El Camino: It’s Not Just for Cowboys

In my life there’s only been one vehicle that I loved, a 1978, cherry red, Chevrolet El Camino. A cowboy Cadillac. I’m not a cowboy, and I think Cadillacs are pretentious. But I loved that car-truck-thing. It defied definition. That was its appeal. I needed something that would carry hay for my horses, and possibly pull a trailer, but be a smooth, comfortable ride. I bought it used in the early 90s, with 150,000 miles on it, and then drove it another 360,000. I called it Maude in honor of Harold and Maude. Maude, the character, is one of my heroes. She defied definition.

Maude, the El Camino, carried hay, trash, furniture, groceries, and a couple of goats. She pulled a horse trailer once.

My oldest learned to drive in her. In the process, my daughter took out a small tree. An oak, she backed right over it. She plowed into the metal gate at the end of the driveway, damaging it beyond repair. She was sure she’d never be able to drive again, she’d be grounded for life; Maude wasn’t even dented. We had to replace the gate.

Maude weighed 4400 pounds and laughed at obstacles. With a four-barrel-carburetor, dual exhaust, and 350 horsepower engine, she sneered at sport cars, monster trucks and small oak trees alike. At red lights, I’d nod to young men in souped-up vehicles, and rev the engine.

They would laugh at me, “What is this crazy hippie woman doing? They revved in return. Self assured.


I’d smile, the bed loaded with hay or groceries, and relax, dressed in my Indian-cotton dress, bangles and braided bracelets. Dangling beaded and feathered earrings. Folk music filled the air around me. There was a dream-catcher hanging from the rear-view.

They’d think “pfft! Easy ego-builder, this is a no brainer.” I’m sure they imagined me the crazy cat-lady living down the street. They’d teach me a lesson.

You just can’t let the world judge you too much, Maude, the character, said.

Green light….

A blur of red Chevrolet leaving humbled roadsters eating its dust. She went from zero to eighty in less than a mile, comfortably. The flying bits of hay and dust would be settled to the pavement before the poor kid realized what had just happened. Cockiness disintegrated into a sort of frightened humiliation. Peter, Paul, & Mary or Bob Dylan wafting back on the breeze, destroying any preconceived notion of who I was-or am.

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

It was good for them. Be like my cowboy Cadillac – think outside the box, kid! Be Maude. Go rent the movie, damn it.

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