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November 2012 Dr. Vern

Posted in Features on November 1, 2012
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Contributors: Dr. Vern

The folks at The Guinness Book of World Records, nice as they may be, won’t return my calls. All I’m asking is if they would create a new classification, and of course crown me as the current record holder. Seems very reasonable to me, but for some odd reason they aren’t interested.

My claim to fame is that I’m the only person to ever wear out a campfire cooker, as near as I can reckon. I’m talking about the heavy wire basket thingy on the end of a long handle. The basket opens up like a clamshell to hold your steaks, bratwurst, or whatever you want to cook over a campfire. Made of stout steel wire, theoretically these cookers should last forever—and so it is with great pride that I can say I wore one out over hundreds of campfires. The chrome finish burned off years ago, eventually everything started warping, and finally the welds cracked. This cooker was the victim of too many heating and cooling cycles. Each and every use was also accompanied by some professional-grade fireside philosophizing. All of the world’s problems have been solved and every mystery explained, with one notable exception. If you know why disco was ever popular, or perhaps are even the person responsible for it, please drop me a line.

My humble little Jeep has gazed upon many a campfire over the years. I’ve owned this ’48 CJ-2A for about 15 years, and I can only hope it led such a charmed life with its previous owners as well. I dare say my trusty Jeep has led a very manly existence, as if harking back to the proud hunter tradition.

Unfortunately, modern society looks down on traditional roles like that. I’ve never been much of a hunter myself, but not for a lack of desire. It’s more like a lack of aim. If my target practice experiences were extrapolated to a real-world hunt, any animal in my crosshairs would be safe. If dinner on the hoof had been a few feet towards either side, well, he’d have been in a highly lethal zone. So on a practical level, it’s best if I don’t play the role of the actual hunter and instead feed my family via our handy neighborhood grocery store.

Now that I think about it, one thing about grocery stores really bothers me. In this age of rampant political correctness, how do they get away with the grievous sin of using child labor? Case in point, in the produce section I saw a sign boasting “baby peeled carrots.” In addition to how dangerous it must be, I have no idea how a poor baby could even hold the peeler. Hippies, chomping at the bit to protest almost everything, seem to have no qualms about this blatant hypocrisy as they pursue their health-food fix. I’ll just buy them whole and peel them myself, thank you. (I’m back to talking about carrots, not hippies, in case there was any confusion.)

Although I’d starve if I had to hunt for my food, there is one situation where my hunting skills are second to none: finding old Jeeps. Even though I’ll never experience the manly thrill of returning from the hunt with a deer strapped to my hood, I can do something even better: tow a flatbed trailer loaded with a barn-fresh vintage Jeep. Other guys can’t help but stare with envy.

In my opinion, Jeep-hunting would make a great Olympic sport. A number of vintage Jeeps could be hidden throughout a designated area, complete with a corresponding array of sellers. Every type of seller would be represented. You’d have the elusive, kindly widow selling her late husband’s pride and joy. You’d have the all-too-common guy having to feed the lawyers because his wife had asterisks secretly included with her wedding vows. You’d even have some poor guy selling a basket case project that came apart quickly for restoration, but never quite made it back together.

Each Jeep-finding competitor would be equipped with Internet access and a phone. In one important change from Olympic protocol, I don’t think the competitors should wear those skimpy little running shorts. I mean, they should wear something, just not those tiny shorts. Trust me on this one.

When the starter pistol is fired, it’s time to scour the classifieds, find the old Jeeps, and close the deals. An amateur might struggle, but this is where I could bring home the gold. A neophyte might use vague search terms like “old Jeep,” but I’d know to type in “Willys.” As an ace up my sleeve, I’d also search for common misspellings like “Willy’s” or “Willie's.” With so much riding on my shoulders, I’d pull out all the stops to find the last hidden Jeeps with search terms like “ran when parked” or “surface rust only.”

Alas, I’ll have to be a realist. I’ll never get to compete in such an event, but handling disappointment is one of my skills. Rather than trying to correct shortcomings, life is much easier if you simply lower your expectations. Not everything is about the thrill of the hunt. I’ll just have to learn to be content in the here and now. For example, thanks to modern technology, this month’s column was written next to yet another campfire, with my wife and grandson beside me. Time like that is what’s really important. That, and stopping on our way home to check out the for-sale listing I just found for an FC-170.

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