Pigpen’s Demise


Fear not, our car Pigpen is not dead yet.

But we have a do-not-resuscitate order, and the end is approaching.

This summer, when the exhaust system started rumbling and the main control panel failed (disabling every operable knob except the radio), we had Pigpen triaged.

The findings weren’t good. If Pigpen were human, he’d be on hospice care. Repairs exceeded the car’s value, but the auto guy shrugged and said, “It is drivable. It’s not like it’s going to explode or anything.”

That’s when I decided to drive Pigpen to the bitter end.

And this is a horrible image — especially egregious from a horse owner — but I liken Pigpen’s impending doom to the carriage horse in the movie, Gone with the Wind.

Remember when Scarlett is desperate to reach her family’s plantation, Tara, and see if it survived the Union’s siege? Scarlett pushes this wretched horse to his breaking point. In a silhouetted scene, we see the poor animal give out; Scarlett flogs the horse until he collapses and dies.

That’s kinda how I picture Pigpen’s final moments: rattling down the road, until the car can’t manage another mile and slows to a silent stop.

Other times I imagine a Hollywood ending: we are cruising down the road when suddenly, the axle cracks, the wheels fly off, and the car vomits a flood of engine parts all over the pavement.

Then a tow truck driver scrapes up Pigpen’s remains with a giant spatula.

That’s my prognostication.

So why mention it today?

Because it was particularly chilly this morning. And when the kids piled in, I said, “Remember riding in Pigpen this summer without AC? Well, we’re facing a similar problem. There’s no heat.”

The solution seemed obvious: use our newer, functioning car. And I assumed that the kids were on board when Had announced, “I know what we can do!”

But instead she said, “Blankets! We’ll wrap ourselves in blankets!” There was no objection from the other two sitting back there.

“Okay,” I said, “We’ll be just like the Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. But in a car, not a carriage.”

That’s what I said, but personally, I couldn’t see myself bundled in blankets. And there’s something that the kids don’t know: one other button still functions in that pathetic car.

The driver’s seat warmer.

Of course a faintly-warm cushion is a paltry source of heat, but it’s fine for now.

And who knows if Pigpen will reach winter without self-destructing and spewing belts, hoses and gaskets all over the road.

We’ll just have to see.

Eating Crow



In keeping with our family’s long-standing belief that “everything’s a competition,” I like to tout the title of best driver. I’m the fastest (though I prefer the term efficient). And I log many more miles than Martin and still, maintain an untarnished record.

Sure, I’ve amassed some speed camera tickets. And yes, I’ve been pulled over 7 times in 5 years, compared to Martin’s twice.  But he’s the one with the tickets and points. My record? Squeaky clean.

In the words of Charlie Sheen… Winning!!



But it’s hard to claim you’re winning when your car looks like this:



Behold, Pigpen.

Last Wednesday morning, whilst driving at the posted speed limit, one of our many up-county deer leapt from the thicket and attacked Pigpen. I spied the fleet beast a millisecond before — WHAM — we’d been broadsided.

The whole episode was bizarre, in part due to the road raging, knife-wielding driver also involved in the scene.

Here’s what happened: the buck jumped out and mangled Pigpen, then bounced into the opposing lane and hit another car. Then he lit off into the brush. It took about two seconds.

As I climbed out my window — the door too dented to open — the other driver emerged from her car, leaving her door agape. When a third driver in an unscathed vehicle muttered something as he squeezed by, the woman unleashed a volley of F-bombs at the passing car. F-you!! You F-ing F-er!! she screamed repeatedly. Finally, she grabbed a fistful of gravel and hurled it at the departing car. “I’m getting my knife,” she said, rooting through her backseat.

I just stood there, dazed. A knife? I wondered. Wasn’t the gravel enough?

But the knife wasn’t for the passing guy.

“Will you help me track down the deer?” she asked. “I want to slit its throat. I hate to see deer suffer.”

I sized up Pigpen’s injuries: well, the wheels are still attached….

“I gotta go,” I said, climbing awkwardly through the driver side window. (The Dukes of Hazzard made it look so easy.)

I called Martin on the way home. He expressed concern and sympathy, and met me at the auto shop. And afterward, he didn’t say anything, I just knew.

My “best driver” title was in jeopardy. That buck was the third deer I’ve hit in recent years.

And Postscript: while driving the kids’ friends home a few evenings later — as Hadley regaled them with my recent deer accident — at that very moment, I hit ANOTHER deer! That’s two deer in three days. (Flash was unscathed. The doe couldn’t say the same.)

So I can rail about the burgeoning deer population and the fact that I drive night and day, while Martin rarely averages a few miles. But there’s no denying: I’ve mangled more cars and it’s time to eat crow. Serve it up.

But perhaps it’s also time to consider deer prevention options. Apparently, those car-mounted, deer-repelling whistles are useless. So maybe an Aussie roo bar is the way to go…


The story of Flash



Last Thursday Martin got a new car.

Not new, but new to him.

My car is now his car.

He inherited the Toyota Highlander — complete with 210,000 miles, a bent axle, a broken door handle, and an interior completely defiled by children.

“Here you go,” I said, jangling the keys.

“Thanks,” Martin said flatly.

“Now you promise to take good care of it, right?”

“Just give me the keys,” he said, grabbing them and trudging across the parking lot.

“I’ll follow you home, okay?” I shouted from my new car.

My new car.

We’d talked for ages about replacing the Highlander, and more recently, when it acquired some four-digit repair bills.

Not to mention it’s falling apart. One window is broken, and a rear door handle has been pulled clean off.

missing handle

To open door, knock on window…and hope a kid answers.


Then there’s the trunk-door hatch: it likes to brain people in the wintertime. When it’s freezing cold, the hatch’s hydraulic arms lose tension.  So you open the trunk, begin to load/unload, and — without warning — the door slams down, delivering a concussive blow.

And speaking of the trunk, there’s that trunk troll issue: we don’t have any extra seating, so we stick additional adult passengers in the trunk.

Have I made my case? New car needed. We were looking for something 3 to 4 years old, less than 40,000 miles, and no minivan. We test-drove a few models and narrowed the pool of contenders.

And then one day I snapped.

Not just like that. There were cumulative factors, several bad days that led to snappage. But one particular afternoon the kids were acting like maniacs, the horse lost another shoe, the dog rolled in deer poop, Brynn was screeching her head off, and I was helping Cayden look for his homework — which he dropped somewhere in the grass. I was looking down, walking in circles… like a crazy person. Or like someone concussed by the Highlander’s trunk door.

In that moment of chaos, I glanced at my sweatshirt. My new sweatshirt — already a favorite. It was riddled with moth holes.

A moth turned my sweatshirt into swiss cheese. Now that was the moment of snappage.

Suddenly, a 4-year-old car with 40,000 miles wasn’t good enough. I wanted nearly-new and no economy model. I wanted a nice car, out-of-budget, with unnecessary accessories. Redundant running lights, wood trim, remote keyless entry, air conditioned seats. I needed that. My butt needed to be cool when I drove.

Martin didn’t know what to say about my luxury-vehicle lust. It didn’t fit my frugal track record.

He thought it was a phase and would pass. He thought that, until I asked for a ride to pick up my new car. (Which is a 2012 GMC Acadia, if anyone’s still reading.)

At the dealership, the guy tried to explain all the accessories and functions until Martin interrupted. “Just show her the gas and brake. That’s all she needs.”

On the way home, Martin and I talked over the phone from our respective vehicles. (And there’s another state law that I’m no longer violating. No trunk troll, and I talk on a hands-free device. Apparently, that’s been a law for three years.)

“It’s so nice,” I crowed to Martin, as we looped the beltway. “Where are you?” I asked. I was driving so cautiously, I’d lost sight of him.

“I’m up ahead,” he replied. “Can’t you see the cloud of dirt and dust? That me, driving Pigpen.”

And that’s how we named the Highlander, after 8 years. Pigpen.

As for the new car, Martin wanted to name it right away. “How about Shiny? It’s so shiny!”

“No,” I said. “It won’t be shiny once I hit the gravel drive.”

But it will be flashy, even with a coat of dust.

For the time being, Flash is still pristine. Because I don’t let kids near it. In fact, I don’t drive it. I’d like to drive it, but since I’m chauffeuring kids, I drive Pigpen.


But when the next snap moment comes, I’ll be in a better frame of mind.

I’ll be sitting in Flash. With the seat coolers on.



Chitty, Pigpen and Flash. Not pictured, Big Rig


(PS: I don’t mention Little Zippy, but he was blog-worthy 4 years ago. Click here for that post. Little Zip is still roadworthy. I saw him last year; he still bears the deer dent.)