June 30, 2022

Botu Linum

The Car & Automotive Devotees

Henry C.’s Downhome Dispatch: The Malibu Miracle | News

4 min read


My father taught me how to drive, but it was his brother — who had so many DUIs he wound up fleeing the commonwealth of Virginia for a spell back in the late 1970s — who taught him how to drive.

Through my pops, I learned a couple of Keith’s golden rules — horns are for warning, not scorning, and the left lane is for passing only.

Like any good rule, I’ve bent them to the point where they’ve snapped in half, but for the most part, I try to abide by them, much to my wife’s chagrin; yes, I am one of those guys who will wait until roughly a 1,000 yards to get over to make a left hand turn.

So on days like Tuesday, it was no wonder I got stuck in the right lane of U.S. 23 for a minute. People where whipping around and jamming it in the fast lane before I could get over — something was holding things up.

Whatever it was, it wasn’t a truck hauling a heavy load, because I couldn’t see it beyond the folks ahead of me.

I found my hole and took it, kicking it up the road — and that’s when I saw it.

No, it wasn’t older folk puttering along the road in a ‘98 Crown Vic, nor was it an ‘89 Escort gasping on three cylinders.

It was mid-2000s Chevy Malibu with a refrigerator strapped to the back of it.

Not a mini-fridge, mind you, I’m talking a full-sized ice book, laid up on the back windshield, tied down with ratchet straps so tattered and worn you could see spots where just a handful of threads stretched to keep the whole kit and kaboodle together.

His emergency flashers were on, but only one tail light was blinking. I couldn’t see a tag, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have it taped on the back window. The rear bumper was so close to the ground, you couldn’t roll a golf ball under the muffler.

As I passed him, I saw he was riding on a spare tire in the back, and the front tire looked to be on about its last leg.

In the rear view mirror, I saw the front bumper was gone.

Look, I ain’t talking crap on this guy’s set up — you have to make due with what you got.

Back in the Great Scrap Rush of 2008-to-2010, when China was buying up every piece of iron that wasn’t tied down and mixed metal was going for double digits on the hundred, I couldn’t always enlist a buddy with a pick up truck to haul a load up to the yard. Heck, sometimes I didn’t want to — that meant splitting the cash, and sometimes I just wanted to make a quick $20.

So, I’d take my Green Machine (a Ford Taurus) and drive around the creek bottoms, near the railroad tracks and down back roads looking for whatever any metal I could find. I’d stuff old lawn mowers, sheet metal, old railroad spikes and weed eaters in that sucker.

Heck, one time I found an oven somebody dumped and with a bit of elbow grease and a bungee cord, I rolled it into the trunk.

You got to do what you got to do.

Now, I don’t know this guy’s intention — since I couldn’t see the back of the fridge, I couldn’t tell if he’d rammed a pick ax into the freon lines to turn it in. Maybe he was moving it, maybe he’d just bought it off Market Place.

After passing him, I stopped by the court house in Catlettsburg on a little bit of business, then I hopped on the road and made my way over to the Kenova bridge.

As I went through the work zone, I could see him up ahead of me, the refrigerator still in place. As he came down the hill to the tracks by Dreamland Pool, he almost came to a dead-stop as he crossed the tracks — for those who may doubt the miracles of God, I swear this feller didn’t bottom out on the tracks.

As he rounded the bend and the road opened to a four lane, folks whipped around him — but at this point, I decided, what the heck, let’s see how this plays out.

I stayed behind a bit before passing.

We were sitting side-by-side at a red light when I saw a Kenova Police Officer sitting in the parking lot of a mechanic shop.

The cop had his window down and he was staring in our direction. If his jaw hung any further, it would’ve been in his lap.

From 70 yards away and behind mirrored sunglasses, his eye brows betrayed the surprise.

I ain’t a psychic, and I never pretend to be one, but I could feel what the cop was thinking.

“What (expletive) is going on here?”

The light turned green and I drove on, leaving the Malibu behind — I kept an eye in the rear view mirror.

I saw the officer whip out, I saw him hit the lights. The Malibu kept driving. For a minute, I thought I was about to be a party to the greatest low-speed chase since O.J. ran in that white Bronco. But alas, the Malibu pulled into a gas station and all I’m left with is my imagination as to how to that conversation went.