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The Observer, Jan. 14 

The Observer is in the market for a new Mobile Observatory of late, which got us thinking about the rides of yore. We can remember them all, some not so fondly. Case in point: The Cursed Truck.

The Cursed Truck was a 1965 Chevrolet short wheelbase pickup, bought the summer we turned 17. It was bone white, and somebody had dropped a hopped up small block in it. It had aluminum wheels and was lowered the white-trash way — heat the springs until all the sprung is gone. To a driver with a license so new it was practically hot to the touch, it was quite a sight to behold.

The Observer bought the truck with the intention of going to prom in it, but it was clear almost immediately that it didn't want to go. Any time a female was in the truck, the door would fly open and try to tump her out, no matter how much we jiggered with the latch. Two days before prom, The Observer's brother took it for a spin around the block, and by the time he got back to the driveway, the transmission was smoking like a tar kettle and sounded like a cement mixer full of marbles. We thrashed on it all night to get a new trans in it. Finally, caked in grease, we pulled it out into the sun for a test drive. We made it to the end of the driveway, and both rear tires went flat, at the same time. We found two spares and put them on. We got back in the truck, and when The Observer went to crank it, it spun once, coughed, and then there was a loud clank, followed by a high-pitched whirring. A look under the truck discovered that the bell housing — the cast iron flange that mounts the transmission to the engine — had cracked nearly in half, leaving the starter dangling from the battery cable and still bolted to a jagged chunk of iron.

We pushed the truck back to the garage, where we thrashed again. Finally, it was running, it was starting, the tires were inflated and all was right with the world. The Observer scrubbed off the grease, put on our rented tux, picked up the prom date and drove to the high school gym. When we had been there a good 20 minutes when our ladyfriend came up and whispered in our ear the awful truth: Unbeknownst to us, the seat of our rented pants was shredded, torn out — we found later — by a spring that had inexplicably jumped up from the seat of The Cursed Truck. Keeping our near-naked rear to the least populated side of the room, we skulked back to the hateful lump of Four-Wheeled Evil in the parking lot and motored home in shame.

We could go on: How, when we went to take our ladyfriend out on another date, one of the front wheels inexplicably fell off at the end of the driveway and bounced into the ditch by the mailbox; how, while pulling off a rubber hose on the fuel pump, our hand slipped and hit the (mercifully still) fan blade, which cut us deep enough to leave a scar we'll carry to the grave; how the cam lobes inexplicably went flat and the gas tank inexplicably caught fire and the gears in the rear end inexplicably seized up as solid as if they had been welded in place — a phenomenon so odd that no one, not even the grizzled old farts at the local parts counter, had ever heard of or seen such a thing.  

Finally, fed up and freaked out, The Observer sold our nightmare for a song. The guy who bought it — who bought it even though The Observer's dear old Pa had warned him it was cursed and might kill him someday — came with a car trailer to pick it up. When the new owner went to load the truck onto the trailer, the hitch inexplicably popped off his towing ball, the trailer rolled forward, and the trailer tongue proceeded to rip the tailgate off his four-day-old pickup and toss it high into the air. New Owner sent for his brother's wrecker to pull The Cursed Truck home. Halfway there, The Cursed Truck inexplicably dropped itself into gear. Not only did that burn out the transmission in The Cursed Truck, it put enough of a load on the wrecker that the wrecker's engine blew up.

The Observer heard later that New Owner's brother had a heart attack while trying to pull the motor out of The Cursed Truck and later died. When New Owner finally got it running, he drove it for a week, then managed to roll it ass over teakettle down a 100-foot embankment into a creek during a flood. Back broken, he managed to crawl out and swim to shore just before The Cursed Truck was swept into the cottonwoods and dashed to smithereens. And that, friends, was the end of The Cursed Truck.

You think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. I can show you the scar.   

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