In the frigid winters of adolescent memories I arrived at the high school entrance before daylight in alternating pale green Chevrolets for M-W-F and T-Th. Our dads took turns driving Janice and me. My dad drove a 1954 Chevy automatic. Her dad drove a 1951 three-speed on the column with a windshield visor. A dad would start the car to warm it up at least fifteen minutes before we were to leave. Often, the batteries were plugged in overnight, or they wouldn't have started at all. Both trunks held a snowshovel, a container of sand, jumper cables, and a blanket. The '51 had chains on the tires. The '54 had snowtires. The '54 had an AM radio, but I'm not sure about the '51. Having lived in Texas for fifteen years, I finally quit keeping sand and a shovel in the trunk. The jumper cables are still there, but that's because I have sons. Those sons acquired the sort of cars that needed jumping many times.

When I was teaching preschool classes at the local rec center I was stunned when kids would "play hospital". They would slap "the patient" on the chest with a toy frypan, and yell, "Clear!" I always want to yell, "Clear!" when I use jumper cables. The preschoolers caused my confusion about defrybulators and defibrillators. The kids would also play "Lamaze" and coach each other about breathing and pushing. Then Mr. Potato Head would birth a mini-Potato Head from his rear storage pod bay door. The preschoolers took this in stride, but I was traumatized.

Janice and I have been reminiscing about practice driving with our dads. She wrote, "...I tried to turn the steering wheel (with no power steering) ... This was, of course, after I had killed it a couple times getting to the corner to turn. " Ah, yes. Killing the car. A common experience learning to drive!

When I was teaching my oldest to drive my stick shift minivan up at his high school parking lot, he killed it many, many times. Alas, this is Bush Country. We can carry concealed, but we can't fess up to "killing the car," or "killing the engine". The car "dies". The engine "dies". No one takes verbal responsibility for these inconvenient and unfortunate automotive murders perpetrated by stupidity or inexperience. No one is accountable. I've been laughed at many times in Oklahoma and Texas for using the expression, "I killed the car".

In Nebraska we own up to our transgressions. If the banana barf-yellow rusty 1970 Chevy Nova dies at the corner of 27th and Holdrege everyday on the way home from work due to a mechanical problem that requires opening the hood, unscrewing the butterfly wing nut, and poking a screwdriver into the air intake valve while being honked at by unsympathetic motorists, (not to mention trying not to get your muffler* stuck in the engine causing driver demise by strangulation), we say that the "car died". By contrast, if we have done some really dumb driver move, we admit we "killed the car".

*In this example, "muffler" means a long knit or crocheted scarf worn around the collar of a winter coat. It has nothing to do with Midas. I don't know if it is called a "muffler" down here, because you can almost get through January without even wearing a coat!

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