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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

Daughter of Ishmael

by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Rusty, Yellow, Gift Horse

There’s an old saying, ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’.
Now you should know that horses, as they get older, show it mostly in their teeth.
The older the horse, the more outward sloped the teeth.
Umm . . . ick.
I’ll talk more about this later . . .
On with my story.
We once received a gift horse.
Okay, well, it was a yellow Chevette.
But it was a gift.
The car was . . . old.
Rust spots bloomed like a garden.
The doors hardly closed.
Or if they did, hardly stayed closed.
The internal organs alternately belched or squealed.
There was, literally, no back floor on the driver’s side.
And pieces quite frequently dropped off.
Made scraping sounds on the pavement, or detached altogether, only to be run over by the vehicle that had lost them.
Case-in-point: The muffler. It dropped to the ground during an early-morning commute and the car lurched suddenly up on one side as the wheels ran over this former appendage.
The car had one thing going for it. It had a new engine – put there by our good friends, the former owners. Who then made the magnanimous gesture of presenting it to us.
Why did they do such a thing?
Because they had finished school and had made the recent move to newer, or at least less rusty.
Why did we go on driving such a testament to rust?
We were still poor college students with four kids and little means of support.
And needed all the help we could get.
So ‘Ol’ Yellow’ made the daily commute to college with my Husby.
Often, he would sit in traffic, cars around him humming or growling happily.
While his car made its convincing impression of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Without the cuteness.
Or magic.
This went on for a couple of months.
Finally, my Husby neared graduation. He would soon have a Master’s degree under his belt.
It was time to move up a notch on the whole ‘commuter car’ scale.
Time to sell the car.
We weren’t asking much.
Just pay for the ad and the car is yours . . .
No bites.
We tried to give it away.
Still no takers.
Finally, Husby took to leaving it parked at the college with the keys in it, hoping to entice some desperate, or at least near-sighted, student into taking it for a spin.
A long spin.
Oh, come on! Vehicle theft had reached near epidemic proportions on that campus!
Obviously, the students were a bit . . . judicious . . . with their choices. Choosing cars that were . . . road-worthy.
And didn’t stick out like warty, rusty thumbs.
Not the car, but you get the idea . . .
We finally got rid of the car.
Traded it on a push, pull or drag sale.
I think we even got $500.00 on the trade!
So, back to the gift-horse scenario.
And the looking of said horse in the mouth.
In the usual sense, it means that one shouldn’t start to find the faults in a gift.
In our case, we did look.
Saw the new engine. 
And ignored the rust spots and obvious problems.
Which later proved . . .rather important.
My lesson? Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Let the rust and disease put you off right from the beginning.


  1. LOL...reminds me of our first car, affectionately known as the Flaming Deathtrap. Good advice!

  2. Hmmm ... replacing an engine is not a cheap or easy job ... I wonder why the former owners went to the trouble?!

    The picture of the horse teeth brought back memories of being bitten on the upper arm by a sassy young horse at the barn where my daughter took riding lessons. Unlike you, I am a wimp. It hurt. It really hurt!! I give horses a wide berth now, something like you and your husby give rusty cars a wide berth :)

  3. My first car was used....I have NO good memories of that car.

  4. Very good advice Diane... people to readily look at something and make a judgement on it before they find out what is really inside :)

  5. My friends daughter once bought a car because she liked the way it looked, all shiny and red, completely ignored the obvious duct tape under that shiny new coat of paint, didn't even take it for a test drive. Poor girl was back on public transport two weeks later. She learned her lesson though and thereafter bought from a reputable car dealership.

  6. The picture f the car was as good as a thousand words. We have a similar story. We had an old station wagon and when it needed a new transmission we had to use our old VW to take our six children to church. It was against the law; but we didn't get caught. Later on my son got the VW to drive. When he left on his mission i had to get it parked into our garage and in doing so there were on brakes at all. We still don't know how he drove it without brakes; scary.
    I loved your story and of course, it dragged up an old memory.


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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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