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.

Pigpen 240



Two years ago, I couldn’t wait to replace Pigpen, our 2002 Toyota Hylander. In the fall of 2013, I was thrilled when we bought Flash, a nearly-new GMC Acadia.

And while I continue to bask in the Acadia’s still-new glow, I rarely drive it. In an effort to preserve Flash’s pristinery (not a word, but it should be), I pilot the rolling dumpster on a daily basis.

And with all those hours behind the wheel, my revulsion for Pigpen has been replaced with affection. Pigpen is a filth magnet; he is missing a backdoor handle; and the back hatch regularly crushes my head when I’m loading bags of groceries. But concussions aside, I appreciate Pigpen. We’ve bonded after logging so much time together.

Last month the odometer rolled over to 240,000 miles, and that got me thinking: Can Pigpen soldier on to 300,000 miles? How far can this car go?

According to Carfax and autotrader.com, plenty of vehicles are roadworthy beyond the 350,000 mile mark (most of these veterans are Hondas and Toyotas.)

missing handle

Pigpen continues to shed parts — screws and handles — most recently, the sun visor dropped precipitously and hangs at a jaunty angle. We don’t foster Pigpen’s health; tune-ups are few and far between. And the interior is perennially ankle-deep in trash. My softball equipment is rolling around in the backseat, though my last game was back in August.

But I hope that Pigpen is roadworthy 60,000 miles from now. The rolling dumpster would be a perfect match for a first-time driver. And Cayden gets his license in six short years.

Hang in there, Pigpen!

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…