1968 was a year of turbulence that this country and the youth of America all suffered through asking their selves just where are we headed. After that year I thought just what else could go wrong. It wasn’t long into 1969 that I discovered your own personal health was what could go wrong.
As we entered the spring on the farm I was noticing a constant pain down the back of my left leg. At first I assumed it was just a sore muscle or two from having been indoors most of the winter and now back to doing some harder work and it would wear off soon. I was wrong as instead of wearing off my leg increased in pain to a point I couldn’t do physical labor. Now at nineteen going onto twenty years of age I was beginning to feel more like a ninety year old man. With the increase in pain came the worries of what was wrong. My doctor set me up with an orthopedic doctor who on first visit said “young man you have a ruptured disc and it is severing your sciatic nerve. Well it came as a relief to know what it was but when I ask what was the remedy he said surgery!
So for the next month my residence was Good Samaritan Hospital where after several pain full tests he told me he needed to operate and do it soon or I was going to lose the use of my leg. (Say what!) So he did the surgery and in about a month I was feeling like a twenty year old again. I wanted to get out with my friends and try to catch up on all the time I had lost.
At the time I was driving a 1968 Ford Mustang. I had bought it brand new and along with the wire wheel covers it was metal flake blue. Man did it ever look sharp. The sad thing was it was a lemon for a better word. In the period of twenty-eight thousand miles it had needed the wheel bearings and grease seals replaced. Also the transmission and several parts on the engine such as valves and lifters. It came with a fifty thousand five year warranty and I spent most of the time when I owned it driving a loaner car. Shortly after I got home from the hospital I noticed the paint that I had chosen was pealing. That was all I could take. It was time to go car shopping.
Now 1969 was right in the middle of what large horse powered cars were also known as muscle cars. I decided I had enough of being the easy going farm boy and settling for moderate and mild items. Now I wanted a muscle car! So one August evening I got Barry Moran who to my way of thinking was the most knowledgeable guy around to know about a muscle car. He had owned a 1966 Chevrolet Impala super sport and it was the hottest car on four wheels. He followed this up with a cameo Z28 quite possibly the second hottest car to be in Felicity and still owned the fasted car in the neighborhood. If he didn’t know fast nobody did in my opinion. He agreed to ride along with me and we went over to Bruffy Chevrolet, Oldsmobile in Bethel. I told the salesman what I was in the mind to buy and he took us to a corner of the lot where the Impalas’ and Camaros” were along with the Oldsmobile Cutlass 442.
My eyes popped when I saw these cars as I hadn’t seen many of them and if you want to stand out you probably needed something different. I saw a brown in color (the sticker said Sable.) I turned to Barry and told him I was interested in this one. He looked at me like I had lost my mind (and maybe I had. Are you sure he ask me? I said I was but first tell me what you know about this model car. Well he said it has a 400 cubic inch 350 horse power engine. It also has a close ratio four speed shifter that makes speed and power shifting easier. Also comes with a dual exhaust. So I ask Barry if it was a fast car. “To be honest it is way more car than you should be behind the wheel of but you will always be able to pass a car if you want to.” So now with all this education about the car which really wasn’t much I told the salesman I would take it.
The next day I went to get the car and had to take my dad along to sign for it as I was under twenty –one. When dad ask if it had a lot of horse power I told him it was a large v8. (It was only a small fib.)I took the car back to Felicity and of course the first thing I had to do was drive the miracle mile even if it was the middle of the afternoon and there really wasn’t a crowd to see it. The next thing was to find Barry so he could maybe teach me how to drive this thing. If there was ever a time in my life that I felt cool it was at that moment. I was behind the wheel of a muscle car!
Once Barry was found he took me out to the quarter mile and he began instructing me on how to synchronize the clutch and shifting the gears. We took it through the first quarter mile and I didn’t even power shift and hit 105 mph! Probably not smart but man did it feel good. We did a few more times and each time I got better on the clutch and gear shift hitting in time. It wasn’t long before I could power shift and it was great therapy for my weakened leg. I went home for supper but you can be certain I was back up in Felicity that night and I did get the stares and guys saying wow that looks hot.
In 1971 I met my wife to be and later on found out that she had learned to drive on her dad’s 1967 Chevrolet Impala super sport that was a four speed. I also learned she was just as good as me on the gears and maybe even better. The thing though was she was complaining that a Corvette had pulled away from her on 125 at 115 MPH. A few weeks later I could hear her down shifting as she was coming Down Fruit Ridge. That was when we decided it was time to trade it in. Gas was over .78 per gallon so with a great sadness in my heart we traded the car that I had always wanted and actually did get. I am not certain but I think maybe I did make up for the time I lost the first half of the year.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.