Grandpa’s Car – a look into a Thanksgiving past … when we were total idiots

By Kandace Chapple & Kerry Winkler

Have we ever told you the story about the night we borrowed our Grandpa’s car? Yes, borrowed. We had permission to drive it. But we did not necessarily have permission to drive it where we did.

Let’s set the scene. We were in the U.P., age 16, in a house filled with relatives watching TV, and bored out of our minds on a post-Thanksgiving weekend, admiring our new driver’s license… with a Friday night burning outside.

Our cousin, 15, floated the idea. “Let’s borrow your dad’s car.”

“Absolutely not!” blew in from the next room.

But Grandpa Maddox, over our mothers’ protests, said this: “What’s gonna happen? Take my car, Twin. (To be safe, Grandpa called us both Twin.) Just don’t scratch it.”

We rushed outside before anyone could stop us, but once there, joy eluded us. We were going to have to cruise in a car we secretly called, “The Turd.” We decided we had no choice. There must be someone who would look past this shade of brown and zero in on the three beauties cruising the gut.

We threw the phone book that Grandma sat on into the back seat, and all three of us piled onto the front bench seat. We hit the small town of Newberry wide open, where we were soon flagged down in the parking lot behind the IGA grocery store.

“You from out of town?” The guys leaning out their car windows were older than us, but not too much.

One of us said: “Who wants to know?”

God, we were cool in that Turd.

The boys, naturally, were smitten. Before we knew it, we were invited to a bonfire. Which sounded like a terribly good idea to the three of us, so we agreed to follow complete strangers deep into the backwoods of the U.P.

Let’s bring the story to a screeching halt to advise against anyone else on earth EVER DOING THIS. But, it was 1991, pre-Internet. We knew nothing and we didn’t worry about getting killed. In hindsight, we probably should have.

Off we went, following these boys down a two-track. In an old man’s car. With a new (albeit, awful) paint job. There were bends and turns and branches everywhere. Kandy was the driver, and when we approached the first gigantic mud pit, she did what anyone would do: She gunned it. Through the hole we sailed, the mud peeling up past our windows, showering the car with evidence.

Which made our decision final: There was no going back.

When we arrived in an open field, there was, in fact, a bonfire blowing. But by then, we had come to our senses. We turned the car around as the boys parked and jumped out.

“We’re here!” they said, peering into our window. They were happy. They’d scored out-of-town gals! The night was young! Their flannel shirts looked good in the firelight!

But we didn’t get out. Instead, we locked the doors. And rolled (yes, rolled) down the window just a bit.

“What?” the cutest one asked.

“We better go, actually,” we said. The vixens from the IGA were long gone.

“Why? This is going to be fun!” To be fair, these guys were very sweet and kind. There was no real danger, not yet anyway, but it became evident that we would have to douse their desire.

“Sorry, boys, but this is our Grandpa’s car, and we have to get it home by 9.”

The boys did some problem-solving, sad to see the night slip through their fingers.

“Can you get a different car and come back?” one asked.

“Yes, we can try,” we said, almost believing ourselves. “We’ll borrow our aunt’s minivan next!”

Believe it or not, this was a good pick-up line in the Yoop.

“OK then, gals, until later.” The boys tapped the hood of Grandpa’s scratched turd and bid us a sweet good-bye.

Which is when things went south.

Three trucks—all with big tires, high beams, KC lights and blaring music—arrived. Blocking the road we needed to get out on. (Have you ever seen a monster truck lit up by a bonfire? No, you haven’t. Not until you’ve been in the woods with strange men and a phone book as your only weapon.)

“No one’s going anywhere,” one of them shouted, jumping down and heading our way.

“Um, we’re gonna need you to move,” Kerry squeaked out the window crack.

“Naw, naw, naw, we got a bone to pick with your boyfriends here.”

We were, plain and simple, praying harder than Great-Grandma Simmerman did over last night’s turkey.

We watched as the guys gave each other a couple of shoves. Kandy revved the engine, very slightly, trying to give attitude without actually being noticed. We debated on our bench, should we flee on foot?

Then, our “boyfriends” came to the rescue.

“Enough now, let these girls go home!” the flannel one said, his voice calm but firm. “They have nothing to do with this!”

What was this?

Now we kind of wanted to stay more than we wanted to go, fear replaced by good old curiosity.

But what happened next was that the leader jumped back into his big truck and moved it, his cronies following suit, letting us go.

The Turd, when needed, could throw a rooster tail.

We drove that road out of there like a zipper. And we didn’t stop until we got to Pickleman’s on M-28. We pulled into the light of the gas pumps and jumped out. We were shrieking and shaking and laughing.

But we had business to attend to: We used the windshield wiper fluid, wands and little blue wipes to clean up the Turd. We then took it home, parked it in the dark and worried a full week before Grandpa finally called our mothers about the scratches, which we denied for the next 5 years.

To this day, that story remains one of the best holiday memories we’ve ever had. And, to our readers, we wish you a little adventure for your holidays this year, too!

Kandace Chapple and Kerry Winkler are the publishers of Grand Traverse Woman. It is the only magazine that serves women who live, work and play in Northern Michigan. Follow us on facebook to stay up to date on the latest & greatest from @grandtraversewoman

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