When we lived in Laramie, we needed a second car because, as good as it was for around town, our old Corolla wagon wasn’t the kind of trusty steed you could put much mid-winter faith in, especially for 500 mile treks back home across Nebraska. Leaping into the future, (rather than looking, especially at our bank account) we bought a three year old Toyota MR-2 Mark I two-seater. The test drive took us up Hwy. 30 to Bosler, that patch in the road made famous by Tom Horn, one of the most controversial figures in Old West history. The town’s namesake, Henry Bosler, owned the Iron Mountain Ranch Company with John Coble, employed Horn, and hosted the small cabin he stayed in.
An article I once read said the cabin still stands, but I don’t recall seeing it.
After that trip, I picked up Dean F. Krakel’s tightly crafted The Saga of Tom Horn at the University bookstore, a 1988 Bison Books reprint of a 1954 work. Telling the story through a variety of letters, news stories and court room transcripts, it’s an enlightening read and very much recommended.
(Frank Schoonovers’s painting of Hopalong Cassidy graces the cover. More authentic than Steve McQueen, who played Horn in the 1980 movie, don’tcha think?)
So it was on the road from Bosler that we were sold on the little white mid-engine sports car. Learning to use the clutch was a breeze for Gina. For me, more schooled in yanking with both hands at an old farm truck shift, the smooth five-speed was slightly suspect. Due to the motor’s central placement, the car handled exceptionally well on ice, snow, and naturally, around hair pin curves.
Our second drive, the first as proud new car parents, took us through the loops of Roger Canyon road at speeds I would now officially catalog as too damn fast.
Walking back to my apartment one morning soon after that drive, my face buried in the Laramie Daily Boomerang, I learned that one of our local friends had gone over one of those canyon edges in his pickup, a news story that haunted me for a long time, and propelled me toward straight wide open raceways.
And in Wyoming, there are lots of those.
Once, at more than 100 mph barraling into the wind, we could feel the car’s nose lifting off the ground.
Another warning shot across the bow, and another chance to be grateful.
Fast forward twenty-plus years. Yesterday, I hooked the battery up, checked the tires, and backed the MR-2 out of the garage. Shifting smoothly into third, fourth, and rounding a curve onto the highway, I thought about all the things that have happened in that car. All the friends and family it has carried in its single passenger seat.
When the roads were clear, we took it to Cheyenne nearly every weekend.
The front end was once dented by a repentant septuagenarian, the body man that fixed it, a part-time inventor who designed a dish drainer for motor homes.
It’s been run into at least twice more, repainted, gained a new clutch and carried old people, babies and basset hounds.
Folks, you can’t say you’ve really lived until you’ve traversed Nebraska and half of Wyoming with a basset hound on your lap.
(I imagine some of you are revising your bucket list even now.)
We’ve had as many as four in the cockpit, and we’ve pushed it when, out of gas, no one was behind the wheel at all.
We’ve pampered it, ignored it, broken it, and pumped dollar after dollar into its repair.
Good-bye, Old Paint –I’m a leavin’ Cheyenne.
For the time being, I’ve left Cheyenne, but I’m happy to say I’m not saying good-bye to this particular Old Paint.