By Tom Poland
If you think this story is about Berry Gordy’s 1960’s record label that gave us “Baby Love,” “My Girl,” and “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” you’re wrong. It’s about the wheeled products Motor City has long shipped to the land of kudzu, magnolias, and mint juleps, which by the way I’ve never had.
“Last night I went to sleep in Detroit City?” Remember that line from Bobby Bare’s 1964 country music song about making cars, “I Wanna Go Home?” Well, MoTown’s cars and trucks sleep down South, and some will never go home. Wherever I go, I see old trucks and cars discarded, abandoned, forgotten, and in one way or another relegated to a lifetime of immobility, rust, and dry-rotting tires.
A patch of grass beneath a tree? A shed fallen into disuse? Well, those places offer assisted death centers to what was once someone’s pride and joy. Those old drivers are gone now, and somewhere they creep along a back road in the sky. So, who’s left to speak for their old trucks and cars? I am. I love these once-upon-a-time essential conveyances that rust beneath sheds and barns. They rust in fields and front yards. They rust in weedy parking lots and no one seems to take interest in them. No one restores them, fixes them, as we say down here, or bothers to take them to the junkyard for scrap. They’re banished to the Old Vehicle Rust Home.
And so they reign as landmarks and curiosities for those who find them mysteriously beautiful, like a woman with a slight scar on her cheek, a flaw accentuating her beauty. You just don’t get a mysterious feeling when you see a new truck sitting beneath a shed. It still has life. But, and this is pivotal, just how long can an old car or truck sit without someone towing it away? Long enough for a tree to grow through it?
The answer sits before you. I find this old truck and its oak engine miraculous. An acorn ended up beneath the engine compartment. Somehow it germinated, and somehow enough sunlight made it through the metal carnage left from a ripped-out engine to make it grow. Rains fell into the hood-absent opening and water dripped down sheet metal and more so the little oak could drink a bit.
We don’t see many miracles in life yet one of life’s small miracles sits before you. One day a sapling dared peek over radiator and fenders, sufficient cause for some do-gooder to cut it away. But that didn’t happen. Something else did. The tree became a sensation, protected by someone who just wanted to see how long a tree could reach for the sky through Motown metal.
But other mysteries exist. Did someone drive the truck over a fledgling oak and shut her down for good and later sell the engine? Or did a squirrel bury the acorn beneath the truck, sensing a place safe from rival members of the acorn-eating tribe? I’ll never know, but I know this much. Today’s trucks and cars seem ill suited for life beneath a shed, and, besides, fewer sheds stand as we leave small farms in the dust.
Your truck, your car, your pride and joy? When its days are done, I’ll wager it ends up crushed, shredded, and recycled. All that sounds efficient but it sure isn’t picturesque, and sure as the rising sun it won’t provide space for a one-tree arboretum like you see here.
Mysteries and miracles, some come together in the strangest ways, and we are all the richer for it.
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