Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: In without knocking | TSLN.com
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Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: In without knocking

One of my favorite Charlie Russell paintings is titled “In Without Knocking”. It’s full of action and what passed for cowboy fun back in the Old West. I don’t know if my cousin Kenna has ever compared his teenage experience to Charlie’s painting, but I thought it would be a good story. This is my version, and may not be completely factual. Besides, truth is really stranger than fiction. And funnier.

Kenna was learning to drive a straight stick in a brand new Subaru Brat. His folks were gone, and he was hurrying home to take care of his chores around the house. They lived at the top of a steep hill, and the Brat’s four-wheel drive was going to be a big help come winter. Being in a hurry, and new to the stick shift, Kenna drove into the driveway, put the Brat in gear and hopped out. About the time he reached the front step, he heard an odd sound. Turning around, he saw the Brat starting to inch its way back down the drive. Kenna hadn’t hit a low gear when he parked, and gravity took over. Not believing what he was seeing, Kenna hesitated long enough to give the car a bit of a head start. When he raced to the door, he couldn’t get in and now the car was angling down the steep hill, heading for a terrace wall at the edge of their yard. Kenna had gone from running alongside the car to pulling on the bumper, trying to stop the runaway Brat. He began to lose hope of doing that when the car cleared the terrace wall, bouncing on two wheels before settling down and aiming at the next, equally high terrace wall, all the time dragging Kenna along, like the tail on a kite. Kenna was pleading with the car to turn, to get back into the street, but instead, it kept careening towards a house, two terraces further down the hill. After the Brat flew over the second terrace, Kenna let go and watched in disbelief as the car seemed to go in slow motion over the third terrace wall, become airborne and finally crash into and through the concrete block basement wall of the house at the bottom of the hill.

Kenna ran to the house and banged on the door. An elderly lady came to the door and said, “Can’t talk to you right now, Kenna, something just crashed into our house!” “I know”, said Kenna. “It was my car!” About that time, the ladies’ husband, who had just had major heart surgery, came hobbling out of the bathroom, saying a block cinder had flown through the air in front of him while he was sitting on the stool in the bathroom, crashing through the wall as it continued into a bedroom. After being sure everyone was not hurt, Kenna was able to call his dad. Herm told him to call the police right away. The officer showed up at Kenna’s door, stifling a laugh, saying “I understand we have a runaway car incident”. Kenna told the officer the story, pausing while the officer wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes and caught his breath, not believing what he was hearing. The tow truck hooked onto the Brat and pulled it out of the punctured house, and this time Kenna made sure it was in a low gear when they parked it.

As Kenna was telling this tale to our group of cousins a few weeks ago, he said they hadn’t even put insurance on the car yet. Someone asked how did they pay for the damage, and Kenna’s wife Sarah said, with a smile,“We’re still working on it!”


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