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Old Copper loses her guts, not her glory

June 08, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

Editor's Note: Tim Rowland is on vacation. This column was first published on May 5, 2001. Old Copper has since, um, been replaced.

You might be surprised by the number of inquiries I receive about that slick, well-oiled machine of mine known as Old Copper, the Ford pickup built in the year of our nation's bicentennial that has been my trusted (somewhat) friend and companion over these past two years.

To bring you up to date, the latest episode began (wavy dream sequence) a couple of weeks ago when my boss, Bob Maginnis, mentioned he was having a chestnut cut out of his yard and asked me if I wanted the wood.

"Wood I!" I exclaimed.

"Why yes," I said. "I do believe that is a scenario with which I should be greatly pleased."

So he brought in a load of timber that, if whittled, could have been neatly turned into 425 million chess sets. He eyed the bed of Old Copper dubiously and - seeing the rust voids winking up from beneath the straw and pine needles - suggested maybe he ought to just haul it up to my place himself. I was highly indignant at this assault on Old Copper's copperhood.

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For what good is a truck if one doesn't haul stuff in it? He relented and let me pile on about three-quarters of the load - better than a thousand pounds, I reckoned. With an exultation of blue smoke we roared out of the parking lot. Well, we roared at least; there's no gain saying that. Out of the parking lot was a longer story. Most of the clutch lay panting on the ground and two or three of the mill's cylinders must have suddenly remembered other, more pressing, appointments.

Fatigued, but still standing, we made it to the interstate. At this point, I noticed that while we were rolling west, a cold front was in the process of rolling east, complete with 40 mph winds and driving rain. Old Copper was already swaying drunkenly under her burden and further obstacles she didn't need. To complicate things, about this time the right windshield wiper fell off.

Luckily the driver's-side wiper wasn't contaminated with the leprosy, so the expedition continued. I must say, the big old Ford rallied like a champion. Her engine took on a new, more serious tone. It could have been that she was just out of oil, but I didn't notice that 'til way, way later. So we delivered the load and set off on mission two: hauling a lawn mower back to tidy up a friend's yard in Halfway.

Compared with the wood, this was nothing, but some poison must have remained in her blood, for driving down Virginia Avenue I heard a noise that sounded like a small chunk of metal disengaging itself from the rolling hulk and landing on the pavement. That happens all the time, so I paid it no mind.

Then a larger sound came, like a larger hunk of metal excusing itself from the transportation. At this time I happened to glance in the side mirror, where I couldn't help but notice - I swear I am not kidding - the round disk that covers the air filter was rolling right along beside the truck, just as neat as a hoopsnake.

My keen mechanic's mind told me I ought to stop, which I did, and retrieved the prodigal auto part. I hoisted the hood. I saw it instantly.

"Oh yes, there it is," I said to myself. "A motor."

Being in Halfway, I collected the metallic evidence and hustled into AutoZone, a place as foreign to me as cappuccino to a cowpoke and I tried to explain the situation. I wish I had taken note of the fellow's name who waited on me, for I would buy him lunch. I said, basically, "Pickup. Old. Air filter go bye-bye."

And I'll be darned, in a flash he had the necessary part. The only problem was that this part contained the word "kit." I don't like products that contain the word "kit." I like products that contain the words "Everything done for you; will jump in truck engine compartment on its own." He reassured me. "Just screw this in to the carburetor. It should fit."

And it did. I fixed the truck.

I know. I'm scared, too.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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