Off-Road Fleetwood

A lot of the fruit that is me didn't fall far from the tree, and one of the properties of that fruit is (was) alcoholism. One night, my father was returning home from a marathon of hard drinking in one of the signature vehicles that he would have several of during the lead up to his departure from the road entirely, a white (they were all white, save for one in blue that he had for literally about two weeks), 1983 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham d'Elegance. If you're old enough to remember a time when Blockbuster Video thrived and the Compact Disc was king, you'll remember this early eighties vintage as the last of the "classic" Caddies, those softly sprung, plushly appointed behemoths built for cruising our smooth, straight, sprawling Interstates, before the cultural vehicular paradigm shifted and everyone who didn't buy into the SUV craze, including old farts, began to want "performance sedans," forcing even Cadillac to shift toward more "euro" offerings, letting the deVilles and Fleetwoods of olde go extinct along with their geriatric owners. My old man shifted into a Seville STS, then a CTS, for his last Cadillacs and one was a bad, the other an even worse, fit to his style.

But I digress.

Anyway, the old man managed to pilot the big Caddy home and was heading down our street, the left side of which mostly abuts our property. As is often the case with booze, it left his vision functioning, but that was not the case for judgment or reason. Out of the corner of one of those tired, bleary eyes my father caught sight of a deer (or maybe two, one of which was real). He was an avid - perhaps rabid - gardener, forever battling with wildlife that wanted his lettuce and legumes more than he did, and his reaction was not at all ease the vehicle to a stop and observe the pretty deer, it was Get the hell away from my garden, you goddamn Bambi sonofabitch. With that, he turned off the road, onto the property - mind, in a low and long Fleetwood, not a high and stubby Grand Cherokee - and engaged pursuit, proceeding to chase the deer around the yard. This meant not driving into the pond while fording the spillway thereof, and "two-wheeling" around and between trees and across terrain not meant for a vehicle with limousine steering that would bottom out on speed bumps taken at anything over a crawl. Imagine if you will the sight of halogen high beams forward and "pencil" tail lamps aft (electro-luminescent opera lamps amidships) jouncing in the night and, if any neighbor happened to be awake and peering out their window, the look of curiosity (not terror; this is a redneck dead-end, not gated community) on his or her face as this unbelievable spectacle unfolded before their eyes.

Car, driver and cervid survived that night, but on another occasion - this time in daylight (intoxication unknown), the perp a woodchuck - one of my bus's suspension air bags was some not-so-lucky collateral damage in the War on Wildlife. My father was once again engaged in pursuit, this time on foot, the weapon a .410 gauge shotgun. The offending rodent scurried behind the rear dual wheels and the garden guerrilla shoved the barrel into the rear axle cavity and blindly pulled the trigger - missing entirely the varmint but puncturing enough plies of Firestone rubber and fabric capable of holding up the ass end of a bus and over a ton of 6-71 Detroit Diesel engine and Spicer transmission. Too bad the bus wasn't pumped up, for the hiss of air escaping from the suspension would have added a nice, "Aw, shit" touch to that scene.

It's probably a good thing that I quit drinking.

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