When I was 11, my dad taught me to drive in his '72 El Camino. When I was 14 or 15, he asked me what kind of car I wanted. I told him "a Jeep CJ-7". That didn't fly. He said I didn't know enough to appreciate how to take care of a Jeep. He said I would roll it. He said, "Maybe someday, you'll have a Jeep." I started, instead, with a 1966 Dodge Coronet: a veritable Kleenex box with a V8, two manual kill switches, and very sticky throttle (maybe the reason for the kill switches). In college, I came across a CJ and almost got into it. But the dealer being a dealer wouldn't budge; and it was obvious that the humble rig needed more attention and money than a college student could put into it. So I kept on.
A few years later, my pop bought a '95 YJ. At first, I kind of rolled my eyes at the square headlights in those stray years when they came off the Jeep lines, but they started growing on me. He looked really good in that Jeep. It fit him: a little different, but still American made, still proud. He drove it from '97 until last summer. He made room for it in a crowded shop/garage. He babied it and rebuilt most of it: engine, drive train, body, suspension. At 68-75 years old, he used the 4x4 to get into remote wooded areas, trailer-in-tow at 7500' + elevations to cut down trees for firewood, the only source of heat for him and my step mom. That Jeep fit him: Die-hard and aging, but always going the extra mile.
Our hearts broke when dad died in October last year. The Jeep sat idle through the winter as we all kind of carried on. At the beginning of this year my step mom called. "You're dad wanted you to have his Jeep," she said, "He says you always wanted a Jeep." We took our last few fishing trips in that square-headlighted YJ. On the most recent of those trips, we bagged enough trout to last for several months. Three weeks ago, my stepmom had her brother charge the battery and try to start Ol Blue. It fired instantly on the first turn of the key, ready to ride. Last weekend, I tightened up a gasline clamp to stop the pesky leak that is apparently a given for that range of Wrangler. I rolled her front tires up on to a Tow Dolly, pulled her shaft, put her in neutral, and had a friend of mine tow her from Ruidoso, NM to Austin, TX... after leaving a 6' skid mark on dad's driveway from the Jeep's well-working parking brake.
(I could have sworn I heard him laugh).
She passed inspection with flying colors, and got her residency papers for Texas. As I pulled out of the DMV and took her to work for the first time, I smiled and maybe got a little bit misty as I leaned forward and looked up to the partly-cloudy blue sky, smiling.
"Thanks pop," I said, "I got 'er from here. I'll take care of 'er."
My Mazda's been kind of idle in the driveway for the last 4-5 days. Maybe I'll donate that perfectly running rig to one of my up and coming nieces or nephews or cousins in the next generation. Nothin' personal, but I'm thinking for now I kind of like my headlights square.
Jeff I. (aka jeffreyeye)
1995 Wrangler YJ/SE Sahara IL6, 4.0L Blue with Spice Supertop (aka Ol' Blu)