What Real Life is All About
“The Old Dodge Truck” and “A Bed’s Storied Life”—two short stories that may prompt sweet memories of your growing-up years.
This story collection begins with a beautiful piece of writing by my nephew, Jeffrey, son of my sister, Mollie. He didn’t intend for this to be published; it was simply a nostalgic email he sent to his mother, which she in turn shared with me. I couldn’t resist publishing it because it’s both an example of fine writing and a sweet remembrance of my father’s old Dodge truck, which I gave little thought to growing up. To me, it was simply the truck Daddy loved.
“Daddy” was William (Bill) Schaumburg, a farmer who never got to complete his grade school education. He and mother married in 1936 and farmed near Buckley, Illinois until 1946 when he decided to move into town and build a home and garage. A self-taught mechanic, he never met a car, truck, or tractor he couldn’t fix, and he advanced his hand-on education by devouring books and magazines to improve his many skills. My two sisters and I followed our parents’ entrepreneurial lead by starting businesses of our own and became voracious readers too.
After Daddy died in 1992, Mollie, then living in California, flew to Buckley with her sons, Jeffrey and Matthew, to get his truck, which he wanted her to have. They drove the truck to California with several pieces of furniture that are still in the family today. This story below was prompted years later when Jeffrey found a photo of that truck online and sent it to Mollie with his nostalgic remembrances.
The Old Dodge Truck
by Jeffrey Wakeman
“The Dodge had mud+snow rear tires. It towed a U-Haul into which several pieces of Buckley furniture were stuffed, at least one of which went to Aunt Mary. My cast-iron-rolled steel bed was in there.
“The cab had rubber mats over the steel floor, which is probably why the Dodge smelled a bit like the back of the Datsun—but the Dodge smelled more than a bit like Buckley. Not like any particular place in Buckley, though—not the particular mustiness of the basement with its exotic rounded latch-handle refrigerator, nor the thousand neat Louis L'Amour paperbacks of the steep narrow staircase, nor the Roman Meal wheat bread of the kitchen, nor the particular grass and grain elevator and mild steel of the side screen door with its eyehook latch, and especially not the unvarnished wood and rust and old gear oil and mysterious car hulk and overhead chain pulley engine lift of the Buckley garage. The Dodge just smelled like Buckley because that's where it came from.
“I remember there wasn't a vent up on the passenger side dash, because it was all glove box door. Instead there was a big black plastic fresh air box under the dash above your feet, with a sliding plastic door on the right. But that wasn't nearly as interesting as the aftermarket saddle tanks.
“Did you know the Club Cab design was a Dodge innovation in 1972? Ford answered with the Super Cab in 1974; Chevy didn't make anything like it until the 80s.
“It seemed like we kept the Dodge for years just to haul away poplar tree trimmings. The Union City smell of poplar seemed at odds with the Buckley Dodge.”
A Bed’s Storied Life
Mollie kept this old family bed in storage for several years until Jeffrey wanted a bigger bed. He liked the look of the old iron bed, so she took it out of storage and cleaned it up.
“The first thing I had to do to get the bed ready for Jeff,” she told me with sisterly sarcasm, “was scrape off countless old dried-up wads of chewing gum you’d stuck there before you went to bed, which reminded me of that old recording by Homer & Jethro, ‘Does the Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?’ After cleaning and preparing the metal, I painted it black to go with Jeff’s bedroom décor. A few years later, he returned the bed when he got married and I removed all the black paint and repainted it beige with gold trim, where it is now the highlight of my guest room.”
A sign on that room’s door says “The Buckley Room,” and it includes many family antiques. You can imagine how sweet it is for me to sleep in my childhood bed on one of my rare trips to California. (Mollie’s glad I no longer chew gum.)
Life is All about Stories
In my biographical memoir, Marcella’s Secret Dreams and Stories, I’ve written about both the “storied bed” and Mother’s love of Western novels, which she so artfully shelved on and above the stair steps. Hundreds of little “life stories” in my book make the truth come alive, illustrating that real life is first and foremost all about FAMILY, and then about:
• Living day by day and dealing to the best of your ability with whatever life delivers;
• Giving of yourself when family, friends, or strangers are in need of help, encouragement, or comfort;
• Being thankful for all the blessings in your life;
• Looking for the humor in your daily life and using laughter as a stress reliever;
• Grabbing joy by the tail whenever and wherever you can find it:
• Letting God help you find peace, even in the most difficult times of life;
• Reaping the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galations 5: 22-23, NLT).
REMEMBER: You have stories only you can tell. And I encourage you to write them—not only for yourself, but for family members and friends who will surely see your writing as a great legacy of love.
Previously published as a Brabec Bulletin on May 9, 2022.