Written by Denny Johnson
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Wednesday, 7 January 2004

Walking used to be exercise, now like everything else, it’s a Sport.

You figure it out pal. People lived shorter lives and were in less of a hurry to get anywhere. They smoked and they drank and they ate far too much fat and cheese, but if they wanted to go somewhere, most of the time, they had to walk. Pretty soon, folks got tired of walking in the streets and they demanded sidewalks along the roadway because the horses pulling the wagons from the factories and stores used the streets to deposit their toxic emissions as they plodded-on and if you stepped in a pile of these toxic emissions you were probably started off on a bad day. This explains the boots that our grand daddies wore, which were a long shot off from the Nikes y’er sport’n today.

This was pre-JEEP. This was also preceding the CAB, CAR, BUS, VAN, or SUV. This was back before the world was in the habit of compressing everything into a few letters and letting it drop at that. Folks got to know their neighbor when they were all walking around bumping into each other while at the same time trying not to step in any of the toxic fuel emissions which they used to fertilize their vegetable gardens. Waste not, want not. About that time a fellow up there in Detroit, I guess, put a motor to some wheels and people pretty much stopped walking and started riding from there on in. A lot of things were about to change.

If you lived downtown in the big city and walked to work you didn’t have much use for a vehicle so they caught on slower, but out there in the country those folks went crazy for them, buying up the “truck” version in large numbers because they could lug their grain, produce and meat to market and take their kids to the drive-in picture show on Saturday night. It was a perfect set up for the hayseeds and the upshot was we always had fresh lettuce for our salads at our favorite downtown restaurants.

Progress through produce brought better highways and even downtown the vehicles (called early-on: machines) began to materialize as people of wealth or personality started driving and that was the end of the Easter Parade.

There got to be so many vehicles of diverse sizes and color and description that the Chicago City Fathers in their infinite astuteness proclaimed that there should be a tax on these vehicles, so each one had to own up and state exactly what variety of vehicle it was.

It went something like this: If you were, say, hauling watermelon in your vehicle, then you would be classified as a “Watermelon Truck” and have to pay the applicable truck tax for running such a profitable enterprise. The same was true if the load was fish, cheese, pigs, or milk if you get what I’m saying. If you were truck’n a product then you was a truck.

Now if you had a vehicle just for self-gratification, or perhaps to pickup gals or get to your job at the board of trade, or City Hall, then you had what they called a private motor car (CAR), and you just paid the car version of the vehicle tax which was by the by, significantly less than the truck tax.

However, if you worked in city hall, or owned a beer truck – or both, you got your vehicle tax paid for you from the city coffers because you were such a good citizen and a worker for the Mayor – I don’t know how it is where you live, but that’s the way they did it here, probably the politicians in your locale are different?

In Detroit they moved fast to capture a market. Once they got the car started and running, they added a passenger seat so you could take someone along with you. In quick-time we had the transmission with an in-the-floor shifter as well as an ashtray, and a cigar lighter. Next, came the leather seats, padded dashboard, vent windows, passenger visor mirror, power door-locks, the FM radio and tape players, the on-the-column-shifter, the clutch, no clutch, then the clutch again. The 3-speed, the 4-speed. The center console, the 4-cylinder engine, the 6-cylinder, the 8, the V-8, the V-12, and then back down the ladder adding turbochargers, and finally a 6-speed-in-the-floor-shifter. We had hardtops, no-tops and t-tops, and, then the telephone, and at last, headlight windshield wipers.

Fortunately you could drive a CAR anywhere it would take you and that made it a convenient device and handy especially if the weather was inclement or you simply got too rich, fat and lazy to walk, but the same was not true if you were in the truck class. See, people got to think’n trucks were loud and dirty and a health and safety hazard. They were hard to see over, around or through, they got stuck in the mud and broke down often.

Many had no brake lights or headlights so you could only guess what was happening in front of them. Their engines coughed smoke and emissions that folks ended up breathing and the trucks usually had no mufflers or windows like the more civilized car version. In fact, the next thing you know we had streets where you couldn't even drive a truck, not even a beer truck – here in Chicago!

In the beginning, they called them BOL-LE-VARDS, and I think they first had them in France because the French have such a hatred for trucks, so they brought them here and they worked out pretty well for a time before the line between vehicles started to get hazy and blurred again. And people didn’t know if they were driving trucks or cars, or something in between. The only thing that stayed sure was motorcycles.

We drive vehicles today designed for the family of five which are larger than the six-horse powered Conestoga wagons that crossed our heartland while you and me were still pic’n out our great-great-grand-folks. That was six horsepower with some kind of all terrain torque. Uphill, downhill, through rivers and over mountains and no rest stops save a few Mormon lemonade stands along the trek. Just like the V-8 that would follow it, they left some nasty emissions in their wakes too. People carried everything they owned in those wagons, and then made room for their kids to be stuffed in. Unlike today’s all-terrain vehicles or trucks, they rarely rolled over and burned except during extreme use, say, as in an attack by hostiles, or an “off-road” rally around Pikes Peak.

The pioneer sprit still abounds in America’s heart. Today we are all Cowboys taming the wild west in gigantic four and six-wheel vehicles named Bronco, Explorer, Navigator, Expedition, Wrangler, and Rodeo. Some are equipped with satellite dishes, and Levi interiors. Some are in their own zip-code and have infiltration systems. Many have child restraints, cup warmers and map lights all in one. Instead of six steeds pulling our Conestoga-covered-wagon through the desert to California, there’s three-hundred and fifty horses under the hood scoop at our command.

There’s an air-conditioner, a TV/VCR/DVD, 4-wheel-drive, and GPS. We’ll make it to that mini-mart no matter what the terrain or territory, pop in a John Wayne tape -- we’ll take the BOL-LE-VARD, it’s quicker this time a’ day.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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