No designer genes

Published 10:18 pm Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mark Twain said that we’re all ignorant, just about different things.

Or maybe it was Will Rogers.

Anyway, anything worth quoting was said by one of them. But whoever said it was right.

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One of my main areas of ignorance is genes.

I just don’t understand how they work.

We get genes from our mamas and daddies who got them for their mamas and daddies and on back to the beginning of time.

Why, to hear smart folks talk, we’ve got a gene for every little thing in the world.

We’ve got genes that determine what color eyes and hair we have and how tall or fat we are.

We’ve got genes that determine whether we have freckles, ingrown toenails or dimples on our knees or whether we are prone to hot showers, tithe at church or scream when a mouse runs across the floor.

All kinds of things like that.

And, then we have what I call designer genes.

Those are the genes that decide whether we like opera or hillbilly music.

Whether we prefer a vacation to St. Bart or to Panama City Beach or caviar to catfish or a Lexus to a Ford Pinto.

Studying on it, I got my gospel music genes from Mama, my “going” genes from my granny, my passion for picnics genes from Aunt Eleanor and my used car genes from Daddy.

If I remember right, we never had a new car.

Daddy liked “bargain” cars and cars that were built like the Sherman tanks that had, along with him, survived World War II.

As long as a car had four wheels, a gas pedal, brakes and a steering knob, Daddy was satisfied.

How it looked made absolutely no difference to him.

Once he bought a station wagon with wooden sides and a passenger-side door that flew open if you made a quick left turn.

Mama said it looked like something that came off Noah’s Ark.

“Well, would you rather walk?” was Daddy’s replay.

The ugliest car we ever had was a green Hudson that looked like a bloated bullfrog and lunged when you put it in gear.

The most “sociable” looking one was a Pontiac that had fender skirts but it started squeaking and Daddy sold it before he had to spend any money on it.

Daddy bought an ivory-colored “antique” station wagon that was two city blocks long and worked fine except it wouldn’t go in reverse.

Daddy said, if you knew where you were going, you wouldn’t need to back up.

He had a pickup truck with different colored doors and a big hauling truck with wooden sides that swayed and wobbled when you got above 20 mph.

And, he didn’t see a need for “factory” air when you could roll the windows down.

So, it’s understandable that I have a used car gene just like Daddy.

My philosophy is to buy bargains and ride ’em in the ground. Now, car bargains aren’t necessarily used cars. My first “new” bargain car was a metallic green Pontiac that was a leftover from the year 1967 and we got it for a song.

It took my first baby home from the hospital and my second and my third so I was real sentimental about “Babe.”

But on the way to church one Sunday.

We smelled smoke. “We’re on fire!” the children hollered.

We coasted into the church parking lot where Babe went out in a blaze of glory.

I get attached to all my cars.

I confide “in” them and ride “on” them, as do all true Southerners.

My favorite and most-missed car is Asparagus.

I got her brand new in 1997 for $7,995 and she was a beauty and quite a traveler.

She crossed the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains and wound her way around the Rockies, over Vale Pass and through treacherous Independence Pass.

She labored up Capulin Volcano, blew across the Kansas plains with sagebrush stuck in her grill and hot-footed the New Mexico desert.

After 150,000 miles, she had a sinking spell out on a dusty, dirt road about four years ago.

We “limped” home but the cost of getting her fixed was more than she was financially worth. I couldn’t bear to see her in the junkyard so she was left to RIP under the cedar tree next to the house.

She was a greenhouse in the winter and an extra closet the rest of the year.

Loitering there, she was an embarrassment to family, friends and neighbors.

She’s now being resurrected by a band of boys with monkey wrenches and battery chargers.

Desperate for a car after Asparagus went down, I was on the verge of buying the most economical, a.k.a cheapest, new car I could find.

But, then, I happened on a “best buy.”

It was a 1967 Honda with 62,000 miles for $3,500.

But a friend beat me to it — just snatched it right out from under my bumper sticker.

She bought it for her son.

Now, anybody with any smarts would know that a 16-year-old would fall over dead and die before he would ride in a car like that.

So, I just laid low and, when she took the old Honda back, I was sitting on the dealer’s doorstep.

It was Relay for Life day 2005 when Maybelle became my car.

The paint on her hood has peeled a little more.

She’s lost a hubcap and her hood is slightly bent.

The fan on her air conditioner makes a strange, flapping noise.

Her wipers scrape and her windshield washer doesn’t squirt.

Her brakes squeal and the gas cap cover won’t stay shut and the tail light is out – again.

But she gets 39 miles per gallon, the radio works and she gets me to and fro.

I can tell her all my secrets and she keeps them under her hood.

She’s an old and (t)rusted friend.

Happy fourth re-birthday, Maybelle!

Jaine Treadwell is features editor for The Messenger. She can be reached at