Mutts and Motors
The greatest companions in work and in life.
The majority of my days in the shop are spent in solitude. To which I understand. Not many people are familiar with the strange machines I drag home. So, few have interest nor knowledge in the usual tasks I am undertaking. My shop is also meager, no lift or climate control. So even fewer wish to spend the days rolling around on the dirty, fluid soaked ground in either sweltering heat or biting cold. But there have been two friends that would never turn down a day spent out in the shop. They did not care what might lay before us. All they care about was that we did it together.
I have spent most of the last 4 years of wrenching talking to a camera or myself. Sometimes mumbling along to one of my favorite Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, or Smokey Robinson songs. But there was some time where my heart, felt more full and my soul, less lonesome.
It has taken me a while to figure out how best to manage the emotions surrounding the loss of my dearest confidantes. The wounds still sting and the memories of what was, still vivid and clear. Perhaps, the best way to cope is to celebrate the confidence, motivation, and companionship that they gifted.
I really started wrenching when I turned 17. My grandfather had bought me the first car that was all my own. A low mileage 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. A car that literally was driven by an old lady who only took it to the local market and to church on Sunday. It did not need much, other than the standard teenage must have. A banging stereo.
At this same time, I had rescued a 3 year old American Staffordshire Terrier. The two of us bonding immediately.
Here name was Baby. She and I agreed it was a stupid name. But few have the luxury of selecting their own name. We both settled on the more respectable moniker of Bea. She was eager to start work in the garage those early years. For every wash, every oil change, and every modification. Bea even caused a break up with a high school girlfriend. She would not give up shot gun for the girlfriend. Shotgun was her position and would not relinquish it for a passing fling. I sided with Bea and made the girl ride in the back seat. I never saw that girl again.
So connected were Bea and I to our shared love of vehicles and wrenching. She watched on as I swapped a big V-8 into the Cutlass and was one of the few to hear it roar to life through the dual Flowmaster exhaust for the first time. A sound that was cemented in our memories. It was our first call to adventure. One night, our back gate was left open and Bea had wondered out during a late night bathroom break. My little brother woke me up to help search for her. All I did was hand him the keys to the Cutlass. With the confused look he asked, "What, you want me to drive around and look for her? I'm not old enough to drive!" "Just start it up." I said, rolling over to go back to sleep. "She will find you." Minutes later, Bea was hopping into bed with me, followed closely by my brother with the keys. "I can't believe that worked. As soon as it started up, she came running back home."
She was with me when I brought home the Love Bug and kept me company for every second of the build.
She watched on as I built my Cafe Racer.
Rode shotgun for every trip to the parts store.
And scrutinized every test drive.
Bea even found the time to just make me smile after a hard day.
I lost her 4 days before my birthday in 2016. Having just finished my Cafe Racer. We completed all of the projects we started together. The shop and the world for that matter, became lonely that day. We were together for 13 years. All those days building stuff, all those miles driving through the country, seemed as though they would go on forever.
I did not do much in the garage for a while after that. Finally finding the motivation to make a set of tool bags for the motorcycle, cranking up Jackie Wilson to drown my sorrow.
As time heals all wounds, it was easier to get back out in the shop and work. But the weight of solitude still bore across my shoulders.
Whitney and I would go on to start fostering dogs and helping them find their own families. We helped many great dogs find great families. All the while, still missing my old lady.
But then, in early 2019, a new project and a new foster entered the shop.
CiCi was a 10 year old Sharpei and Shiba Inu mix. She was immediately enthralled with reviving the Corvair. Grunting at me early, every weekend morning and gesturing at the back door. This old lady demanding that I get out and get to work. I was easily smitten.
A part of me that had been missing for a few years seemed to return and the sorrow lifted from the workspace. Together, we got the Corvair back on the road after a 20 year hiatus. We even built a canoe that would ride on top of the wagon for fun camping trips. Our bond of friendship cemented, CiCi was no longer a foster. She was now a part of the team. My right hand in our new excursions.
That September, we found out she had lung cancer and it was rapidly spreading. It was a little over a year ago that I lost her too. The sorrow now having returned to the workshop. Her cot, that she dutifully supervised from, now hangs from the wall. Retired from service in memoriam. For seven months, I was feeling whole again. How I missed having the company. The months, I still wish were years and the projects we shared were more than two.
Bea and CiCi are gone but they will never be forgotten. Parts of them are enshrined in the builds were shared. Their portraits and mementos collected and on display. I'll remember every hour I shared with Bea and CiCi as they listened to me talk things out to them. The times they sprang up, ready to go when a car was started for a test drive or a run to the hardware store. Again, not caring what we were doing or where we were going, just wanting to do it together.