Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - October 9, 2015

What Brown did for Art

Remember those UPS commercials that had the tag line, "What can brown do for you?" They've dropped using it, but I think hubby Art should resurrect it.

In their married life, Art's parents had one new car. Tom's work involved trucking, and he always used one of the trucks to go to work or run errands. So both he and Donna thought a new car was a waste of money. In 1983, they bought a "new" used car. It turned out to be a lemon and the dealer offered them a new one for the same price. They took it.

That little brown Pontiac Sunbird 2000 didn't get much use because Tom's health was declining. He died in 1986 with only 10,000 miles on the car. Donna used it to shop for groceries and visit her sister, but that didn't add many miles. The only long-distance mileage happened when Donna came to visit us. She had grown weary of air travel, so Art's brother Tommy would drive her as far as central Iowa where Art would meet them. In a few weeks when she was ready to go home, they'd do it again.

Tommy's car was not very good in the snow and a bit unreliable, so Brown sometimes served as a fill-in vehicle for him.

Brown began to get more use in 1993 when we started our cottage excursions to Wisconsin's North Woods. Art, daughters Mariya and Katie and I drove as far as Appleton in our vehicle. Then we'd buy supplies for the cottage, load them into Brown and head north with both cars. That way we girls had a car when he went fishing.

Since Brown was small and didn't get much use, Donna suggested Art use it instead for his fishing trips.

We'd return home in mid-August because school was starting. But after Labor Day, Art would again head to Wisconsin for his fall fishing fling. He used Brown for that. At the end of each fishing season, he'd clean it out and have it tuned up so Donna would have Brown all ship-shape for the following winter months.

But even low-mileage cars start having problems that are just age-related. One time we had just reached the cottage when Brown stopped dead in its tracks. The plastic timing belt had broken. A metal replacement cured that problem.

Another time, the car stopped 30 miles from Appleton when Art was returning from a fishing trip. The ignition module had gone bad.

One day he stopped at a stream and was greeted by coolant running out from under Brown. It was the water pump bearing. Art completed his fishing and then stopped five times on the way back to Donna's place to keep topping the radiator off so it wouldn't overheat.

And, of course, over the years there were the routine repairs - mufflers, tail pipes, exhaust pipes and tires.

But in 2003, there was bad news when he called Donna the week after he returned home from fall fishing. The mechanics tuning it up had done a compression test and discovered there was a crack in the block to the water jacket. Donna asked what that meant and the mechanic told her Brown was toast!

Because it was Tom's last car, she didn't want to get rid of it, but being the practical person she was, she was ready to let it go.

But Art told her to tell them to put a can of Stop-Leak in the radiator. The can only cost a couple of bucks and he figured if it would run reliably another year, it was a good deal. Twelve years later, it still takes about one can a year to keep it sealed.

About 2005, Art was returning from a trip when Brown started to spin at a corner. He couldn't figure out what was happening, but soon he was traveling backwards with a semi bearing down on him. He made it out without a scratch. The driver of that big truck hadn't seen little Brown next to him and had turned right from the left lane into Brown's left rear fender. It dented the fender badly, but since the gas filler was on the right, everything still functioned fine and Donna just deposited the insurance check.

In 2009, Donna died. Since Tommy had bought a reliable car, Art took Brown to the cottage where it has since overwintered. In the fall, he removes the battery and the next summer he reinstalls it ... and it starts up as if it had been running just a few weeks before. He always has to sweep off a ton of pine needles and occasionally remove a rodent nest.

Three years ago, he was returning from a fishing trip when he glanced in the rear-view mirror. All he saw was brown! The side mirrors were fine. A quick glance over his shoulder revealed that the ceiling liner glue had let go and the ceiling cloth had fallen. Five dollars worth of pins at Walmart addressed that problem.

The next year when he started it, there were no brakes. The brake lines had rusted. He gingerly coaxed it using the parking brake to the garage that had done the timing belt job and they replaced the lines.

A few years ago, he discovered the radiator fan switch was defective. That was revealed by the over-temperature lamp coming on while we were driving slowly through the woods looking for berries.

The most recent event occurred near the end of this August. The power steering pump died. He says it's no big deal. It just means that his arms get a bit more of a workout now.

Then, a week ago Wednesday, I received a text. It just said, "Mom car turned 90K."

I just had to smile. Brown, now 32 years old, has done a lot for him!

"Adopted German son" Tim and Art before taking Brown on a fishing trip two years ago.

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