides but mainly because it was a hand-me-down from my grandfather, Don Harris. He sold it to me for a steal; the dealer wasn’t going to give him much so he made the same offer to me.

He has always been there for me when it comes to cars, whether it means changing oil, swapping pads and rotors, replacing spark plugs, or helping afford parts. You name it, he has fixed it over the years. I am truly blessed to have those kinds of people in my life. The ones who would stop whatever they’re doing, unless IU is on tv which is totally acceptable, drive over, and help ya out. In my experience, people need more of that in their life.

I see that need in my students who, when given two minutes to unload something they’ve been dealing with, instantly change their attitudes just by someone listening. I hear it on television where the ratio of tragedy to that of uplifting narrative often leans the wrong way, but at least some days it’s balanced. I feel it in my little boy who sometimes just needs a hug and some quality daddy time.

Everyone needs a set of ears in which they can confide. If it’s not the Lord, it should be a spouse or a close friend. If those options are currently not in good standing, mend a bridge and figure it out. No one is expected to go through this life on his own.