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The Van

I have mentioned in previous stories about the Dodge van that my father used to take us on our many camping trips. My Dad purchased the longest van (and often complained that it still wasn't large enough for our family and our stuff) that Dodge made in 1973. It was a sky blue and white color and we had more adventures with the van that it often feels like a part of our family. This wasn't just a vehicle to us; along with the camper, it was our home away from home.

Next to the driver's seat (always my Dad's seat) was the coveted Co-pilot Seat. In this seat, you could pretend that you were driving (except if you were arguing with Dad or being yelled at). You were often high above other vehicles and traffic and the wide mirrors on either side also gave you ample area to make faces at yourself or to other unsuspecting drivers. Since they couldn't usually see you, one was free to jeer at their vehicles or pretend to crush them.

In front of the Co-pilot Seat was the glove compartment. In the van, this door was a little loose and certain bumps would jar it open, freeing Wrigley's Spearment gum or Big Red gum, pens, pencils and other important car-related tools. It was the co-pilot's job to close this as soon as it happened before too many items made it to the floor. Lord help you if you were daydreaming, watching traffic or picking your nose.

The van made a constant rattling noise that was usually Dad's tools, but mostly was the sound of old nuts and bolts that had gotten lost in the constant removal and replacement of tools. Along with the sound of the road itself, it was actually a soothing sound.

The back two seats were full-length couches that were the usual domain of the children. On each armrest were metal ashtrays that could be flipped open and shut if you were bored (as I often was). After a lengthly recital, my Dad would ask me if I was nervous. I never understood why he asked me and I would always answer "No." and continue flipping the ashtray. Eventually he would ask me politely to stop, followed by more fervent requests, often screamed. Sometimes the ashtrays had to be removed so that Dad could drive uninterrupted.

The last seat in the back, all the way to the left was The Pouting Seat. From here, yu could safely scowl at the family member that you were usually mad at and be furthest away from anyone. You had a good view of the large window so you could scowl out at the scenery or the other traffic and wish that you were sitting in one of those cars with more understanding families. The Pouting Seat was also the best place to be left alone because usually nobody could hear you or you could pretend to not hear them. If you were mad at Dad, you could stare holes into the back of his seat while he drove, fairly sure that he couldn't catch you since he was occupied with the road. Eventually though, you would be called out of The Pouting Seat and back into civilization and the rest of the family and forced to sit in front.

The back of the van had a camper hitch, of course, but this wasn't always in place. A mystery how it worked, we all avoided it, except to climb into the back of the van. If touched, a brownish grease coated one's hands and clothes. My Dad would yell at us if we used the camper hitch to climb on, but we always figured that if it could hold a camper in place, then of course it could hold the weight of a child.

The side of the van bore obscure writing that was from a decoration celebrating my one and only season as a Little Leager for the "Indians". You could still read this travesty, as the masking tape used to spell it had removed some paint when it had been scraped off. This was of course, the kids' idea, not my father's. He spent a lot of time defacing his own vehicle removing the paint and he spent a great deal more time letting us know how awful masking tape was to decorate cars.

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