Huffman: Silver Bullet: A tragic love story

A young Keith Huffman stands by his father's one true love, a 1979 Ford F-150 called "Silver Bullet."

Friends, let me tell you, the more time you spend looking at things like Rorschach ink blots and optical illusions, the more you start to see peculiar sights everywhere.

Some sights are easier to detect than others, depending on things like lighting and how elaborate a given image may be. But, more and more lately, I’ve been noticing a variety of amusing caricatures, hieroglyphics and patterns on everyday objects and thingamabobs.

Take the granite countertops in my kitchen. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve spotted a cartoonish face or critter staring back at me as I sip my morning coffee. Once, I could have sworn I saw Ivan Pavlov, the Russian physiologist who famously conditioned hungry dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell.

Other images — spooky jack-o’-lantern expressions, bizarre snowflake patterns, etc. — have emerged on our tile flooring, rust spots on gadgets, and from finger and nose prints on our windows, compliments of our 5-year-old son and vigilant cats.

Chip crumbs in a bowl are open to interpretations as well, or the whole chip itself, like the Cheeto I nearly ate that was shaped like a shark. Likewise, mustard and barbecue stains on shirts can bear striking resemblances to butterflies or airplanes, or a preschooler’s depiction of a two-headed armadillo wearing a straw hat.

There’s also the sticky residue from the tag I removed from our cats’ water bowl, which at times looks like a gorilla. Or perhaps it’s an elephant?

Your guess is as good as mine. But there is one thing I’ve seen consistently. This I can say without a speck of doubt.

Most folks who come across my father may only see a middle-aged trucker who prefers to dwell on the few ups life has dealt him, always snubbing his nose to the ever-present (and ever-increasing) downs… A former spring chicken who, despite having had his fair share of feathers plucked over the passing of many seasons, still never misses a chance to strut around the coop.

But when I look at my father, I see a black and silver 1979 Ford F-150, a breathtaking beauty of a truck that flaunted her glorious name across the top of her polished windshield.

Silver Bullet.

My father succumbed to her enchantment the very moment he set eyes on her, long before she was even for sale sometime in the early 90s.

From the start, she called longingly to him, practically blowing kisses and batting her long lashes, from her spot on another man’s yard in our little town.

His heart aching with unquenchable yearning, my father waited, and the second he saw she was looking for a new home, he didn’t hesitate. He rushed to the bank for a $3,000 loan and brought his babe home.

And, buddy, she was a sharp babe, radiating black and silver ecstasy everywhere she roamed on marvelous tires that were always bejeweled with glistening rims.

Her interior was a palace: black and silver upholstery, including a black dash with wood trim. Full seat, 3-speed on the column, and an air conditioner that always gave a steady flow of perfumes the smell of fresh spring air, summer breezes, fall festivity and winter wonderland.

Insert a Lynyrd Skynyrd or Guns N’ Roses cassette in the stereo, and you’re Sweet Home Alabamin’ your way to Paradise City, vrrrooming in style via the exhilarating rumble of a 302 motor with a 4-barrel carburetor.

This was how things were for my father and his precious Silver Bullet for nearly two decades. They were a lovely pair, destined for one another, and everyone who waved to them as they rolled through downtown knew it.

True, she only gave 15 miles per gallon, making it tough on the wallet during trips to places like Florida. But she always got my father where he wanted or needed to be — especially to work, even when his job was across the state line in Mississippi. And, wouldn’t you know it, she was always waiting for him when he got off, regardless of whether it was payday or a period of financial fasting.

Their love was genuine.

Their love was so genuine that it ignited envy among other men, whose lustful desires impelled them to approach my father, all shifty-eyed and shady, to ask:

“Hey, Doe Doe, you lookin’ to sell that truck? How much you take for it?”

As if you could put a price on True Love. This sentiment gnawed at the yearnings of many seekers. But it absolutely gobbled up our late cousin, Jerry, who was relentless in his own pursuit of the stunning Silver Bullet.

And his bargaining was most intense when he was entrusted with performing critical operations under the Bullet’s hood anytime anything went remotely amiss.

For many years, my father repelled his cousin’s attempts to seal a deal, refusing to defy his One True Love. That is, until cruel fate put a short in the motor’s wiring, and Jerry was the only country mechanic who could keep her running. Plus, there was her gas mileage, which kept shifting more and more in Jerry’s favor.

Finally, to the shock of all who knew him, my father stopped listening to his heart and swapped keys for a red and black Chevy S-10. It promised him about 25 miles or better on gas.

The sad day my father watched Silver Bullet leave his driveway left a tragic scar on his spirit. The scar became even deeper when he later learned that, after undergoing more trading, Silver Bullet met her demise when she collided with a tree.

But I remember the first time my father passed by Silver Bullet and Jerry on the road. Steering his Chevy, my father refused to look at them, keeping his gaze focused forward on his lane. I don’t think Silver Bullet looked at him, either.

Neither could bear to see the other with a new partner. Theirs was a hard break-up, plain for all to see.

Keith Huffman can be reached at kmhuffman86@gmail.com.

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Keith Huffman can be reached at kmhuffman86@gmail.com.

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