I can’t remember exactly when I got it, the 1970 Oldsmobile Toronado – I guess it was late 1979, early 1980. This was a huge boat of a car: big and brown, gas guzzling, but a safe ride for me and my two little ones.
We drove it from Homestead AFB, FL in the spring of 1980 to Maxwell AFB in Montgomery AL, and from there to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo TX. And then it began to start costing me money: tires, brakes, shocks. But it was the trip to Austin that sealed the Toronado’s fate.
I left the kids with a sitter, and drove to Austin for a week-long conference. I was excited for it to be over so I could head home. I had a date that Friday night with a new guy who seemed promising. I was only a little unnerved by the fact that the car seemed to be running a little hotter than usual. But as I headed for home, through Pontotoc, Texas (because I like the scenic routes), I had no idea what was in store.
Suddenly, at a point on the two-lane straight flat road where I hadn’t seen another car for miles, the temperature gauge on the car shot up into the red and red lights flashed on the dashboard display. I pulled the car over and shut it off. That’s when she began to howl like a banshee and pour steam. I evacuated the car and walked away from it for a little ways. The Toronado continued to scream and steam, and I realized that I could be waiting at the car for a very long time before anyone came. And there was my date tonight – how was I going to get in touch with Bill and let him know?
With more than a little trepidation, I walked back to the car and got my purse and keys, and started walking in the direction I had been driving, hoping that it wouldn’t be too long before I got to some signs of civilization. Where I was at the moment, there was nothing around for miles and miles but miles and miles. It was a warm day, but fortunately not too hot. I kept to the center of the road, because I didn’t like the rustling sounds coming from the brush by the side of the road.
After about 20 minutes, I came to a nice ranch house just off the road. I stopped and told the two brothers that lived there of my situation and asked if I could use the phone. They led me to the phone and excused themselves; they had a cow that was calving and they had to be there to help. I tried to call Bill, but could not reach him at home or at work, so I left a message that I would be in Llano (about 10 miles from the ranch) at the one motel in town.
I guess that’s how I knew Bill was a keeper. I hadn’t been waiting in Llano but about an hour (the brothers drove me into town) when he showed up on his white horse (his brown Malibu) to rescue me. We left the Toronado behind, and kept the story of our unusual first date.