- Saturday, 01 August 2009 10:22
We don’t get to town a lot. Our drive is seven miles over rocks, ruts, and through up to eight gates– depending on where the buffalo and our neighbor’s beef are pastured. We are two of the ten people in the whole world who actually drive a Hummer H2 because we use it. Ours is school-bus yellow, with a winch on the front and rear–yes, often. Over the last four years it’s been in the shop three times–because the field mice that live in the frame have chewed various critical wires in two. We have a great story about the six-foot-two mechanic at the shop in Billings, Montana who reached into a hole to feel for wires and grabbed a mouse. As he was “rapidly disengaging from the vehicle” the mouse ran up his arm, across his chest, and down his other sleeve. Between the screaming and dancing, and the subsequent pursuit, that mouse turned the Denny Menholt Chevrolet shop upside down for an hour. John, the service director, tells us that every time they announce our Hummer is coming in, there’s a low moan, followed by a rash of sudden and incapacitating illnesses.
During winter our Hummer is eternally mud-spattered from spinning up the canyon, with a stratigraphy of green stuff from buffalo droppings frozen under the wheel wells. Leaving the Hummer at airports is always embarrassing, because if it rains while we’re gone, we return to find clumps of mud melting onto the wet pavement and spreading into the adjacent spaces. The locals in Thermopolis harrass us about how many months it’s been since we’ve washed the H2. The day we actually do, is for many, a sure sign that spring is finally coming.
“Hey, did you see? The Gears washed their Hummer today.”
“Thank God. Guess I’d better plant the tomatoes before it’s too late. Oh, and I can call Uncle Bob…tell him it’s safe to finally sheer the sheep.”
On occasion we’ve taken the Hummer to the real city. You know, the place most Hummers live, generally in communities Nordstrom’s, Saks, and boutique clothing stores with French and Italian names. We’ve seen them ghosting down Fifth Avenue in New York. Watched them shining in the afternoon sun on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Some even live places like Amsterdam, dominating the Herrengracht. Since many Barnes&Noble, Borders, and Books-A-Millon stores are found within a two-Starbuck radius, we’ve had opportunity to park our juniper-scratched, buffalo-dented, mouse-infested Hummer next to real city Hummers. The first time this happened, we stepped out of our truck, kicked the dust from the mud-caked floorboards off of our fancy city shoes, and looked back.
The sight was pathetic. Our Hummer doesn’t have chrome-plated lug nuts or ten-thousand dollar wheels. If you ask it, it will tell you wax is what’s left when buffalo rub their ears on the brush guard. Wash is when the buffalo cows get to lick road salt from doors and fenders. A Sunday drive is when a sick calf get’s taken to Vet Steve in Worland. (Note: Calves ALWAYS start getting sick on Friday night so that they can be critical come Sunday morning when an emergency visit costs the most.) Our Hummer thinks a snaking road has at least three rattlesnakes per mile.
So there it sits, surrounded by Jaguars, Mercedes, the odd Rolls or Bentley, and right next to a gleaming, chromed, sparkling “City Queen.” That’s what we call those Hummers with thirty thousand in lustrous options, oversized rims, and thin little tires. You know the type: No chain-scarred clevis hooks for these babies, theirs are gold plated. Many have weird blue or purple lights that glow at night from the undercarriage. We’ve even seen them with chromed skid plates–no buffalo green for them.
How many times have we watched as our battered ranch Hummer tuck its wheels in, wilting as it stares at its reflection in the City Queen’s waxed and buffed mirror sides. You can see the tires deflating and flattening. The City Queen begins to swell, the chrome rippling with superiority. Her headlights raise and narrow, as if truly disgusted at having such a vulgar and bucolic Hummer hick in such loathsome proximity. Meanwhile, a spreading fluid stain appears beneath our vehicle, the final admission of abject submission.
The first time we saw this, it broke our hearts. We love our Hummer. She’s carried fencing material to the high rim where only horses and mules have packed before. She got the four-wheel-drive John Deere tractor unstuck that time our lives literally depended on it. With the differential lock engaged, it’s made it to the Emergency Room in town when not even Flight for Life could have made it to our door. One February our Hummer towed eight-thousand pounds of Titan stock trailer filled with four champion bison from Rapid City to Wisconsin without so much as a flutter. Chained up she’s pulled an F-350 dually hitched to a jack-knifed gooseneck trailer crammed with frightened bison up, and out of the canyon. Bouncing and swaying, she’s clawed her way across unthinkable terrain to rescue orphan calves from certain death.
Seeing our Hummer, devastated by such a snotty, over-manicured, urban glamour princess, we walked back, slapped Hummer on the dimple where Silvertip once banged a threatening horn, and said, “Buck up, sweetie. Tell that tight-assed, boulevard bitch to loosen up on her catalytic converter. And then, when she swells up in indignation, ask the delicate wax-witch how many half-dead buffalo she’s ever pulled out of drainages.”
And as we were walking away, you could see it. Hummer straightened, mud cracking from her wheel wells, standing higher on her air shocks. The battle scars–so embarrassing scant moments before–began to stand out proudly on her paint. And the City Queen? We hoped her driver could crawl through from the passenger side. You see, she kept edging away, as if reassured by the Prius she crowded against on the far side.
Oh, and the last thing we saw was two field mice scampering ambitously for the City Queen. You couldn’t miss the delight in their eyes as they looked up in worship. They’d never seen a vehicle with purple lights installed underneath just for their nocturnal benefit. Here, finally, they’d found a truck with virgin, unchewed wires!
Ah, the lives of writers…
Regards to all,
Mike and Kathy