• Last modified 947 days ago (Nov. 29, 2017)


A van full of thanks

Thanksgiving Day, a day I might have slept in, I was on the road just after sunrise for a date with some cows and the hard-working folk at Harms Plainview Ranch.

As I left the city limits, something didn’t sound right, but it sounded familiar. It was the sound of a van doing 55 mph with a transmission that quit shifting up at 30 mph. Muttering under my breath, I pulled over, checked the fluid, which was full, then continued, pushing 40, just like I’d done a couple of times before.

When I got to the ranch, there was no expected flurry of activity. It seems the cows were ready a day early, and all the work was done. I got back in the van, hit the road, and this time the tranny worked just like it’s supposed to.

In the not too distant past, I had a different car, and I was known around the county as “the guy with the ladder on his SUV.”

I had picked up a 16-foot extension ladder for $10 at an auction, and through a combination of a homemade 2x4 frame and a trailer hitch extension, I attached it to the back of my Hyundai Santa Fe. It was great for getting pictures no one else in their right mind would take.

I couldn’t go anywhere without being noticed.

“Hey, I saw you and your ladder up at Durham last Saturday,” someone would say in a convenience store. “Wasn’t that you out at the reservoir the other day?”

But alas, a little over a year ago, the Hyundai bit the dust. I never figured out what did the ol’ girl in, but she was gone, gone, gone.

It took a while, but I managed to scrounge up a real gem of a replacement: A 1993 Plymouth Voyager van. It had a three-tone paint job — red, peeling, and rusted — stained gray upholstery, a billowing roof liner held up by a dozen screw tacks, and a cassette player for all those cassettes I threw away 20 years ago.

But it ran, and the price was right. $500, and this aged beauty was mine.

Yes, it’s old, ugly, cantankerous, and has more than 200,000 miles on it, but I don’t care. It’s a Voyager, same as the starship in the Star Trek series, and I’m her captain.

This ground-bound starship gives me frequent cause to be thankful about a lot of things.

Every month, I’m thankful that I don’t have a car payment. That makes life a little easier.

Almost every time I get in it, I’m truly thankful it starts, except when it doesn’t.

When that happens, I’m thankful for Art Rockhold, the service station owner who hired me in college who taught me a bit about auto mechanics. If it’s not a major problem, I can usually figure out how to get the van running again in short order. With a little patience and an Internet search, I’ve had pretty good success.

While I don’t have any cassettes, when I’m cruising down the road I’m thankful beyond measure for the radio. Some of life’s perfect moments are when the windows are cranked down, the engine is cranked up, and the tunes are cranked LOUD.

And when I’m out driving in the county, I’m indeed thankful to live in such a beautiful place. Some people love mountains, others love living beside an ocean, and I’ve lived near both, but they’re no more grand than the land of 180-degree skies and rolling prairie.

Often, as I contemplate peeling paint through a cracked windshield, I’m thankful to have such a fine ride. Seriously. It’s luxurious compared to what billions of other people in the world use for transportation. I could live out of that van if I had to, and it also would be better shelter than many retire to each night.

There’s much more I could say about my little old van, but I hope I’ve said enough to make an important point: Gratitude is an attitude.

I wouldn’t mind having a flashy new SUV that I could hook my ladder onto again, but I don’t need it. My old tri-tone red rocket ship gets me where I need to go, I don’t worry about it getting scratched or dented, and none of it belongs to a bank.

Living in a society where we’re constantly told our lives are lacking unless we have the latest this or the most up-to-date that, it’s easy to become dissatisfied with what we have. It’s easy to become consumed with consuming, with always having to have more.

Perhaps they should have stopped making cars in 1993. We’d all be up to date and satisfied with what we have. I’m thankful for progress, but not at the expense of being thankful right here and now.

— david colburn

Last modified Nov. 29, 2017