It’s story time. Inspired by the Oppo Census question, “What made you become a gearhead?”

Illustration for article titled The Absolutely True Story Of Farmer Mac and THE ONE, or: How I Became A Gearhead

No, there are no communist paragraphs, this is stream of consciousness shit. Now, grab a beverage and pull up a chair...

“Write a novel you say? My hearing’s not so good since the war, but boy do I have a book for you, sonny. Well, it was back in the spring of 84, as I recall... I wasn’t but knee high to a grasshopper and there had just been a storm. And it was a doosy, I tell ya, Old man McClenahan’s barn had come down, and I caught wind on the playground that there was a somethin’ there amidst the dead cows and tractors and such. So sure enough I pedaled on down and through the rubble I seent a glint of deep brown paint. Well, I tell ya, boys will be boys and curiousity done got the best of me so I’ll be if I didn’t poke on in there despite there bein’ warnin’s all about the place and scarecrows and whatnot. It was about that time, as I weasled through the concertina wire and past the sleeping dogs and got closer you see, that I saw a headlight and a piece of trim, maybe a little script on the side. I couldn’t make it out, so I lifted a couple of boards off the thing and saw one badge, clear as day: “Cressida”. Went around the back, and sure ‘nuff, there it was again... “Cressida”. I’d never seen such a thing, such a majestic long roof. What a wagon she was. Well, as i was sayin’ there, curiousity and boys bein’ what they are I found the door unlocked! Wouldn’t you know it! So’s I cozy’d on into that lounge chair for a peek. I noticed one thing that looked a mite out of place amid all that brown and plastic, a piece of aluminum comin’ up right between the seats with a ball on top, had some numbers on it. Well, could it be? My old man, bless his heart, he told me of this, called it Manuel. I knew from those stories about Manuel that he always had 3 pedals and danced about ‘em, and so’s I looked down by meh feet and what do you think I saw? Man alive, I saw three pedals! Something else, those were, I didn’t know what to do seein’ as I only have but these two feet. It was about that time I notice a key in the ignition, had a chain on it, said “Cummins”. Now I might have been a boy but I seen this “Cummins” before, it was right there on the front of them farm trucks down the road, and this were no farm truck. So I gets back out of the “Cressida” there, and use my keen sense of lookin’ at stuff when I see another word, “Toyota”. Well, what in the name of Odin’s beard is this, I say? Lookin to me like this wagon’s a Toyoter Cressida, but that key there says “Cummins”, right there clear as day. Why is that? So, well, I said it before there, curiosity is one hell of a path to cat mortality, so I wheedled around under by the pedals there till I found a lever and pulled it. THPANG. Boy, dang, I tell you what I jumped about a country mile when that great big hood popped open. I thought my goose was cooked, ol’ Farmer McClenahan was comin for sure. Turns out it was just the farmer’s old Goose, Chet, who was livin under that hood there, but nobody came. So I make my way round the front there real stealth like, humming that song from that spy thing that boys do, and I lifted that hood. Took some effort, I tell you, that was some piece of steel there. Well, son, I’ll be a mountain oyster if that engine there didn’t say “Cummins” on it, clear as a bell. But it said somethin’ else too, that bein’ “Turbodiesel”. Well, damn a country breakfast all to the moon, hoss, I it’s a diesel! Now, never bein’ very good at math it took me a fair tick to put it together, but boy once them gears are a turnin’... Now I need to back up a spell... when I wasn’t but an anklebiter my grandpa set me on his knee there, overlooking them amber fields of wheat, maybe it was the pacific ocean, I can’t be sure, but he set me on his knee there and regaled me with a story. Said it had been passed down generations, fathers and sons, grandpas gone mad with obsession, seeking what he called THE ONE. And that’s how he said, all caps like that , THE ONE. Had a tear in his eye, he did, and he told me about this THE ONE. Was a long time ago, Malaise they called it, when these furrin jobbies would show up. Made a load of noise, like a Chevy small block with a rod knock but supposed to do that, you know, and they would run on farm gas and go real far. They had them Manuel sticks in the middle, and all them city slickers with beards and elbow pad tweed coats and such would buy ‘em to feel good about themselves, but this gave the good ol’ boys an idea. Why not take a big ol’ farm motor and put it in one of them cars then go drag racin’ them hippies? Well McClenahoo, he was no dummy, and he got one, he always called it Crester seein as his favorite uncle was named Chester, but he had this whomping monster truck Dodge that his favorite bull Dave done kicked right over one day, defecatin’ all over it and such, was a right mess. But the engine, it still ticked. Now this is where Mr. Cummins comes in. Well old farmer Mac took that Cummins and stuffed in that there brown Chester wagon he had, then took the gear part out of his brother’s old Mustang that was just sittin’ there after he’d lost it to Mac (that’s Clenahan for short) in a card game played over a woman, Betsy her name was, and boy she was a number. Both them boys wanted to marry her proper, but she was only after the Mustang, knew what she wanted. So’s Mac bet his brother a game of Uno he could win that Mustang. Sure ‘nuff he did, but I’ll be danged if his no good brother went right out and drove that Mustang down into Shonash Ravine and left it there. Dickhead that boy was. But Mac wasn’t going to let that car or Betsy go so easy so he drove that beat up bullshitted ol’ Dodge down and pulled it out. Poor thing was a wreck so there it sat next to the barn, just gathering varmints and such until Mac’s idea hit him like a bolt of Tennessee sunshine in the mornin’. Why, that Mustang there had a great big monster stick in it on account of its big engine there, and well Mac he wanted that ol’ stick in his wagon diesel. That Mac, once he sets his mind he’s like one of those fish people tell you about, can skeleton a cow right quick. Ceptin’ this was car stuff. So he takes that big old stick box, takes that big old Cummins thing from the shitty Dodge, and sticks them right in there to the brown Creston. Fired right up, damn thing did donuts round the old elm side the house there, right scared the pants off neighbor Jim. Clouds of smoke, fire and brimstone, it was. Well ol’ Mac know what he needed to do: racin. So he went down the town square round midnight to pick off some hippies. First round he accidentally took down big John Fapperson’s Camaro, fastest car in the Tri-State area, no bunk. All the hippies, bein’ pacifists, run right off as they knew they had no chance with their beetlecars and oilbenzers and such. Well ol’ Mac there, he shut ‘er down at 6th & Main after running about a 3 second quarter there, eyes big as Ma’s apple pie, effluence runnin’ out his pants everywhar, ol ‘Cresty put a scare in him right quick, and John Fapp just set in his Camero, bitchin’ as it was, mumbling something about walking in front of Mustangs and car coffees. Never the same after that, shame, he played a hell of a shuffleboard. Well Betsy, beautiful, smart & pure though she was, couldn’t hold a candle to what old Mac McClenahan created that night. He became obsessed, running the Cressida all about the states, whompin’ people left and right for years till one day he damn near wrecked her off the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in a race with his own mind. Well that night he limped her home and parked her in the barn. Married Betsy the next day, come to his senses and all. But he wasn’t the same, he was a shell of a man. Bought a Reliant and went into accounting, haunted in his dreams by the thought of her spooling up and eating him. That’s the legend of THE ONE there, case you lost me. I get ahead sometimes. So that car it sat, all those years, farmer accountant Mac told everybody he’d wrecked the car into the Rio Grande that night, never to be seen again. But people wondered, seein as Mac never would let anyone in that barn. One time little Channing Tatum ran in there tryin’ to hide from his sister and said he bumped into somethin’ hard in the dark, said it was covered though. Well back to my grampappy’s knee there, he says the local boys all heard of this beast car, looked like nothing but went like hell, a legend on the streets. Fapping’s Camero still sits there, rusting away, everyone afraid to touch it thinkin’ it’s cursed. That’s the kind of power old Mac’s machine showed. Hushed circles around the fire, these boys took to calling it THE ONE and the legend grew. Word was Don Garlits made it into a secret Swamp Rat down in Florida. It killed Kennedy too, so damn fast no one saw it pull up there like a ghost. It led the charge in Desert Storm, brown paint blending in, throwing up rooster tails of Iraqi sand with a sshhhhROOOOOOOWWWW and a CCHHHHHHHPOOOOOOOOOOSSSHHHHHHWAAAAAAAAAA, sound of freedom right there, even scared our own boys. Why I even heard THE ONE dang made Baghdad in 9 minutes, all the other time was just waiting for our boys to show up cuz tanks are slow. That’s probably made up, of course, but that’s the legend of THE ONE. Boys been hypothersizin on it ever since, but no one knew what exactly she was seein as Mac never told no one what Chester’s made of. Some say it was a station wagon like any other back then, brown and comfy like. Some say that thing got a hemi, others a farm engine like. And this Manuel’s name keeps coming up, but nobody ever met the feller cept for when Champ Bellerman thought his grandma’s gardener was him but he wasn’t, knew a lot about lawnmowers though, smart feller, and he told us people always got confused about car sticks and his name, calling them Manuel and such, but they meant Manual, spelled totally different, not even a guy, just a stickbox, but it’s a big deal in some parts, bigger than guns, bigger than cigarettes. So’s back to the barn, come that storm of ‘84 and myself wanderin’ about, I seen this badge, and the brown paint, and that gilded stick in the middle, and that big ol’ engine, and peeked under the back just to be sure and saw a big old pumpkin tube thing back there and I knew, it hit me like a damn shovel to the face in a backwoods Kentucky bourbon bearfight, I’d found her and knew what she was, knew what made me become a gearhead: A brown, manual, turbodiesel, rear wheel drive wagon.

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