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Irish Fathers and Automobiles

John W. Pinkerton


I wasn't raised by wolves, but I was raised by an Irish father---there's not much difference. 

Young men can learn a lot from their fathers by observing what not to do---especially if the father is Irish.  If one mixes Irish fathers, sons, and automobiles, the results can be informative.

The first time I questioned my father's sanity and, I guess, the day I discovered that he was Irish, was the day he was chopping down an oak tree on our acre and a half when I was about five years old.  He warned me to stand back far from his chopping and the tree.  I could see the wisdom in that and readily complied.  I noticed my great aunt's shiny black sedan which had been placed on our property while she traveled out of town.  I looked at the tree; I looked at Dad; and I looked at the car.  I could clearly see that if he did fell the tree, the car would get smushed.  I timidly mentioned this to Dad who waved me back and continued chopping.  Of course, the tree came smashing down  on the car putting a heck of a dent in one fender.  I don't recall Dad congratulating me on my prognostication.  I don't recall his having anything to say about the damage.

I don't think he made the error based on lack of intellect.  I think it was based on doing a job he didn't want to do in the first place, being reckless, and being Irish.

I recall that Dad had a '58 Oldsmobile, chrome over white.  He would allow me to drive it on some occasions.   I noticed a small scratch and dent on the front of the hood the next morning after having driven the car the night before.  I assumed that it had happened on my watch, so I found some white shoe polish and attempted a touchup job.  My little ruse was soon discovered, and I was grilled extensively about the origin of the scratch/dent.  Although I had no knowledge of the origin of the dent, for a couple of days, I felt bad about the damage done to the car.  Suddenly it dawned on me a couple days later: I recalled that Dad had opened a ten foot chain link gate by bumping it with the car rather than taking the time to get out of the car and open the gate like a normal non-Irish human being.  I quickly nailed him with the fact to which he totally ignored me and my fact.

One evening on a date, we decided to drive to a nearby lake for a little private time.  Remember it was the late 50's so that wasn't X-rated.  A few miles outside of town, the car---that same Oldsmobile---suddenly exploded on me.  A loud explosion was followed by steam covering the front of the car.  I found a telephone and called Dad to tell him what had happened.  He arrived, jumped in the Oldsmobile, and drove like Hell back to town.  Dad asked me about my speed.  I told him I was driving within the speed limit; I was on a date, not attempting to gain the pole position at the 500. 

Of course Dad had the car repaired by the Oldsmobile dealership.  They discovered that a rod had gone through the block.  Pretty serious stuff.  Dad told me he had spoken to a state police officer who had told him that I must have been driving the car well over 100 miles per hour.  Of course I wasn't, but I had no way to prove my innocence.  After some reflection, I realized that it was likely what had happened was that a hose had broken and  that he had put the rod through the block when he drove the car without water.  Another proud Irish moment.  I kept this little fact to myself.  I wasn't stupid.

Now, Dad wasn't a stupid man; in fact, he was quite bright, but the Irish in him often overrode his intelligence.  Bless his heart.

On the up side, I survived my years with Dad, and was probably a better man for the experience.