by William Nelekona
I edited this 30 year old video of my Dad and I washing the Land Cruiser, to go with this blog; the story, video, and photos, are all about love. I hope you’ll go hug your Dad or Mom, your husband or wife, or sibling, or anyone today for that matter. Tell them how much they mean to you. Hang on to the good memories. I hope you enjoy…
I still remember having that whole backbench of my Dad’s Fj60 all to myself, being lulled to sleep by the unmistakable Toyota engine sounds and vibrations; Or humming along to Five O’Clock World, as we canvassed all over the Lonestar State. Just me and my Dad. The Mighty-Mighty took us everywhere and anywhere you wanted to go. It gave me the kind of memories that still resonate decades later.
My Dad is my hero. I used to lay on top of his back and watch westerns for hours on the weekends. It was the best. He would take me hunting with him all the time. And if I wasn’t using my hawk-like vision to search for prey, I had my head straight down looking for arrowheads and fossils. It was hard for me to do both. I recommend either hunting or looking for points and bones, but not both simultaneously; you’re more likely to get neither. One hunt I finally found my first and only complete arrowhead. It was incredible to touch it, and hold it in my hand. Who had made this, I wondered? Did they kill with it? What did they kill, and how long ago? These were the thoughts that I had lying in back of the Cruiser, thinking of the old days of the wild west and life long before that. And if I wasn’t imagining these things, I was asking my Dad a thousand questions, and he would answer every one.
My Dad loved his Land Cruiser. It was like an extension of who he was. He took such great care of it. The styling was perfection. The back door had a pop hatch and tailgate, that folded down into a bench seat. It was great for taking all the cousins on hay (FJ) rides through “the farm.” The farm was a little patch of heaven in Mansfield, (about 100 acres) that was owned by my Great Grandmother, Nana, and later by my Grandmother, Marianne. It would fill up with Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes in the Spring.
The Mighty-Mighty Land Cruiser almost seemed alive. It was capable of anything. It took us to unknown lands, kept us warm or cool, got us out of tight spots. The Mighty-Mighty stayed quiet until it was asked for service. But it always wanted to come with, and never backed down from a challenge. Almost like a good dog.
Fast-forward a handful of years. I woke up and got dressed for school one morning, much like any other day, but this morning I turned sixteen. Let freedom ring baby. I walked out front to wait for my ride to school, when my Dad came strolling out front and smiled at me. He tossed me the keys to the Land Cruiser. He tossed me the keys to the Mighty-Mighty and said Happy Birthday Son. Can you imagine?
Six months later Dallas was iced over and gray. This usually happens once or twice a Winter. Basically, it snows, but it turns to rain and freezes on the ground, leaving a slick icy surface. Well, that only means one thing when you’re a teenager, in Texas: No school. That particular day, we turned on the news, but my school wasn’t listed as shut down for the day; so begrudgingly we headed off to school. My friends and I arrived, and people were running out the side door, saying that teachers were not taking roll. We immediately turned around, headed back to the parking lot to find a ride outta there. And since the roads were dangerous, my friends and I had been dropped off by one of our parents, so we needed a ride to my Cruiser. We found one. Once we got dropped off, we all loaded up and decided to go to a friend’s house to hang. On the last stretch of road it was really curvy and I was going too fast, especially for ice conditions. But hey, it’s the Mighty Mighty, it can handle anything. All of a sudden a black cat darted in front of me and I had a knee jerk reaction. I ripped the wheel just enough to avoid the cat. Dang that black cat! Had I the opportunity to do it over again, the world would be shy a cat. I lost complete control of the truck and we started sliding backwards down the street. I was doing all I could to turn, but to no avail. We skidded for about 35 yards, smashed into and over the curb, immediately striking a telephone pole. The Land Cruiser wrapped around the pole, then, flung off towards some vines over an embankment. Luckily for us, the vines held the back of the Mighty, and we didn’t plunge 10 or 12 feet down. Here begins the dark ages of the Mighty-Mighty.
I spent the next 3 years of high school spending all of my money working on my Cruiser, trying to restore it. Trying to get it running once again. Thousands of dollars. Eventually, I put the care of the Cruiser with an old friend, as I had no means of storage and no money to fix it up as a daily driver. He drove it for a few years, then, I took it to an uncle’s house in the Hill Country to go into hibernation for another five+ years. I told people the Mighty-Mighty was on life support, one day it will live again. By this point, it was in a Hill Country grave. But lately, its been calling to me…
Now I’m married and have an infant daughter. Life is much different than the days of being a boy then, being a young man, and finally becoming my own man. We need money and I have to make some tough choices. Our current Soccer Mom-mobile, (sorry Moms) is a gold 2003 Honda CR-V, and has had a couple issues this year. It’s that time where we spend the money to get it fixed up with needed repairs, or sell it, and try to get something better. I’m getting creative and bootstrapping life. I called in a AAA wrecker to hook me up with a free tow. Thanks AAA. The idea: Pull the Mighty-Mighty from the grave, spend the 500-1000 to get it running again (naive) and sell it off. Then, couple the money from the Mighty with the money from the Golden Girls Van (hey it gets good gas mileage) and get our “new” car. That’s practical, that’s safe, that’s wise, that’s the conservative move.
When I went up to the mechanics parking lot, I spent a while with the Cruiser just looking over it. It’s in pretty rough shape. But somewhere in there, I know there’s life. I only see 2 choices. 1. Sell the Mighty Mighty to some rich guy who can drop $20K into it on a whim, and I’ll let my belly, my soul, my free spirit, my pride, all go with the selling of that cherished truck. Or 2. I keep it. I dare to make a new commitment to kicking life in the teeth, to taking my family all over the world, and living boldly. It could take years, it could take lots of money and time and sweat, but that truck is staying in my family. The Mighty Mighty will live again. It has too many memories for me, and it’s just too cool to pass over to someone else.
I don’t know where this path will take me, and I don’t know when the Mighty-Mighty will once again be our vessel into the wild, but I am committed to the fight.
I encourage you now, with whatever fight you have in your life. For me, it isn’t just a truck. It’s about preserving something special, it’s about making a goal, it’s about making myself get out there again and conquer life’s obstacles, It’s about helping people more and going deeper in my relationships; And to move, and move swiftly. We all need to move.
So whatever you’ve got in your life today that you think you can’t do, you can. And if you decided long ago that you’ve given up, and many years have passed, things can’t change, today is a new day for you. Today you can go left, instead of your usual right. Because our time here is so short and it’s so easy to forget. So just do it.