The hell-eating 4WD – or, the story of a boy’s third romance

Here’ a little blurb I sent to the Wheels section of Our Canada in December 2010. Never heard from it since, so here it is.


His name was Red Baron and he was an ’87 Pathfinder. He spent some good years making mush out of carved-up logging roads with a guy named Ray from Vancouver, BC.

One day a young kid showed up at Ray’s house and the Baron smelled trouble. He didn’t have to be told; a baby was on the way and his owner was ready for a soccer-van.

The kid bent down with his brother and looked under his belly.

“Its good,” they said.

The boy was eighteen and didn’t have a clue about driving a manual. Their first time out together Red Baron stalled and the kid swore and hit the clutch all wrong while shoving on the shifter. Cars honked. Finally a man with a beard took the boy for a drive and showed him that smooth is fast.

The boy had a girlfriend and they went in Red Baron to Prince George. This old SUV was in for a nasty surprise – he had no block-heater – and the boy didn’t have the money to get one. It was a cold time and Red Baron had trouble starting. One day the kid was showed how to coerce him into turning on no matter what – a push-start someone called it.

The boy and girl couldn’t find work so they drove over the mountains into Alberta, and since they were poor they slept in Red Baron for a whole month. Sometimes Red Baron woke in the night and heard the kids shivering where they lay on the folded-down seats. The girl cried and the boy muttered and pulled on his frozen pants to go to work at a restaurant before the sun rose.

Spring brought better times. The kids had made it through the rough and were ready to celebrate. For the first time in months Red Baron’s tank was topped up and he drank his fuel happily as the boy and girl laughed and drove the Yellowhead.

That summer they moved to the country and Red Baron met gravel roads again. The girl learned to drive and her laughter erased the memory of winter. The boy would take his rifle and lean out the window of the passenger side and shoot at rocks and fence posts.

The kid was building a house in Niton Junction. In the evening they would drive down to the Mcleod and take Red Baron along the river bank. The kid had mastered the clutch and they would dare the river at its own game, driving along till the water washed above the wheel wells. That was the best time the Red Baron ever had.

He was in rough shape now because the money could not be found to repair him. There was talk about selling and the old truck cringed. One morning the kids got up early like they always did and woke the Baron. The girl worked at a restaurant in town and every day there was a long drive. On the way home the boy sat alone with elbows on the wheel and his eyelids drooped. They swooped across the road and rolled and the beautiful Red Barron was soiled and his smooth metal parts were twisted by a ditch, his roof caved in. The kid went to the hospital and the Baron to the junkyard and later the boy and girl came to get their things and say goodbye. The Red Baron was happy that the kids had loved him the way they did. Satisfied with his life he went to sleep and was later minimized into a metal cube and recycled.




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