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Old Copper has its own travel plans

June 18, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

Editor's Note: Tim Rowland is on vacation. While he's away, favorite columns from the past will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays in The Morning Herald. This column first ran on Nov. 29, 2001.

This past weekend, I happened to remember that after a long dry spell, oil rises to the top of the road and becomes very slick when at last it does rain.

I remembered this as I was sliding along through the Halfway Boulevard/Virginia Avenue intersection in Old Copper, the mighty Ford that will host its own 30th anniversary celebration in the year 2006.

Turns are a challenging enterprise for the pickup under ideal conditions. There's no power steering and the wheel logs a full eight rotations from side to side. The only time it really seems as if it wants to turn is when I am trying to go straight, and then it will pull to one side or the other like a leashed terrier after a squirrel.

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On Saturday, I had the wheel yanked as far to the right as she'd go, but Old Copper, mindless of the mechanical instruction, just kept plowing straight ahead.

If I ever switch to these newfangled tires that have an innovation called "tread" on them, it might help. It might not. I don't know.

I've learned to be patient with the truck, so I optimistically kept the steering wheel pegged to the right as Old Copper, lost in thought, continued on in its forward pursuit.

Sure enough, like a husband that's been elbowed awake in church, the vehicle jolted to attention and ripped 90 degrees to the starboard just in time to miss the minivan sitting at the red light whose driver had been watching the proceedings with considerable interest.

Wherever she is today, I'm sure she is now a believer (when I show up at places like Home Depot or Ted's Rent-It Center, it's interesting how many people voice surprise that Old Copper actually exists). Apparently, many people believed it was only a figment of a deranged mind, although I can't understand why.

The truck has actually been running along quite well lately, which worries me to no end. When it runs smoothly, I'm always afraid it's distracted by trying to think up some knew roadside atrocity to try out on me. Like running out of gas when the gauge is on F. Or shedding the rubber on the windshield wipers during a thunderstorm. Or allowing both doors to fly open at exactly the same time when I put on the brakes.

Or this, my favorite: As I was driving down Virginia Avenue, I happened to glance out the window where I couldn't help but notice that the air filter was rolling down the middle of the road alongside the truck, keeping perfect pace.

But now, things of a different nature have been occurring. This weekend, the dome light was on as I was driving home. This would normally not be a big deal, except that the dome light has never worked before. Then, the rear turn signals started to work WHEN the turn signal lever was engaged - as opposed to their past behavior in which they basically didn't work at all but would very occasionally begin to flash randomly for no apparent reason.

True, the front blinkers still don't work. But, hey, one step at a time.

I mentioned the motor has been running with uncommon spirit and I haven't had to add a gallon of oil in weeks. And the steering column has stopped its metal-on-metal rasping noises.

None of the above would have caused me any particular concern, had I not at one time read the Stephen King book "Christine." It's about an old, decrepit Plymouth that regenerates itself under the influence of an evil spirit and starts running people down.

Old Copper really strikes me more as the mischievous prankster type than the evil homicidal type. Unless, by its failure to negotiate the turn last weekend, it was trying to tell me something.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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