Grandpa’s Model T

By Leland G. Griffin

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    Linda and Robbie came poking down the stairway of the old farmhouse where Grandma and Grandpa lived. They always dawdled when it was time to go home.

    “Hurry up!” Mom called out. And Dad’s voice came from outside, urging them to get a move on.

    The children hurried a little faster, but not much. They hugged Grandma and Grandpa good-bye and then got into the back of the car. When Dad turned the ignition key, there was a strange whirring noise. When he tried to start the car again—nothing.

    “Oh, no!” he cried.

    Grandpa walked over to the car. “What is it, Ben?”

    Dad shook his head. “The starting motor’s on the hummer.”

    “Won’t the car go?” Robbie asked.

    “No, it won’t,” Dad replied.

    “Then I guess we’ll just have to stay here for Thanksgiving,” Linda said, a note of hope in her voice.

    “I have to get home for that business meeting tomorrow,” Dad agonized. “But how can I?”

    “Well,” Grandpa suggested, “you could take my car.”

    Dad looked surprised. “You mean Lisbeth? That old Model T?

    “Only car I have,” Grandpa replied.

    “I wouldn’t dare,” Dad said. “I’ve never driven a Model T. Besides, it—it might break down!”

    “It’s easy to drive,” Grandpa persuaded, “and it’s been running for over fifty years. Don’t think it’ll break down now.”

    “Oh, let’s!” Linda said. “I love Lisbeth.”

    Grandpa and Dad went out to the barn, and Linda and Robbie trailed along behind. Grandpa opened the barn door, and there waited Lisbeth—shiny and black. Her top was folded down for nice weather, and there were side curtains to snap in place when the top was up during bad weather.

    There were two little levers on the steering wheel, and Grandpa adjusted them just so, then he went around in front of Lisbeth and took hold of the crank. He turned it a couple of times and Lisbeth started. The children climbed in back, with Grandpa and Dad in front. Grandpa told Dad what to do. Dad drove Lisbeth around the barnyard and between the chicken coops a couple of times to get the feel of it. When he felt confident that he could drive it, he parked the Model T beside his own car. After they had loaded everything and everyone into Lisbeth, Dad released the hand brake, then pushed one of the foot pedals, adjusted the throttle lever, and they were on their way down the lane.

    Lisbeth’s engine was noisy. Her body rattled, and the ride was not very smooth. Dad frowned. But Mom hid a grin, while Linda and Robbie squealed and bounced up and down on the back seat. At the end of the lane they pulled up onto a blacktop road. Lisbeth ran more smoothly and rattled less, but she was slow. “It’ll take a week to get home at this rate,” Dad muttered.

    “Pull her ears down,” Robbie said, pointing to the little levers on the steering column. “That’s what Grandpa does.”

    Dad pulled the little levers all the way down and Lisbeth ran faster, but not much.

    Dad pulled into the first service station they came to. The station man looked at the old car and frowned. “That’s Mr. Jackson’s car,” he said. “What are you doing with it?”

    “He’s my grandpa,” Linda piped up. “We had to borrow it.”

    “I’d like the tank filled,” said Dad, getting out of the car and removing the front seat cushion that covered the gas tank. “And please check the oil and tires too.”

    Soon they were on their way again, rolling along a superhighway.

    The newer cars whooshed past. Horns honked, and people laughed and waved. Linda and Robbie waved back, and Dad hunched down lower in the seat.

    Then Robbie said, “Uh, oh. There’s a police car right behind us with its red light flashing.”

    Dad pulled onto the shoulder of the road and stopped. The policeman parked behind their car and came up to them.

    “What’s wrong, officer?” Dad inquired.

    “See that sign just ahead?” the officer asked, pointing. “It says you have to drive at least forty-five miles an hour on this freeway.”

    Dad nodded. “I’d be glad to, officer, but Lisbeth—this car—just can’t quite go forty-five miles an hour.”

    “Then you’ll have to leave the freeway at the next off ramp,” the officer said. “Sorry.”

    Dad drove down the off ramp to an older, rougher road. “I don’t think we’ll make it home today,” Dad said. “I’m sure Lisbeth doesn’t have very powerful lights. If dark catches us, we’ll have to stop at a motel.”

    “Like a vacation!” Linda shouted. “That’ll be fun, huh, Robbie?”

    Lisbeth bounced and clattered along, and the sun dropped lower and lower in the sky. Dad turned the lights on, but they weren’t very bright. A little later Dad pulled into a motel, and they rented a big room for the night. The family played games, watched TV, and then went to bed.

    Early the next morning Dad got everyone up. Linda and Robbie grumbled, but Dad paid no attention. “I have to get to my business meeting before noon,” he said, “and Mother needs to do some shopping for Thanksgiving tomorrow.”

    Lisbeth didn’t much want to start, and Dad had to crank and crank, but finally the old engine came to life and the family was on its way. They watched the sun come up, then they saw their town just ahead.

    Linda sighed. “We’re almost home. I wish we were just starting. Lisbeth is lots more fun than our car.”

    Dad grunted. They started down Main Street but soon came to an intersection where a policeman came toward them, waving his arms.

    He gave them a big smile and motioned for them to go right on down Main Street, although he was directing other cars onto a side street. Dad drove on, then had to slow down to keep from running over a clown riding a motorcycle. Another clown rode up behind them, then both clowns began riding their motorcycles round and round Lisbeth.

    Linda looked on down the street where there was a band, horses, more clowns, and big floating balloons. She looked back and saw more of the same.

    “Whoopie!” Robbie called out suddenly. “We’re in a parade!”

    And they were—in a big Thanksgiving parade. At first Dad frowned, then he looked at Linda and Robbie and laughed. “Guess I’ll just have to be a little later for that meeting than I thought,” he said. “But I’ll be thankful if I get to it at all.”

    Mom gave him a hug. “I’m glad that you can see how much fun the kids are having.”

    Linda took a deep breath and looked back and forth as they drove slowly down the street between the crowds of people.

    “I’m thankful for Grandma, Grandpa, and Lisbeth,” she said. “This is the most fun ever.”

    Lisbeth chugged along to the end of the parade, then on home. Dad turned off the engine. “Whooee!” he sighed. “We’re all glad that’s over, aren’t we?” he asked with a sly grin.

    “Oh, Dad, that was fun,” Linda said. “It isn’t every day we get to ride in a parade!”

    Illustrated by Dwane Cude