Shelley is a 1952 Chevrolet half-ton pickup that has crossed North America for charity.
She wasn't just a truck my father helped yank from the woods so I'd have something cheap to drive after high school. She was the vehicle through which he taught me about life. He would respond to my gotta-have-it-now attitude and say words to the effect, "you get out of something what you put in."
What had he and my mother put in? Only what it took to raise three kids and send them all to college, the first in a generation.
When he got cancer I began to realize how significant that ordinary accomplishment was.
You have to instill dreams in kids too, and he certainly did that. He had the one about homesteading in Alaska. We talked about that one alot. And as we worked together under the hood of the old Chevy, magical things happened.
Ideas and dreams passed from his soul to mine. When he died in 1998 I finally understood and accepted his Alaska dream as my own. One I'd accomplish for him, for every magnificent "better mousetrap" he'd started but couldn't finish as a working man sacrificing to grow a family.
I did it two years later as a cancer fundraiser in his memory. Shelley got lots of attention. She raised tens of thousands in donations. Sixty-seven car clubs from across the US each donated $100. Companies donated thousands at a time. Individuals gave of their time and their dollars, offering a bed for the night or a garage of tools in case we needed it. The Associated Press printed the story and ensured we never met a stranger as we crossed North America, 11,802 miles in all, to the northernmost point accessible by automobile: Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
It wasn't just Shelley's engine had that pulled us through. Dad came along, too. He'd laid his hands of optimism and courage upon that truck. He had put his heart into it, and she had performed like a champ. She would forever be known as "the truck with a heart."
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