Riding herd on a wild Mustang | In The Day

The following is written by columnist Jennifer Anderson:

My grandpa had two herds on our family’s farm – Holstein milking cows and classic Ford Mustangs.

In the winter of 1993, after I received my drivers license, he invited me over with a brief phone call to let me know he had something to discuss. When I arrived, he had a white 1967 Mustang with a black vinyl top parked in front of the house. He asked what I thought about having it to drive. He explained that it had a smaller engine than the others, a six-cylinder (with some mechanical issues) which meant the Sears riding lawnmower could easily beat it in the quarter mile, but he felt it was safer. I didn’t really care. I could drive myself to school instead of relying on my boyfriend or the neighbor!

Grandpa gave me a pep talk similar to those orated by Publisher Rudi Alcott. It was brief and to the point. He told me, “Now don’t get your (censored) in a wringer and keep her shiny side up.” I did my best to follow those two directives.

The defroster barely worked and the driver-side window crank was stripped so the window stayed rolled down about two inches. Bummer in the rain as well as the McDonald’s drive-through. It also didn’t have power steering or power brakes and was quite different to navigate than my mom’s land yacht, a 1989 Cadillac DeVille sedan that I had been driving. Yikes! Taking corners in the Mustang, particularly at low speeds, was tricky, so I tried to keep my foot pressed on the gas at all times. It wasn’t long before that method resulted in a speeding ticket from Officer Glass on Battersby Avenue and a tardy from my first-period teacher. Oops.

My insurance agent, who also happened to be my mother and payer-of-my-premium, wasn’t very happy.

I was bound and determined to stay out of trouble and prove that I would not get my (censored) in a wringer. I checked the box to contest the ticket, because what appeared to be 47 miles per hour in a 25 miles per hour zone surely wasn’t. My dad drew the short straw and accompanied me to my first (and only) appearance in Enumclaw Municipal Court. I donned a very responsible looking striped suit made up of culottes and a shoulder pad laden blazer. I slipped into my sling back flats, fluffed up my spiral perm, gave my carefully curled bangs a few more dozen shots of Aussie Sprunch Spray and we were off.

We watched as the judge showed absolutely no leniency to the much less guilty offenders called before me. I do not recall the defense I used when my name was called, but I remember my eyes going wide while trying not to cry as the judge read the statement of Officer Glass. My speed and the careful calibration of his fancy equipment were among the topics covered. For whatever reason, the judge decided to change his tune and offered me a year of probation with several hours of community service. I was instructed to call City Shops and make arrangements to serve my time.

Officer Glass just happened to be manning the DARE booth at the upcoming sidewalk sale and I was able to burn up some hours passing out stickers to kids with the friendly officer responsible for my predicament (I couldn’t be to blame after all, I was a teenager and everything was someone else’s fault) while my friends strolled by toward the sale rack at Leo’s. I worked off the remainder of the hours pulling weeds at the library.

Much to my dismay, plenty of people saw me hunched over in the flower beds on sunny days. One of my dad’s friends actually asked him if I was working at the library. Ugh. Embarassing. My weed pulling skills were terrible, much like my farm skills, but I’m pretty sure the punishment of spending sunny days working the sidewalk sale and tromping in the bushes along Griffin were much more effective in reminding me to lay of the gas pedal.

After that incident, my mom took to ushering me out the door with a loving, “No speeding, no crashing!” every morning. Well, almost every morning. I learned about flat tires, faulty gas gauges (again, not my fault) and how to charge a case of oil at NAPA. I successfully kept her shiny side up and mostly kept my (censored) out of the wringer before being allowed to upgrade to a more powerful pony nine months later.