Me and Bu – A Long Sappy Car Story
In 2002 hot on the heels of heartbreak and my first college graduation my car blew up on the interstate. As in, the engine completely and entirely locked up. I walked three and half miles to a sweet old lady’s house in Coal Hill, AR. And, even though she was afraid to let me in, she let a punk looking twenty-two year old sit in her living room and join her for an evening of the Gaither Vocal Band while my parents drove to pick me up.
Just like that I needed a car.
The next week Bu showed up. For a whopping $4650 this 1999 Silver (not grey) four door Chevy Malibu could be mine. I sold a cow to make the down payment and drove it home to the farm with a busted tail light that’s still busted fifteen years later.
Bu was the first thing of significance that I ever bought and paid for with my own money. I was a department manager at Hastings, because that was still a thing. For a solid year I drove Bu everyday from the King Farm between Paris and Ozark on Highway 309 to Russellville where I moved a whole lot of movies and books over the coming months to make payments. Luke rode shotgun on most of those trips and we had some good times and a whole lot of laughs listening to “Riding with the King” by BB King and Eric Clapton on repeat every morning.
Bu and I took a lot of trips to Flatrock Swimming Hole, before it was shut down. That’s where Bryan C. almost drowned and I learned that saving someone’s life is a lot harder than Aquaman made it look. But I did save him. Hey it’s not everyday that you save a bonafide hero. Not that he would admit it or probably even like being called that, but he is, just like every other bright-eyed young man and woman that serves the red, white, and blue. Later he went to the Middle East and saved us from Iraq—so I guess I saved us from Iraq. You’re welcome guys. (That part’s a joke Mr. Serious.)
Bu drove me to my job as a part time teacher. Bu took me to the shelter where I had the privilege of “working” which really meant playing basketball and PlayStation with abused and neglected boys. Bu took me to CarMart where I was a repo man and worked with some awesome people and had a wonderful manager named Brian. It was actually while I was a repo guy here that I went into full time ministry.
Bu broke the sound barrier the day my dad had his heart attack. I swear Bu made it from H street in Russellville to the hospital in Fort Smith in about three and a half seconds.
I paid off Bu as I worked as a college missionary associate with Chi Alpha at Arkansas Tech University. Amanda Smith and I road tripped together to Central Bible College in Springfield, MO to learn what in the world we were doing. Amanda, I’m not quite sure we ever really figured that out but it was a fun trip.
I drove Bu to the Steak ‘n Shake where Amanda and I met with Heath and Christie Graham, who in the years since I have come to think of more as family than just some friends I have spent nearly fifteen years working with. Seriously, after so much time I think I can finish all of Heath’s preaching stories for him. (The Dog Story is still the best one Heath.)
I drove Bu to watch Brad play more softball and flag football games than I could even begin to remember. Bu was the silver chariot that took me to more preaching engagements than I could possibly recount. Jason road shotgun in that soft small passenger seat to so many churches to help me lead worship that I’m pretty sure the seat still has the shape of his 6’8″ frame.
Bu took Matt and I up to north-central Arkansas a lot to play music for many small but awesome churches. These days Matt is the worship pastor at one of the best churches around.
Bu drove Kim to the hospital that time we all thought she was dying in my apartment. Bu is what my brother and I rode in together for months after he almost killed us on the interstate. It’s a crazy-cool story that I share with people all the time. God wrapped up a twenty year old miracle that day.
Bu picked up Jamie for our first date. We drove Bu to Florida on our honeymoon. To Memphis to celebrate three years together. Bu drove Ethan home from the hospital. Three days ago, nestled in the glove box under the demo tape my garage band cut in college, and where they’ve been for the last ten years, I found the personality tests Jamie and I took when Pastor Keith did our premarital counseling and told us we were perfect for each other.
Bu drove a handful of us to Eric’s bachelor party, which I have spent the better part of the last thirteen years trying to forget no thanks to you Jason. Bu carried me and Jamie to the home of the world’s largest mosquitoes to celebrate the best thing to ever happen to Brad (that’s you Katie!) at what I dearly hope always remains the hottest summer wedding I have ever been a part of.
In May 2007 Bu carried me and a bunch of friends to a fun filled day to celebrate my upcoming wedding. We played laser tag with modified paint ball guns. It was awesome. Then Bu took us to Long Pool where Jeremy almost drowned…so I saved him. At my bachelor party. Then we watched from the top of one of the rocks as two clans of crazy hill people tried to kill each other with sticks and rocks….not even kidding.
Bu has done, seen, been a part of, and carried me to a lot of important stuff.
Because I’m a cheapskate Bu has been to the shop exactly one time in fifteen years. And that was right after I brought Bu home.
Bu was also the object of my attention as I grew into an incredibly amateur YouTube mechanic. Jamie’s dad Tiny passed away on Thanksgiving Day two years ago, but he spent many many hours helping me take Bu apart and put Bu back together again. The only time I ever saw Tiny (who was a mechanical genius) stumped was with Bu’s breaks which were so old by then that they were basically stuck. Luckily his buddy showed up and knew a good country boy trick. Bu was the centerpiece and the focal point for our growing friendship over the course of a decade. We talked about family, how terrible of a mechanic I am, and Jesus an awful lot under that hood. Tiny’s running joke was that if a mechanic job should take about an hour we should plan a whole day. He wasn’t wrong. Sometimes it took two.
One day Tiny got in Bu so we could drive around the Dover area and diagnose a weird sound coming from a wheel. Bu chickened out and never made the noise again.
Another time I pulled up to his shop in Dover and the Marshall was standing over Tiny with a bandaged pressed to the big guy’s ear. My father-in-law (he lovingly liked to call me “his wife’s son-in-law”) was on blood thinner so a cut he had on his ear wouldn’t stop bleeding. Bu took Tiny to the Dover Clinic where they told him that it would be several hours before they could see him. So he took the bandage off of his ear and started bleeding on the poor girl’s desk. She found that missing doctor pretty fast. Tiny will always mean the world to me. I miss him every day.
Bu, I’m sorry I lost your last original key while trying to help some baptist girl find her way-too-expensive-to-be-floating-in sunglasses when she lost them at Slant Rock. But Benji got you to open up for us and the extra key was safe inside. For that matter Bu, I’m sorry for all of the times I locked your keys in you and had to poke you with a hanger and string to break in—but you have to admit we did get that down to an art over the years. Like when Brandon and Kristin went with us to Petit Jean and I locked you up too soon. Or at the movies and Justin had to come help. Or that one time at the bank. My fault. That other time at the church. Jamie’s fault and Justin helped again.
Six years ago Bu even took a trip to Keystone, CO. Along the way Stephen learned not to pull over on the left side of the road when a state trooper pulls you over at 3:00 AM in Kansas—and I learned that if a trooper tells you to show him your hands he doesn’t want you to give him a thumbs up and go back to sleep in the back seat—AND that I get pretty mad and mouthy when a state trooper yells at my wife. Did I mention it was 3:00 AM?
When my missionary friend Greg had an important meeting with friends in Little Rock a couple of years ago he joined the elite group of folks that have set behind that fading grey steering wheel.
Bu has dropped off more pizza, donuts, and chicken nuggets to hungry college students than seems possible. Has carried me to a lifetime’s worth of lunch meetings, midnight movies, and Sunday mornings. Bu carried me to Arkansas School of Ministry, Might Nights, Restoration Worship Center, prayer meetings, and countless other places.
Bu started as a bandmobile. Bu became a Bible-buggy. Bu became Daddy’s Car. My favorite. My boys have always loved riding in Daddy’s Car.
Bu has been better to me than you ever expect a car to be—especially one that you pay so little for. I’ve spent nearly half of my life driving my humble little car. We have taken exactly one family trip with all three of the boys in Bu because our nicer newer Santa Fe was in the shop for minor repairs and an oil change.
A few days ago I bought my wife a nice van. It is a sincere blessing. Something we’ve been praying about for at least a year. It’s the vehicle my boys will probably learn how to drive in because as you can see I like to keep a car around. When the sweet sales girl offered me $300 for my car I felt a little sad. I very nicely told her that I would rather give my Bu to someone that needs a car.
So that is exactly what I did. Bu still had one more blessing left to give me…
“You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.'” Acts 20:35
If you have “Bu Story” of my old car, or a great car story of your own will you share it with me in the comments?