By Bob Huber: Local Columnist
When I was 20, I didn’t know the meaning of the word “panache,” but I went looking for it anyway. As far as I knew, it meant class with flair. Certain movie stars had it — Tyrone Power and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. — and so did roosters in my mother’s chicken house. Guys I knew never had it, especially if they thought they did.
But I was a worldly young man in those days, fresh from three fun-filled years in our nation’s Bathtub Navy, and when I saw a Model-A Ford, black and dusty, sitting on a used car lot in my hometown, I knew I’d found the mother load of panache. I paid $100 for that car. We were the same age.
The salesman said it had belonged to a little old lady in tennis shoes, but I didn’t care. I’d had a passion for Model-A Fords ever since my friend Smooth Heine drove his father’s when we double dated in high school. I loved that rumble seat.
My longing for a similar vehicle ranked up there with a gnawing appetite for winsome ladies. I figured I’d have access to the latter, if I could just drive the former.
So I bought the car, and at the Heine farm Smooth and I dismantled it, piece by piece, board by board, and rebuilt it. We found a mouse nest under the seat, but Smooth said, “Never mind. They don’t eat much.”
By the time we were through, I had a total of $146 invested in that car. It purred like a kitten in a steel barrel, and with its new red paint it would have made any fire chief drool with envy. I never drove that car faster than 50 mph, because that was its top speed. You didn’t have to be in the fast lane in those days to have panache.
I didn’t name the car — real men don’t name cars — but she was definitely a lady. She may have seen better days, but her scars gave her character. As far as I was concerned, she had panache, with a capital P, and Panache in cars even today is as rare as interesting math classes on a college campus.
So I called up the temporary permanent love of my life at the time, Bev Hogshead, and made plans for a Saturday night of fun and frolic in my brand new 20-year-old Model-A Ford with Panache.
Right off, Smooth and his date established a beachhead in the rumble seat, and we cruised into a drive-in theater. A half hour later, just as the movie got interesting and the fifth intermission was over, Smooth’s date suddenly screamed, “EEEAAAUUUGH! EEEAAAUUUGH!”
I turned to glare at Smooth, but he held up his hands and said, “I didn’t do anything! I’m innocent!”
His date, meanwhile, was flip-flopping in the rumble seat, her arms flaying like an old lady swatting at bees. She kept screaming, “EEEAAAUUUGH! EEEAAAUUUGH!”
“What’s the matter?” I cried.
“A mou-mou-mou-mouse ran up my leg!” she yelled.
“What’s going on?” Bev asked me with sleepy eyes.
“Not much,” I said with as much panache as I dared. “Just a mouse.”
Bev’s eyes popped open. “Mouse? MOUSE! EEEAAAUUUGH!”
Smooth screamed back from the rumble seat — “EEEAAAUUUGH!” — and so did I. In fact we raised such a din we set a record for clearing a drive-in theater of patrons.
When I finally traded that Model-A for a used Studebaker, I removed all the mouse traps. I figured the new owner might be seeking a car with panache and wouldn’t want to be pestered by silly rumors about Walt Disney rodents.
Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.