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Stallin the Beater Van

Raising a large family on a limited income gave us lots of humorous memories. Our younger children still chuckle when we mention an old minivan I dubbed “Stallin—not after the cruel dictator, though that might have been appropriate. Instead, this was a pun for our vehicle’s main characteristic: stalling at inappropriate times. (Explanation: those who grew up as Hoosiers always leave off the final “g” in words ending in -ing.)

We used this vehicle to taxi horse-and-buggy Mennonite people to town for shopping. However, our little beater van had a personality of his own. After realizing that causing accidents for his owners was harder than originally intended, he (the van) consoled himself by systematically breaking down his every working component.

He finally settled on refusing to idle unless the driver held one foot firmly on the brake while stomping the gas pedal with the other.

As I said, Stallin had a personality all his own.

His greatest delight was dying when we cruised through intersections. This would cause the driver to jam into neutral gear while frantically pumping the accelerator. We learned to keep talking to our passengers when this happened- a diversion tactic, keeping them from leaving frantic claw marks on the dashboard.

When Stallin realized his demise loomed near, he gave one last valiant effort to rally. He demanded first aid. In his last days, we had to use jumper cables to start his engine.

This leads to my favorite part. One evening our youngest son needed transportation to his favorite hunting spot. He suddenly remembered he had only fifteen minutes to drive the mile distance. Sprinting to good old Stallin, this son began resembling a one-man pit crew at the Indy 500. If he were listing the sequence of his actions, it would look like this:

1. Find jumper cables.

2. Realize all other vehicles are gone. Need to jump-start off riding mower.

3. Sprint downhill to mower, find it out of gas.

4. Frantically search all outside buildings for gas can. Add gas to mower.

5. Race mower to driveway at top of hill, connect cables from mower to minivan. Start van.

6. Invent method of keeping accelerator to floor while disconnecting battery cables.

7. Find hammer and small, heavy box on floor of van. Prop these on accelerator.

8. Hurriedly disconnect cables, shut off mower.

9. Lie down under steering wheel, remove hammer and box while revving engine with hand.

10. Replace hand on accelerator with foot on accelerator. Remember to stomp on brake with other foot.

11. Quickly ram into reverse gear. Back out of driveway as sun peacefully dips over horizon.

This little beater van sat in our driveway for a long time, reminding us of our days of high adventure and adrenaline thrills. And I don’t believe any of us grieved to see him led to his final resting place—the junkyard.

Your turn. Did you or a family member own a memorable vehicle? Tell us about it below


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