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Smokey and the Bandit

If you’ve never seen the movie that serves as the title for this post you need to drop whatever you’re doing and buy, rent or stream it. It is a classic car and truck movie. But there’s one specific car in that movie that inspired plenty of petrol heads to new heights of love and adoration. The Pontiac Trans Am. She’s a sleek muscle car that, with help from the movie, just looks really cool. The reason I bring up the beloved movie and car is that today I ran into an old friend from my past.

Growing up I loved cars. I loved to sit in them, pretend to drive them and have adventures in them. You can ask my uncles and aunts. I would idolize the cars. They weren’t much to look at, if I’m honest, but when you’re a small child visiting family in Montana on a ranch – every single car, truck, and piece of farm equipment is something to worship and play around. I loved cars. I grew up but still found myself attached to certain cars. One was a truck. It was a 1970(ish) green Ford pickup. And it was beat to hell. My Grandpa Otto used it to transport the trash to the dump outside town every week or so. It was a manual and it coughed and rumbled when it started – eliciting a rush of nervous excitement in my bones. The seat was a bench of worn and torn cloth. There was a smell to the truck. There’s unique smells in our lifetime and the air of that truck cab felt like as if it had been worn over so many times but still refused to give up its hard working identity. No matter how hard you tried the light odor of seasoned oil, gas and sweet sweat would never be scrubbed away. It’s a smell I haven’t experienced since Otto died in 2012 at 98 years old. Until today.

My friend Mr. Hale picked me up today and I had to stop as we walked to his truck. I did a double take. It was a green Ford truck. It was nearly the same truck, only this one is cared deeply and maintained in top condition by Hale’s father. As I opened the door my nose picked up that familiar scent. And the sound. My goodness. The guttural groan as the engine clears its throat upon starting brought a goofy smile to my face. As I sat on the bench seating I felt nostalgia washing over me. Mr. Hale pushes the pedal and the aging yet spry engine rumbles with thunder and I’m back in a small town ten miles from the Canadian border.

I could tell you about the reunions we as a family shared through the warm summer Montana days and the bitter blizzard weeks. I could talk about my grandmother’s love of her grandchildren. I could share with you the laughter we shared over games of Spoons, Hearts and Gin Rummy. I could relate to you the image of my grandfather, smoking his pipe and sitting back in his Lazy-Boy. The beauty of writing is that the happenstance encounter with a ghost from my past today has brought forth a deck of options as a writer. I have stories of cousins jumping on horses to ride bareback. I could paint you a picture of our canoe trip that featured terrifying lightening storms and never ending collections of unforgettable sunsets.

Writing is one of the greatest things we can teach. Today I learned that it doesn’t take much to inspire a thought that can trigger avalanche of ideas, memories and moments to put to paper. You can be assured I’ll be using this example within my future classrooms as a example of how we can find our subjects, plots and even characters in the world around us and behind us.

And yes, I now desperately want a green Ford truck.

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