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Dad and the Buick Woody (standard:humor, 845 words)
Author: Dennis KnightAdded: Sep 15 2000Views/Reads: 3099/2Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
My dad and I have the adventure of painting our old station wagon.

As often as I reflect on that particular day, I'll never resolve what it
was that made Dad decide to paint the old car copper. Over the years 
Iíve chosen to believe it was springís gentle wakening of a winter 
daydream, but it may well have sprung from an Irishmanís encounter with 
a wee drop of Old Crow. 

It must have been about 1955. I was eleven, then, and third in our
family of seven kids growing up in Laramie, Wyoming. In a brood that 
large, there isnít often an opportunity for a boy to spend a day of 
one-on-one time with his dad, and Iím sure that alone made the day  

Our venerable 1941 Buick 'woodyí station wagon, once the family car, had
by then lost its primacy to a 1950 Buick Roadmaster. Her fenders and 
hood, originally a deep maroon, had faded in fourteen years under the 
unfiltered sun over our high planes to a nondescript and irregular 
pink. The varnish was virtually gone from her wooden sides.  But, 
despite being withered and demoted, she ran fine and still held 
valuable utility for our big family. 

It was early afternoon when Dad took me with him to Laramie Basin
Hardware. He wasnít sure how much it would take, but after consulting 
with the proprietor, we bought the store's entire inventory of copper 
spray paint, four cans, with the promise that he could return what he 
didn't need. 

We parked in a shady spot south of the house, and took turns shaking the
first can well, pursuant to directions, until we heard the metal ball 
rattle.  Everyone knows about aerosol paint now, of course, but this 
was the high technology of 1955! 

Imagine our excitement as Dad aligned the nozzle with the red dot on the
rim, approached the car, took aim at a distance of 12 to 15 inches, and 
pushed the button, creating on the swell of the left front fender a 
large coppery blob, surrounded by an oily blotch, going nowhere in 
particular, but not staying in one place either. 

Dad said nothingónot to me, not to the car, and not to the paintóbut I
knew he was at one of life's crossroads. Would he try to wipe off the 
mess, take the remaining cans back to the store, and tell me to shut 
up? Or would he spray on? Would another press of the nozzle repair the 
damage or merely embellish it? Would invoking the help of the 
Archangels save him from the wrath of Mom? 

Courageously, apprehensively, he squeezed the nozzle again, and then
again, using increasingly broader strokes, until the can ran empty, and 
he had resurfaced an area of about four square feet. 

Soon we had used all four cans of paint, but only on one fender.  So we
returned to the hardware store, hoping they might have, within the last 
90 minutes, received a fresh shipment of copper spray paint. But 
Laramie Basin Hardware had no more copper spray paint, had none on 
order, and was about the sorriest damned outfit Dad had ever dealt 

We visited every other hardware store, paint store, and dime store in
town, and acquired a few cans of each of about twelve brands of copper 
spray paint. It was a shopping experience that serves me to this day 
when I encounter issues of dye lots and color matching. 

By the time we arrived home with the assorted bags of assorted paint,
Dad's enthusiastic vision of a shining copper Buick was dimmed to hope 
of damage control. He knew there would be shifts in color from a true 
copper in some brands to a rust or orange or gold, or all of the above, 
in others. Now his goal was to subtly blend the variegations as he 
went, so they might not be noticeable, especially to Mom.  I could also 
sense his desperation to be done with the awful job before she came 

Iíve forgotten the count of cans of paint we applied that day, but I
wonít forget the resultĖ a coppery 1941 Buick station wagon that 
shimmered in the bright Wyoming sun. It shimmered when it was cloudy. 
It shimmered in the moonlight. Lord, how it shimmered. 

And Iíll always remember the reactions of Mom, who refused ever again to
be seen in the station wagon, and my big sister, Maureen, who gagged 
and ran to the bathroom. 

The rest of us kind of liked the old car, especially after Dad, a few
days later, highlighted his work by painting the wooden trim pieces in 
a sort of jade green. His intent was to give the car a more 
professional finish, but Maureen gagged again. I took personal and 
proprietary pride in it, as a product of Dadís genius and mine, and no 

Eventually, Dad and one of his cronies in the town converted the Buick
into a fishing car.  They removed the back seat and installed a trap 
door, making a cache for over-limit fish, safe from the game warden. 
But that's another story.


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