Three weeks ago, deb was on her way to Sioux Falls, S.D., to catch a plane to Phoenix, Ariz., to attend the Midwest Dairy annual meeting, but her car's tranny failed on Interstate 90 about 20 miles from Sioux Falls.
It was a nice day in the middle of the afternoon when it happened, so when she called me, I calmly suggested she stick out her thumb and hitch a ride to the airport so she wouldn't miss her flight. I also added that I would retrieve the car and pick her up a few days later; I know, what a guy, right? She said she was uncomfortable with hitchhiking, so I said I would come, but it would be an hour before I could get there.
Now this was no ordinary car that broke down. My wife considered it on par with the family dog. It was a yellow 2003 Ford Escape we bought new when our daughter Tae became Princess Kay of the Milky Way. She needed reliable transportation to travel to the many dairy related events around the state of Minnesota for a year.
After that, Kia drove it to the University of Minnesota for school. It was during that time, I thought I would be a good dad and change the oil for her one weekend. Well, the old rubber o-ring on the filter stayed on the car, in addition to the new o-ring on the new filter, which resulted in all the oil spewing out of the engine in five miles. This resulted in Dad buying a used motor for the Yellow.
Kia drove the Yellow all through college and to a long commute job afterwards. Then, she got a job that supplied a vehicle so we got the Yellow back. We gave our tired minivan to Sarah to go to Mankato, Minn. The Yellow was deb's favorite daily driver, putting on 220,000 miles going nowhere. Oh, it went to the cities or Sioux Falls plenty, but all the rest was local. A typical day would bring grandkids to school, check on my 93-year-old mother at her house in town, open her store, bank, post office, grocery store, give me a ride from moving machinery, deliver meals on wheels, etc.
I was quite happy; the estimate to fix the car came back at $2,400. It made it easy to convince deb that it was time to give up the car I recently had renamed the Yellow Garbage Can. Too many miles, kids, gravel roads and groceries had taken its toll.
When I called the local salvage yard to pick up the Yellow, the guy who answered said, "That thing finally died?"
We have three excellent car dealerships in our town with an abundance of vehicles to choose from, so finding a new car should be easy. Not so; mini-vans are too boring, large SUVs are too expensive, cars are too low to the ground, pickups are too big, and another Escape is too repetitious. Finally, after weeks of looking, she found a Jeep Renegade she felt comfortable driving and was priced right. It even has a heated steering wheel and automatic windshield wipers that turn on when moisture hits the windshield. Definitely a far cry from the Jeeps with four wheels and a roll-bar that we used to go ditch jumping with.
Jeep must be trying to maintain the rough and tumble image though, because this new one has a selector switch for normal, ice or mud driving. So, the first night deb was bringing 11-year-old Vince home, he noticed the mud mode on the switch. And, as she was driving past our soaked muddy fields, he said, "Grandma, turn into that field and let's try it."
Vander Kooi operates a 1,200-cow, 3,000 acre farm with his son, Joe, and daughter-in-law, Rita, near Worthington, Minn. Send him feedback at Follow him on Instagram, @davevanderkooi.