Today was all rusty and sweaty and full of (luckily, not too many) deer flies and one magnificent wild strawberry.
Yes indeedy, I love me a vintage junkyard.
Or, scrapyard, as Practical Man calls it.
If you are like him and call a junkyard a scrapyard, be sure to convey the word with all the enthusiasm that Practical Man uses when he utters it. My usually reserved, strong-silent type guy can barely contain his glee when it comes to scrapyards. With those mere two syllables, he manages to morph into someone who looks and sounds exactly like a 7 year-old boy on Christmas Eve.
In other words, he kind of resembles…well, ME.
Minus a little of the tra-la-la. But only just.
Not that I mind his enthusiasm for the world of auto wreckers. I am a big fan of old-school scrapyards myself.
Y’know, like most women in their middle of ages.
Well, maybe not.
Anyhoo, ever since my favourite junkyard, Minakers, closed for business, I have been somewhat bereft. Bereft of real-for-true, old-school junkyards, that is.
Minakers was even better than a regular junkyard because it had been around a long, long time and was chock-a-block with antique cars. Wanderers there were hard pressed to find anything newer than about 1970.
It was scrapyard nirvana.
There were 1940s bread vans with trees growing through the engines. Sedan deliveries and original Beetles and ’30s gangster cars with swoopy running boards. I spent most of my time there running around, stumbling over thing-a-ma-bobs from 1953 and squealing, from one wreck to the next.
What? You’ve never heard a grown woman squeal in a junk yard before?
Maybe that’s because you’ve only ever darkened the doors of a modern-day junkyard. You know the kind (or maybe you don’t, in which case I’m here to help): there is no “wandering” amid the wreckage. You have to know what you want before you go in! Then, they go and FETCH IT FOR YOU.
Junkyard Joy Stealers: that’s what they are. They rob you of every little bit of the tripping and squinting and dreaming and squealing.
There is no squealing in a modern-day junkyard. Only safety vests and liability clauses and steel-toed boots.
And, people who call you “ma’am”.
It’s tragic, really.
But, we spotted what looked like an old-school, rural junkyard on a recent trip and today was the day to go and explore. Our vintage Boler travel trailer could use a few bits and bobs and we have a derelict boat that needs a windscreen and who knows what other treasures we might find?
Yes indeedy, I love the smell of broken safety glass and grease in the mornings.
First, I put on my lucky socks. It’s very important to have lucky socks on when you are wandering and tripping and squinting and squealing.
Also, some hole-y, derelict, work boots circa 1991, which I still happen to have for occasions such as this.
When we got there–to my very own version of Canada’s Wonderland–I said hello to my first love at the gate:
After I bid my first love a tearful goodbye, we went in. We were armed with bug juice, hats, water (not nearly enough for a junkyard extravaganza, it turned out), a gigantic toolbox and an additional bag of tools (and some socket sets and a first aid kit that we left in the car “just in case”.)
I was with Practical Man, after all. Who needs safety vests and liability clauses when I have him?
Soon enough, I found my second love:
Soooo pretty, pretty.
And then, my third love:
How can my second love compete with my third love? Third love is really a Colin Firth kind of truck and you know you don’t find those trucks every old day of the week. I think our vintage Boler travel trailer really needs a vintage truck companion, don’t you? A Colin Firth kind of vintage truck companion (I hope I’m not getting above myself).
Then, there was a very exciting PILE. You have to have a heart of stone, not to love a junkyard PILE.
We were looking for trailers so that we could source a screen door (to re-make into a teeny, tiny Boler-sized screen door) and maybe even some outside cubby doors. There were lots and lots of cars. There were only a few trailers and they were scattered far and wide through the junkyard.
All the better to ensure the tripping and wandering and dreaming and squealing.
There were fallen-down trees (this junkyard was kind of in a forest) and tall grass (all the better to hide lyme-disease carrying ticks in) and lots and lots of poison ivy.
But, there were also beautiful sparkles of broken safety glass:
And lace-like patterns shining in the sun:
There were old soul vehicles: the ones that rest quietly among the trees and grass, like silent guardians over a sacred place.
We finally settled on our donor vehicles and got to work. Practical Man’s modern-day tools made short work of the harvesting of parts in this old-timey junkyard. No aching wrists from manually unscrewing scores of rusted hardware. Just a few short bursts from the cordless drill and we were victorious: two cubby doors and an RV screen door for our Boler!
And in this place where beauty and ruin are best of friends, I found the unlikeliest of treasures:
One succulent explosion of summertime flavour.
It’s strawberry season at the scrapyard.
I am not brave.
In fact, I’m fairly sure I can easily be classified as a bonafide ‘fraidy cat.
Cows scare me (all that eye rolling surely leads to stampeding or something ominous with their big teeth.)
Revolving doors give me pause (I do quite enough spinning on my own, thankyouverymuch.)
Even the letter “X” can cause a shiver (seems a bit pointy, at times.)
Like I said, I am not brave. And I’m a diagnosed swoony, fainty type, so really, I should have been born last century or in a Jane Austen novel.
It’s as if I’m of another era, so maybe that’s why I find myself loving and buying antique vehicles.
They’re not easy or economical or practical (kind of like me). But Practical Man loves me and I love them, so he overlooks these points. Not to mention, spends hours and months fixing and maintaining them.
Meanwhile, I’m twirling, making flowery seat covers, and taking pictures of the cute-shaped hunks of metal (Beetle, Fiat) or fiberglass (Boler). Tra-la-la!
Because, that’s what antique vehicles are for, right?
I used to have a 1973 Beetle.
It didn’t look scary with its chubby shape and cheery yellow and white paint, but it terrified me at first.
You see, the rule is, if you’re a swoony, fainty type: you can’t drive.
Probably a good rule.
But, I had finally got effective treatment and was allowed, after 15+ years, to get my driver’s license back. I had to take my final driver’s test and parallel park and blah, blah, blah to get my full license but I am good at tests, so fairly shortly thereafter, we bought the Beetle. But, my time behind the wheel of any car, let alone one with old car idiosyncrasies, had been very limited.
I remember driving the Beetle back to our house from where we purchased it (about 2.5 scary hours away). My hands were sweaty, I found myself grinding the gears and shouting things into the wind out the sunroof (bad words don’t count if you shout them into the wind–or in German). Practical Man drove behind me in the chase car, seemingly unfazed by my driving or bad, German words. Meanwhile, I was having 17 heart attacks, especially when I accidentally ended up on the Big Fat Scary Speedy Highway.
I screamed the whole time I was trying to merge on to the highway with my 1600 cc engine (and basket of old/new driver insecurities).
Fast forward 10 years and here I am again, nauseated, sweating and in full ‘fraidy cat mode.
The classic Fiat500 is soooo very cute.
But, it makes a very, very expensive lawn ornament. And, I don’t yet have my glassed-wall garage where I can admire the vehicles from the comfort of our living room.
Hence, the little Fiat must be driven.
Practical Man has been wrestling with the engine on it for a while now. It got new stuff added by a mechanic and came back broken but, Practical Man used his superior problem solving skills and stick-toitiveness and problem solved and stuck to it until he got it working.
But, it was a false alarm until he used more of his superior problem solving skills and stick-tuitiveness (and possibly some Seafoam in the engine) and now, yes, it is really working.
Except…that means, ahem, I actually have to drive it.
Not just sew it fun seat covers and stuff to hang from the rear view mirror.
I went out this afternoon on a solo mission. If that makes me sounds like an astronaut, it’s because I felt like one.
You see, it’s an old and very simple little car. (Not unlike its owner, actually.)
There is no glove compartment or radio or even a gas gauge.
Hedgehug has a very tiny engine (only 2 cylinders), standard transmission (with no synchromeshing so, you need to double-clutch between each gear when you shift), a manual starter lever, a manual choke, and a 1970 gearbox.
Today, I stuck to the country roads and took deep breaths and tried to calm the rapid, fluttery sensation around my heart. I said nothing in German, but , there was some gear grinding and one stall, as Hedgehug and I tried to learn how to get along with each other.
There will be quite a few more of these days before I am brave enough to grind gears and stall it in the city. Then, it will be October and time to put it away for the winter. And come next May and Old Car Goes On The Road for the Summer Day, I’ll have to be brave all over again.
Honestly, it’s enough to make me faint.
Luckily, I take medication for that now.
They say you never forget your first love.
Mine was a yellow and white 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle.
Practical Man found the Bug for me online and thought we should buy it. I had finally been successfully treated for a fainting disorder that had plagued me (and my driver’s license) for 15 long years. No more keeling over, it seemed. So, I could finally drive again.
It was time, Practical Man said.
I protested a bit. It was a luxury…not a necessity. And by the way, I said (hands on hips, as that is how I pretend I am momentarily practical), a classic VW Beetle definitely isn’t practical: no heat for Canadian winters, only usable half the year (or less), liable to rust out from under us, blah, blah, blah. It wasn’t remotely “utilitarian” (one of Practical Man’s necessities in a vehicle) and it definitely couldn’t carry a sheet of plywood in the back (that’s one of Practical Man’s tests to measure those flashy, practical-wannabe vehicles that act like they’re oh-so utilitarian but hah! can’t even carry a sheet of plywood in the back).
Despite its exuberant hue and uselessness at Home Depot, Practical Man insisted the Bug was meant to be mine. After all, he said, classic Beetles were among my favourite cars, daisies were my favourite flower and this BEETLE was yellow and white, LIKE A DAISY.
Then, he used the eyebrows on me.
I can’t resist the eyebrows.
You have to trust me: these are magic eyebrows.
So, we bought the non-practical Beetle and I loved it with all my heart for nine summers. I rejoiced every Spring on the first day of driving and I pouted a bit every fall, when it went away for the winter. I drove it to work every day and I never, ever took for granted a single moment of not just–finally, finally having my driver’s license back but, also, also–driving that car that made me and everyone around us smile.
Then, there was a fire in the winter storage building and what remained of the Beetle went off to be re-born as (hopefully) a Mini Cooper S…or something else fun. Hey, that car did good deeds. It didn’t deserve to morph into something that carries plywood.
Now, there is a new (old) car in town. A 1970 Fiat 500. We were busy re-building after the fire and then, there was a winter with higher snowbanks than two classic Fiats stacked on top of each other, and then some work to get it road-worthy, so tomorrow will be the Fiat’s first day being back on the road.
It’s tiny, tiny, oh-so-tiny. Here it is, next to our (new) Fiat 500, which is a small (new) car but looks pretty large compared to the (old) original:
It also looks diminutive next to its classic car counterparts. So small, in fact, that it has an exterior luggage rack. Yes, that’s because you can’t even fit luggage in the back, let alone a sheet of plywood.
Not utilitarian in the least.
But, that Practical Man seems to have a broad definition of practical.
As in, if it makes my sweetheart full of tra-la-la, then it’s practical.
(Excuse me while I sniffle a little.)
So, the classic Fiat is here to stay. It has a choke, a starter, no gas gauge or synchromeshing between gears, not even a radio. It’s not utilitarian or sensible or large.
But, I have a feeling that, like my Beetle, this little Fiat will also hold a very large place in my heart.
Kind of like Practical Man.
I can’t wait to get to know you better.
One more confirmation this week and with that post title:
Yes, indeedy, I am one of those strange, childless people.
Case in point: it’s October in southern Canada. The leaves have tarnished to beautiful shades of russet, scarlet, sunflower and indigo and the darkness has started descending before 7:00 pm. That’s right around the time my body starts poking me with messages of “why aren’t we in bed? It’s dark! Darkness means we should be in bed!”
My body is rather bossy when it comes to sleep. October also means that the time for hot summer nights with the sunroof open and the music loud, having my summer romance with my car is over, over, over.
Our vintage Fiat 500 has to snore away the winter in a cozy building (luckily, it only takes a tiny, tiny corner). No more waking up in the morning to open my eyes and admire the inside of our pudgy Boler travel trailer, resplendent in its vintage loveliness.
No air conditioning, tiny bed, avocado green appliances. A world of retro goodness all wrapped up in an adorable fibreglass shell. Love it, love it. This summer has been busy, what with re-building after the fire last November and the giant mole that’s been digging holes all across our lawn.
At least, I think it’s a giant mole.
It looks a lot like Practical Man grinning, atop a borrowed Kubota tractor, as he digs a ditch for a new power cable to the shop building.
All too soon, it will be winter. My vintage babies will be stowed away in their buildings, like hibernating bear cubs.
I picture them snoring which is perhaps unlikely, but so cute.
There they snore and sleep and sigh the winter away, cozy and warm. But, not as accessible to my every whim of affection.
The season of separation has barely begun but already I need to visit them, way across the yard, near the forest and all the nature.
And, possibly a man-eating cow.
I make the treacherous journey and then, I sit in them. I talk to them. I giggle a lot.
In the Boler, I dance and lounge on the couch and sometimes pretend I am Laurie Partridge from The Partridge Family.
Shoop, shoop. Sometimes, Zzzzzz, Zzzzz, if it’s nearly dark and my bossy body is insisting I should be in bed.
In the Fiat, I review double clutching (and sweat a bit about my first attempts at this next summer) and caress the steering wheel a little.
Okay, there might be some kissing involved.
But just on the door.
And the roof.
Strictly first base stuff.
I l-o-o-o-ve my vintage babies. I love real babies too. But, weird and childless as I am, I have noticed that vintage babies don’t grow up, leaving me in their newly-sophisticated dust. Vintage babies stay cute and portly, forever.
Even when they look slightly nose-y when shot at an angle that does not elevate their best features.
Zzzzzzzzzzz. Can’t wait for Spring.