I was a late bloomer when it came to cars. Though I could have gotten my license here in South Carolina at 14, I held out until I was heading off to college when I bought my first car, brand new, for $2,300. Have you ever seen the color of canned peas? Well that was the color of my car, a Fiat 124 sedan. Maybe it was the color that made it so cheap.
Anyway, I headed off to Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Fla., and since I am an avid fisherman, it didn’t take me long to use my artistic ambitions to “customize” my sweet ride. But before I tell you about these modifications, I loved that car! It would hug the road like a little girl hugs her doll and, on long trips, I used the rather odd cruise control, which was nothing more than when you got to whatever speed, you pulled out a knob, twisted it clockwise, and it kept you at that speed. Problem was that, if you braked, you had to quickly reach down and turn the knob counter-clockwise to disengage the cruise control or else the engine would stay revved up. I don’t think that feature would fly these days.
Back to my customizing. Every weekend I would travel 80 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico for grouper fishing on a head boat. Unlike the others on board, I had it down to a science. While they used dead squid for bait, live bait would out-fish them very time. To keep my pinfish alive, I fiberglassed the entire trunk, put a drain hole in the bottom and, around the top edge, PVC pipe with holes drilled in it and connected to a recirculation pump. Talk about a low ride, when that sucker was full of water, my rear end was inches from the pavement, and if I hit a bump, sparks would always fly.
Arriving at the boat in the wee hours before dawn, I would drain the trunk, put the live fish in coolers full of saltwater on the boat and hook up an air pump to the coolers. Then I would take my Fiat’s battery out and use that to power the pump. The only problem was that, when I got back to the dock and put the battery back in my green machine, I would have to walk around with jumper cables begging for a jump-start since the battery was dead.
Yes, I loved my Fiat. Since I was in my late teens, it wasn’t much for wooing the ladies because it always smelled like seaweed and dead fish. But the way I looked at it was, if my girl didn’t like fishing, then we were not meant to be. (Isn’t that right, Karen?)
The day before Irma hit, I wasn’t stuck in gridlocked traffic, no sir-ee, because I was fishing! It was unbelievable. In two hours time, I released dozens of redfish and trout, but not the flounder. They were the size of doormats! Then, the day after, I was bummed from losing our brand new dock and the death of my beloved beagle, Girlie, so I went shrimping. Mother Nature must have sensed my sorrow, because I limited out on shrimp, big shrimp, in less than an hour. All I can say is ain’t life strange?