Just Plain Bessie

She Was a Classic

by Lura Langenback


This is my entry into the Authors Attic weekly challenge called 'Remembering My First Car.' It sure took me down memory lane.

There she sat on a carnival lot in between the rides and game tents. One look and you could tell that the $55 I paid for her was worth it. Walking around her took a long time since she was the first I had ever bought. She ran like a dream, well at least any dream I had ever had. My first thought was to call her the 'Black Bomb' but it ended up being 'Just Plain Bessie', Bessie for short. My friend thought it was silly to spend so much money on such an old car but she was a beaut! Part of her 'uniqueness' was that someone had handpainted her with a housepaint brush. Very distinct, I thought. In all of my eighteen years, I had never seen such a wonderful car.

Bessie was a 1956 Chevy, already a classic even though she was only nine years old. There was a trailer hitch too, which is how come it cost the extra 5 bucks but I didn't care. The interior was a solid red, including the leather bench seats. When the radio was on, you noticed that it was crystal clear. It even had most of a tank of gas too. That's a bargain because these days that 19 cent a gallon gas gets pretty expensive. I had no idea what a cylinder was but the guy said she had six of them. Good thing. Didn't want to run short. You just never know.

Jenny and I were away from home for the first time and the idea of buying a car was sort of scary but this didn't go badly at all. The fact that the guy had no title seemed logical too since he was from Georgia where they didn't title the cars these days. So we got the bill of sale and the registration and took off.

We were headed to Mississippi to meet up with another carnival but our motorcycle had broke down so bad we had to sell it. That's how we got the cash for the car. Now as we drove on towards the south, it was time to gas up again. I pulled into the closest station and up to the pump. This seemed easy enough. Getting out of Bessie, I noticed that there wasn't any obvious place to put the gas. That was strange.

The guy who works here asked,'Ya want gas?'

I thought the answer to that was a bit obvious but 'yeah I do' came out of my mouth anyway.

'Uh, where's it go?'

Oh man, if I knew that I wouldn't be wasting my time with this yahoo.

'I just bought this car and I have no idea either.'

'Wall, ya could jest check yer owner's manual, couldn't ya?'

I had seen some morons in my eighteen years but this guy was going to top the list real fast!

'It's a used car. There isn't any manual for it' I patiently explained as if talking to someone with less than full faculties. A truly puzzled look came over the man's face as he looked up and down, round and round the car for the place to put the gas.

Lost in my thoughts about moving on to another station where Barney Fife's cousin didn't work, I noticed that he was crawling around under my car! Now that's really weird.

'Hey, I found it. S'in the tail light assembly' he hollered from under the trunk of the car. 'I kin fill er up now.'

Such a feeling of relief came over me. Jenny was sleeping and missed the whole deal. Wait til I tell her about this. I paid my $3.80 for twenty gallons and on we drove. It was getting pretty dark by this time and switching on the headlights seemed like a good idea. Well, it would be if only I could FIND the switch. With no outside light source, it was getting pretty tough to see anything. Up ahead was a motel called 'Heavenly Acres'. I had my doubts from the look of it but we pulled in for the night.

We were in Memphis by the time I thought to check for that light switch again. It was midafternoon and I knew we would need it sooner or later. We stopped for a bite to eat at a place with the crazy name of 'Dew Drop Inn.' The burgers were good but the fries left a lot to be desired. When we came out, I finally found the switch and pulled it on. Jenny stood outside looking at the headlights.

'You gonna turn them on or what?' she asked me.

Oh crap. This is going to be one of THOSE days again today. Since I already had the switch on, it seemed that we were once again going to have problems that we had not foreseen. It was time to find someone to help us. We drove on out of Memphis and south into Mississippi where we found a small, but open, repair shop. Sign said 'We fix em while you wait.' Unfortunately, it didn't say that they would take until after midnight to do the job. Mike, the repair guy, was flirting with Jenny, which was fine with me if only he would FIX the car first!

'Uh Mike? You think we could get this fixed before we have to pick out a new car next year?'

'Oh yeah sure. I can have you fixed up in no time' came out those famous last words absolutely no one wants to hear from a repair guy. He got in, turned on the switch, nothing. Again with under the car. What is it with guys having to crawl around under cars anyway? There was a hoist. Why not put it in the air so we can all see, huh?

From a muffled voice WAY under the middle of Bessie came 'I think I found the problem.'

Then the lights came on. Hey, great. Maybe we can get going pretty soon after all.

'Turn the switch off and back on. Now when you see the headlights go off, tell me. I'm cutting the wires so that I can find the right ones to the headlights. Some idiot threw them all together in this one bundle and I can't separate them.'

I heard cutting noises as he started to separate the wires. After the first several times of him asking 'is it off yet?' and my answer of 'nope', he gave up and waited for my affirmative answer which seemed long in coming.

Finally, he asked 'are you sure they're not off yet?'

I told him I was pretty sure since the lights were still bright as ever. The groan from underneath me could have been heard for miles! Wonder what his problem is. Mike got up off the ground holding cutters and what he called the last wire in the car. The lights were still on. Getting weirder and weirder. The difficulty was that there was now no way to turn the lights OFF. The switch did not do it anymore. God knows why. The more he tinkered with it, the more angry he got because he could not find a single wire that had not been cut. Those lights just should not be on!!

Eventually, sometime after midnight, Mike finally found that one set of wires nobody in their right mind would have put where these were hanging out. I can not tell you how grateful we were to Mike, the mechanic, who stayed working on that poor bedraggled car until there was finally a successful conclusion. We were on our way again saying goodbye to him, hoping never to have THAT problem again.

About a year after these incidents, I sold Bessie to my Dad for a dollar. He junked her out. What a waste of fine machinery if only she didn't have that huge cloud of smoke coming out from under her.