What Is It?
On the exterior, this is a 1974 Ford Pinto in Carolina blue. Yeah, I know. It’s Powder Blue but I prefer the former. Carolina blue mirrors the N.C. skies I soaked up as a kid, so in my Blue Book, it’s the color.
This little beauty rolled off the factory floor complete with a hatchback, A/C, manual window cranks and drank regular (leaded) gas.
The Ford Pinto was a fuel-sipping compact required at the time of the early 1970’s U.S. oil crisis. Thanks to OPEC, Detroit’s deep-throated muscle, fuel-guzzling American steel vanished. The days of power, sexy, beauty and cool zoomed by in the rear view. Affordable economy, because our economy no longer was, became the ugly remains.
Amos and Anny
My grandfather and grandmother, Amos and Anny, owned a Pinto just like the one pictured. Amos and Anny were their nicknames but my older brother and I knew them as nothing else. We grew up in their partial care while our parents worked.
The Pinto was Anny’s first car. A college graduate, at a time when such was a rarity for women, my grandmother was both learned and accomplished. In the 60-odd decades of her work, marriage, and motherhood, she had no need to learn to drive. Anny had two children, a son, and 10 years later a daughter, our mother. Driving wasn’t a necessity as Amos provided what she couldn’t grow or make herself.
10 years her senior, Amos weakened after a series of strokes and left him unable to drive himself. In his 70s, he became Anny’s reluctant driver’s ed instructor.
At nearly five years old, I pulled back the white shears covering the Venetian blinds and looked out of the window of their first-floor apartment. On a fine spring day under a Carolina blue sky, Amos gave Anny parking lessons. The car started and halted, jumped and bucked as she tried to park. No clutch involved, the Pinto was an automatic. Amos gestured loudly and gritted his teeth into a tight, wide smile while Anny nodded and continued on. I giggled and fogged up the window pane.
A few minutes later, Amos stomped through the living room, removing his horned-rim spectacles to mop his sweat-soaked forehead with a handkerchief. He growled phrases I wasn’t intended to hear as he passed down the hallway to his bedroom and shut the door. Anny followed.
A model of Georgia southern gentility true to her upbringing combined with a deep inner strength, “Oh, that man! Sometimes, I swannee!” was all Anny would allow as she closed the front door.
“Bo, let Amos rest a bit before suppa,” she said as she turned to see me.
Anny set her pocketbook on the dark oak formal dining table. She went into the kitchen, leaving the brass plated solid white butler’s door swinging in her gentle wake.
A few months on, Amos died.
I have very few memories, exactly three, of the man who taught us how to ride by pushing us down the sloped rocky black asphalt driveway of our house. We crashed and we cried. Once skinned elbows and knees were cleaned and band-aided, we saddled up the Schwinns and Amos continued his instruction. Eventually, we got the hang of the balance and motion that gave us freedom of mobility.
My brother pedaling into a car parked on the street curb because he was looking at his shadow moving below and behind him, instead of focusing ahead like any normal kid who didn’t want Pontiac tattooed on his cheek, was the only exception.
My third and final memory is the day Amos was taken away.
That’s enough for tonight. Tomorrow’s another light. From one sojourner to another, all the best.