Confessions of a Motor Head, To Dartmouth in a Mini

Memories sometimes are best left alone. Other times little things will trigger a snapshot in your mind, a good time with a high school friend, a midnight walk down Main Street after foot of snow has come down, the sound of your booted feet crunching the snow, the only sound heard in the perfect silence. I still remember it was 1:00 AM As I walked up the hill towards the fire house, the only sound heard was the scraping of the shovel against the ground as lonely volunteer fireman kept the firehouse drive way clear, just in case.

My friend Leslie that, I lost touch with for a long time, reminded me recently of the Austin Mini I had in high school. It was a Countryman woody wagon, Red in color. I bought it for $35.00, the price of the Sears battery just installed by the previous owner. The details of how I came to buy it or who it was I bought it from are gone from my memory. It did not run when I bought it, a good tune up and that I was able to get the fuel flowing, got the car running well enough to get me to school. I was already well established for the unusual cars I had during high school the mini was just another chapter.

The first adventure with the Mini was A road trip to Dartmouth form Plymouth to meet some girls at the “BIG GAME”. Bob. Rick and I managed to survive the game and not get caught doing the things that high school boys and girls do. All of the post game traffic was clear and we headed home. It was about 5 miles out of Dartmouth that at a stop sign I experienced some difficulty finding a forward gear. After much stirring of the gear shift lever I managed to get it into 2nd and get rolling. I kept my fears to myself as the shift into third failed and I was able to muscle the lever into 4th. About 10 miles later another stop sign. I was in a sweat, as I came to the stop and tried down shifting with no results as we came to a stop. All the stirring, banging and cussing was not helping to find a gear. Forward motion stopped right then and there, not even half way home.

Now you are saying, breakdowns happen, it should not be a big deal to hitch a ride home or call some one to pick us up. The circumstances dictated otherwise. Bob was nicely pickled but functional, Rick was slurring a lot, and I was not supposed to have taken the car out of town. As I was about to tell the boys to get out and push, I found reverse! I was able to get the car turned into the direction of home and I drove from there on in reverse, the engine screaming as flat out all it would go was 25mph. All was almost right in the universe for a brief time until we got pulled over, still short of our goal but close enough where my short life should not be snuffed out by the wrath of my dad. We were just 5 miles outside of the town line, Bob and Rick now appeared sober and I told the Officer that I could call home and get a ride. Ha! From the house where we came to a stop in front of, the lady of the house was kind enough to let me use the phone. I called home knowing no one was there as dad was in New York. I faked the conversation for the officer telling him that dad would be on his way. Once he was out of sight I started the Mini once more and drove another 8 miles or so when the engine died. We were out of gas, out of time and out of sunlight. But… we were inside of the Town limit. We got out and hitched a ride home. Survived to get into trouble another day.

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