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By Bobby Neal Winters

My wife and I together form a bridge from our parents to our children. We are in a time of transition in our lives, but I look around me and see everyone else is too.

This summer my eldest received her license to drive and as a consequence thereof took over the old white Ford pickup. Once this vehicle was as much a part of me and my self-image as a part of my body, but my family outgrew it.
This truck had been chosen by my father. It has no air-conditioning and only a manual transmission. Dad was generally against air-conditioning of any sort, but his reason for not wanting it on my truck was to that it would be easy to fix. In heart-of-hearts, he desired that his sons would learn the fine art of the auto-mechanic to at least a small degree.

I had briefly contemplated the notion of selling the truck, which is only the second vehicle that I ever owned, so that I could buy my daughter something of a more recent era. However, heads wiser than mine reminded me although it is old, it is made out of steel all the way through, it is much larger than anything I would be likely to afford with whatever money I managed to squeeze out of it, and I have owned it for over twenty years, so I know most of its history and what is likely to go wrong with it.
So I decided to keep it.

The sixteen-year-old, while making no bones about the fact she would like a tiny, little sports car with an automatic transmission and air-conditioning, took the truck with glee and immediately began renovations.

I am not too particular about how something looks as long as it works and had let such superficial things, like the seat covers, for instance, go to pot. The seats were ripped and the foam rubber beneath was exposed in numerous places.

My daughter has a sense of aesthetics that is entirely missing in her father and began building her feelings of ownership in the vehicle by giving it a good cleaning and repairing its seat covers with duct tape. While fixing something with duct tape, or even bailing wire when appropriate, is not an idea foreign to me by any means, my daughter is an artist with it. She has created duct tape purses, duct tape dresses, duct tape wallets, and, her coup de grace, a functional duct tape back pack complete with a zipper. Seat covers were child’s play.

Through her ministrations and with the aid of her middle sister who sees herself as next in line for the vehicle, the truck has been given new life as a means for her to drive to school.

Everything went smoothly until the middle of last week when the truck began running rough. I was in Topeka at the time doing experiments in the study the effects of numbness on the backside. As I was not home to help, whether or not I could have, the sixteen-year-old called upon Paw Paw, her maternal grandfather for aid.

In his day, Paw Paw has been a farmer, a soldier, a fruit-buyer in South America, and a farmer again, but is now retired. He is now seventy, has had three or so heart attacks, has lost the sight in one eye to macular degeneration, and has been challenged cataract in the other, but don’t go by that. In the manner of the son-in-law, I have maintained great relations with him over the last eighteen years by never praising Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, or George W. Bush in his presence, whether I would want to or not.
As I returned from Topeka, Paw Paw along with my wife and all three of my daughters were gathered around the truck, and Paw Paw was in the process of closing the hood with the look of a man finishing a job well done.
Paw Paw suspected carburetor problems. When he took off the breather, he discovered one of the screws that held on one of the parts of the carburetor had fallen into the carburetor itself. Paw Paw had the know-how and his daughter and granddaughters had the eyesight and the manual dexterity. They tied a magnet that the children had received as a Christmas present several years ago onto a string and used it to fish the screw out. The truck now runs great.

My daughter was so inspired by the experience she is now reading through a Ford repair manual seeking a means by which she might fix the dashboard lights, which have at some point ceased to function. My dead father’s vision is coming to pass in an unforeseen way, in a unforeseen time, at an unforeseen place, with a granddaughter instead of a son. That’ll do.
(Bobby Winters is a professor of mathematics, a writer, and a speaker. He may be contacted at and you may visit his webpage at .)
Well, just think - sometime in the future, while your son-in-law has you repairing your roof, at least your eldest daughter can fix your car at the same time. :)