Saturday, October 14, 2006

Dart, Dr Pepper & DeSoto

Dr Pepper is a popular soft drink in Texas. I don’t know if it is because it was invented here or if the inventor hit upon the ideal formulation for Texas tastes. It doesn’t matter to me. I have always liked it.

For me, it started back in the early 1960’s. When my sister and I were little, we stayed with my grandparents while my mother worked. We always had a good time, playing in or out doors. The old house didn’t have any air conditioner, so we were usually outside in the summer.

Every day, usually around 8:30 or 9:00 a.m., my grandfather would get in the Dodge Dart and drive down to the Texas City Dike. This structure, the Dike, is billed as “10 miles of Fun”…Five miles out and five miles back with granite squares on the South side and usually broken up scrap concrete on the North side. This long jetty was paved with a two-lane road. People always fished from both sides (hence “10 Miles of Fun”) and the deeper South side was home to the Texas City Shrimp Fleet. None of this is what would draw GranDaddy to the Dike. It was the visits with his brother.

Some days my sister and I would accompany him on his mission. We would clamber to the back seat and ride with the silent man driving with a silent purpose. Sometimes on the way to the meeting point, he would stop at one of the bait camps and buy each of us a six ounce bottle of Dr Pepper. Since we didn’t often get carbonated drinks, or cokes as we called them, any one was a treat. But one of the best and most favored “cokes” was the Dr Pepper.

After receiving our treasure, we would proceed down the road to the real reason we were there. My sister and I would look out the window of the Dart for the lone black car parked on the North side of the road. Usually about halfway down, we would spot it. A huge, hulking black and chrome dinosaur. That would be Uncle Curtis in his DeSoto.

On arrival, we would get out of the Dart and climb into the DeSoto’s cavernous back seat to drink our DP. The two old men would sit quietly. And sit. Light a cigar. And sit. Finally, one would open with news of an old acquaintance in the hospital or funeral home. Or remember something from the days of brown toned photos when they were both young and strong.

We heard so many great stories, and I am not sure if we were supposed to hear some of them. But as they spoke in short sentences punctuated with draws on their El Productos, the bond that the brothers shared since the turn of the 20th century stayed young and strong.

And as the conversation came to a close, the 60-year sentence drew not to a period, but to a 24 hour semicolon. Same time tomorrow. Maybe my sister and I would be there with a Dr Pepper, maybe we wouldn’t . But the Dart and the DeSoto would sit side by side for a while, suspended in time. While the brothers...smoked. Talked. Bonded.


SISTER said...


Anonymous said...

Wonderful story!


Rob Vanya said...

Really liked this nostalgic peek into those quaint days of yesteryear. I think you have a gift for writing. I really like your descriptive, narrative style. Also, it's amazing that you still have a good copy of an old DeSoto car (and, in color, no less).