I was young, I had car money in the bank and I dreamed large dreams of buying a red convertible that my collie Laddie and I could pilot across the country to Cody, where we would live happily ever after.

Boy, was I stupid.

Not for dreaming of Cody. I'd dreamed that one ever since I bought my first pair of beaded moccasins at Frost Curio here as a young girl.

But a convertible in a Wyoming winter? How smart is that?

It isn't bear-proof, rockslide-proof, egg- or rotten tomato-proof, bullet-proof, burglar-proof or rollover-proof.

And plus, convertibles draw the attention of police officers like watermelon rinds draw yellow jackets at a picnic. Even those of us who have not robbed any banks lately are adverse to making ourselves overly conspicuous to the law.

We prefer to low-profile it in that department, driving within the speed limit and always using our turn signals. The most they can ever get us for is jay-walking to Granny's. (Not me, of course; I would never do that.)

Anyway, there I was, with the car money burning a hole in my bank account while I went car shopping with my stepfather.

In the showrooms of various (and nefarious) New Jersey car dealers, I looked at sensible vehicles with large carrying capacity so I could get all my stuff, and Laddie, to Cody. Sensible cars always came in dark green and Navy blue.

In the showrooms my eyes kept sliding sideways to the convertibles, those stars of the dealerships. The front wheels of the convertibles always seemed to be parked up on wedges and the doors were akimbo, so prospective buyers could be tantalized by all the wonderful convertible amenities.

My favorite convertibles were always the candy-apple red ones.

I never had actually ridden in a convertible, mind you.

Seeing them in showrooms and watching dignitaries ride in them in parades were as close as I ever got to open-air fun behind an internal combustion engine with four-on-the-floor. I could not even drive a stick shift in those distant days. It was just not practical to think about buying a convertible.

When it came to plunking down my saved-up vehicle money, I did buy a brand-new car, but it was a 1963 Navy blue station wagon.

All my stuff, plus Laddie, fit in just fine, but it fell a bit short on fahrvergnügen. Anyhow, it was a Dodge Dart, not a Volkswagen.

Last week I, now a grandmother times four, got my first ride in a convertible.

It was so un-Wapiti, where my beat-up Blazer fits in fine, even with the duct tape and bailing wire applied in an emergency by Virgil at BearCo. after the last deer jumped out at me. Wisps of hay lie on the floorboards. And somebody in a white car scraped my Blazer's good side in the parking lot.

Compared to all this hum-drum, the convertible ride felt deliciously wicked.

It came about because Park County Clerk Karen Carter, who is up for re-election, had rented a convertible to ride in the Stampede Parades.

In the parades she was not allowed to say she was running for office, but she met the parade theme of Wyoming firsts by dressing like a Suffragette.

She still had the rented convertible when I visited with her Thursday at the county commission meeting. I mentioned the dreams of my youth.

She said, “I still have the car, but I have to take it back today. Would you like a ride?”

Would I like a ride? Is the Pope religious?

Commissioner Tim French, who by coincidence also is running for office again and is not shy about being seen in a convertible, vied with me to shout, “YES!” at the same time.

And the real beauty part of this joy ride was outside the car, not in it.

This convertible was candy-apple red.

 

Originally Published in The Cody Enterprise. July 10, 2006.