You know you are getting older when crucial elements of your youth come to be regarded as classic.
    For instance, the tractors I drove as a lad are now found on antique iron calendars. Those Grand Funk Railroad tunes I listened to as a teenager – with the volume cranked up so high the furniture would levitate – are now categorized as classic rock.   
    It never really hit home that I was becoming long in the tooth until I spied a magazine ad for “A collectable scale model of one of America’s classic automobiles – the 1959 Ford Fairlane.” I was gob smacked. Old Brownie? A classic?     
     Brownie, my erstwhile 1959 Ford Fairlane, ushered me into manhood the year I turned 16. As my first, she stands out in my memory as being more than a car; she was also a teacher.     
    One of the biggest lessons from Brownie involved practicality. Like most red-blooded teenaged boys, I had a searing desire for a fast, sporty car. Something sexy and low-slung with form-fitting bucket seats and an enormous amount of horsepower. We are talking about something along the lines of a Barcalounger with a Saturn V rocket engine strapped to it.     
    But my parents’ law of economics dashed cold water onto this fantasy. This law said, simply: You cannot have what you cannot afford. That is why I opted to lure Brownie out of retirement by ransoming her from a friend’s dad for the princely sum of $15.     
    Brownie was a derelict when we first met. She had languished in a tangle of weeds for a number of years and had lost some parts including her engine and transmission. She also had a major dent in the nose of her hood. But, my face often sported zits the size of nuclear warheads. Who was I to nitpick?     
    I handed three $5 bills to my pal’s dad and towed Brownie to our school’s shop. During the next month of shop classes, I became her ardent mechanic/suitor. In that romantic setting, bathed in the heady perfume of grease and solvents, I was able find the key to our mutual fulfillment by installing an engine and transmission salvaged from an old Ford station wagon.     
    What a glorious day it was when Brownie and I finally went public. She purred contentedly as we slowly yet casually cruised up and down Main Street.     
    I took Brownie home, and my parents approved of her immediately. During those giddy early days, I would spontaneously buy her romantic little gifts such as a fresh set of sparkplugs or new seat covers. I even went so far as to cover her floors with green indoor/outdoor carpeting which, by sheer coincidence, happened to look exactly like the carpet my parents had recently installed in our porch.     
    Brownie and I shared many novel experiences during our year together. I will always remember that time when I neglected to check her antifreeze and was treated to the spectacle of her radiator erupting with steam amidst subzero cold. And, who can forget how Brownie coughed out one of her sparkplugs when I was driving a girl home one evening? Brownie and I were both deeply embarrassed.     
    Time passed and I grew increasingly irritated with Brownie. Her quaint quirks became irksome. Her smoking, which I once regarded as charming and sophisticated, began to just plain stink. That big ding in the front of her hood was as unsightly as a spitting gap. Brownie sensed my discontent and started to guzzle 10W-30 like lemonade on a hot summer’s day.      
    I finally could not stomach Brownie’s foul manners any longer.
    “Ciao, baby,” I whispered softly as I caressed her rusty grille one last time. “We had some fun times, didn’t we? I’ll never forget those wild weekend spending sprees at Carquest.”
    I stole a sidelong glance at my new flame, a sleek, cherry-red ‘64 Galaxie 500.
    “But, you know how these things go. People grow and move on. You understand, don’t you?”     
    Brownie peered up at me. For a moment, the Havoline haze seemed to lift. The look in her headlights told me there were no hard feelings. She remained a class act to the very end.     
    I do not know what became of Brownie. Maybe she hooked up with another teenaged boy seeking his first, or perhaps she landed in some skid row salvage yard. I like to imagine she lives on in the form of tiny scale models of herself.    
    So, I hope you will understand if I wipe away a sentimental tear as I apply my newest bumper sticker. The one that says, “I’m not getting older. I’m becoming a classic.”
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.