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Johnny Cash Helped Eliminate The Junk Yard In Front Of My House

November 27, 2017

I spoke in church yesterday. I was asked to share a 15 message on Thanksgiving. It was called “Thankful for the fleas.” You can read it here. The point of the message was being grateful for the terrible things that happen in our lives. . .like fleas. Or cars that break down. The former was a lot more important than the latter.

The title references “The Hiding Place,” a book by Corrie Ten Boom about her and Betsie, her sister in a concentration camp during WWII. Corrie learned to be thankful for the fleas. The fleas kept the guards out of the barracks. It gave them some measure of security and peace in the center of hell. While my message yesterday had a decidedly “religious” tone, I think the concept transcends religion or questions of faith. Our trials make us stronger.

My friend Howard Tayler took the well known quote “That which doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger” and put a more militaristic twist on it.

Maxim 35: That which does not kill me has made a tactical error.
– Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Either way, the sentiment is the same. The song writer Bill Joel described it as

You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes
But they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own.

You learn more from your accidents
Than anything you can learn in school.
– Second Wind

This weekend, I took one step closer to no longer owning a junk yard. My house has a lot of vehicles. We have a 15 passenger van, a 2001 Honda Civic, a 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix, a 96 Lexus ES 300, a 91 Chrysler New Yorker, and a moped. Although, technically it’s a scooter.

But, I also have a lot of drivers at my house. Of the six kids still at home two are 18, one is 17, one is 16 and the twins are 15. We end up going many different directions. Multiple cars are a near necessity. Other than the van, none of my vehicles are less than 10 years old. Most have close to 200,000 miles or more. (Well, not the moped, but the cars have been well driven.) I’m happy to say that every one of them is fully paid for. But, my father had a saying,

Everyone makes a car payment. You either pay the bank or the mechanic.

Or, in my case, since I work on my own cars, I pay the parts store. It’s a fact of life, like people, as cars get old, they start to break down. And if you let a teenager drive a car, they break down quicker. A few month ago, my house resembled a junk yard. The moped had a flat tire. Changing a moped tire is a semi-serious mechanical undertaking. The 91 Chrysler needed a new power steering pump and it was up on jackstands and disassembled waiting. The Pontiact had a burnt out ignition coil. And the 96 Lexus was waiting on an partial engine rebuild.

I had more non working vehicles than working ones.

I hate it when cars break down. It really bothers me. In fact, while I’m driving if my car so much as hiccups, I get a tightness in the pit of my stomach. I’ve had them break down a lot over the years. I’ve pulled the engine totally out of the Lexus. I’ve taken a bracket from the Chrysler to be “aluminum welded” and then had to grind down the weld to make it fit, when I coudln’t find a replacement part online.

And yet, I know that just about everything is fixable. While I’ve called in friends and relatives to help on multiple occasions, I’ve rarely had to take a car to a mechanic. Over the weekend, I finally cleared two car repairs off my backlog. First, the Chrylser. My cousin and I finally got the power steering pump installed. The car went from a semi-permanent monument to 90s American Car luxery sitting in my driveway to a commuter car for my son to get back and forth to college.

I needed help with the power steering pump, but the other repair over the weekend was all me. I replaced the right rear brake cylinder on the Honda Civic. Pretty sure it was ruptured by a teen attempting aggressive “power slides” using the hand brake. It took me a few hours, but ultimately I got the new cylinder installed, got the brakes reassembled, the wheel back on and the car was back on the road. Unlike previous repairs, this one did not require putting a car up on blocks for weeks. I realized that it was all the break downs that gave me the skills and the confidence to tackle even more car repairs. The adversity gave me the training to overcome adversity. Over the past month, I’ve got the Chrylser back on the road, replaced burnt out ignition coils on the Pontiac to get it back running, used a grinder to fashion a custom spacer for the moped wheel to mount properly, and basically got everything except the Lexus running again.

The country singer Johnny Cash had a song called “A Boy Named Sue.” In it, he searches “the honkey tonks and bars” for the man that gave him that awful name. Finally, on a July day in Gatlinburg, he catches up to his absentee father. Being a country song, they end up fighting. And the fight was epic. It ended up with “the boy named Sue” pointing a gun at “the snake was his own sweet dad.” His father looked at him and smiled.

And he said, “Son, this world is rough
And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough
And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help ya along
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew that you’d have to get tough or die
And it’s the name that helped to make you strong”

Yeah, he said, “Now you just fought one hell of a fight
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you do
But, ya ought to thank me, before I die
For the gravel in yer guts and the spit in yer eye
‘Cause I’m the xxx-xx-x-xxxxx that named you “Sue”

Of course, that gave him a “different point of view.” He acknowledges that if he ever has a son, he’s going to name him

Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!

During the trials, we don’t appreciate them. But, later, if we’ve paid proper attention, we are stronger for the effort and we hopefully don’t want to go back and shoot them.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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