I am not sure when the vision first manifested but for many, many years there would be glimpses of my senior years as an odd blending of Slim Pickens in the film The Getaway, Jack Elam, and Walter Brennen. On occasion a new dimension would be added such as the character that Robert Duval played in the movie Open Range. With the luxury of hindsight I now see that becoming a colorful character in my old age was more a goal than developing a profitable career. Oddly enough I never really worked at it, it just seemed to evolve naturally. Perhaps it was best described by ma who said that I was born ninety and never aged.
In 1981, when my dearest friend and I were courting, I drove a 1946 GMC as my daily transportation. The exterior of that old workhorse was best described as junkyard camouflage. I could park that truck in any junk yard and it would blend in perfectly. I used kerosene lamps as there was no electricity in my cabin, and cooked as well as heated on an ancient wood burning stove. We were married almost ten years before purchasing a truck manufactured after I was born. We used an avocado green rotary dial wall phone until 2005. We used a black and white television until about 1990. That was the year I sold my first feature article. It was written on a 1948 Underwood typewriter.
At age 16, for the first time, with my own money I purchased a jacket. It was a canvas Carhart farm coat. At age 62, I bought a new jacket. It was identical with but one exception. This one was sold under the Wrangler name. I was so thin when my dearest friend and I married that hiding behind a flagpole was a real option in a game of hide and seek. I wore 29×30 Wrangler jeans. I still wear Wrangler jeans, they are just a bit bigger, 33×30 in the winter, 32×30 in the summer. That comes from long hours spent polishing an office chair with my backside as I work daily to tell people where to go.
In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. I am comfortable as a caricature, a tangible blending of the past and the present, a link to an earlier time. There is a certain pride that comes from being introduced as an intellectual redneck, America’s storyteller or the Will Rogers of the 21st century. This continuing evolution has me looking forward to the years left in what is the unfolding final chapter.
I can already see that my diplomatic skills are weakening. Every day I better understand Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino. With each passing day it becomes harder to bite my tongue, especially in the era of a never ending election, people passionately defending mindless conspiracy theories, and social media networks that allow people to return to junior high school. See, manifestations of my future life as an old fart are already becoming evident.
So, if I were to look into the crystal ball, what would I see for my future? Well, there is an increasing desire to own a Model A Ford or vehicle of similar vintage (Hudson Super Six, Nash, Studebaker, Chrysler?) and do some nationwide touring with a possible detour into Canada. And I have always wanted to go to Alaska. My dearest friend, an adventuresome soul that remembers double dating in a ’26 Ford, helping me push start the ’49 Chevy truck after a date, and the Dodge that the door fell off of, has been gently nudging me toward something a bit more practical such as a ’49 Hudson or ’57 Chevy truck. After nearly forty years of marriage we have learned to compromise.
Then there is the childhood quest to become a writer when I grow up that still needs to be fulfilled. And that takes us to Jim Hinckley America’s. Telling people where to go is my passion. Inspiring road trips. Shared adventures. Friends and friends yet made. So, that will most definitely be a focus in years to come. And as it so happens, that dovetails with my ongoing development as a colorful character. Besides, working is a sure death albeit a slower one than starvation.
My dearest friend and I have come to really enjoy Europe; the people, the food, the sites, the history and the landscapes. And we have so many friends there. I often entertain thoughts of spending a bit of time there, perhaps a speaking tour. And when my thoughts wander down that path, I begin to wonder if something like that would work in Australia and New Zealand. I wonder how to transform this from a vague dream into a reality? I suppose time will tell.
And so, as the first pages of the last chapter turn, I look toward the future with apprehension tinged excitement. The anxiety is fueled by 2020, the year of the apocalypse. If it weren’t for the morning walkabout in the desert, I would spend most days as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. In any case, I am increasingly convinced that another thirty years like this is going to kill me.
Meanwhile most every day hours are consumed as this old dog works to learn new tricks. Less than five years ago I acquired a cell phone, and now I develop live stream programs, have an audio podcast, a YouTube channel, and social media network as part of the Jim Hinckley’s America travel channel. Interesting times.
I wonder what the future holds? I wonder what adventures await a fellow that has managed, without a great deal of effort, to spend most of his life as an old timer. Perhaps it’s time to consider growing a walrus mustache.