sigs pioneer-3

Sigmund Brouwer is a former journalist and he’s written 16 best selling children’s books.

‘Sig’s a household name in children’s literature but he’s also the owner of a 1960 Dodge Pioneer…that makes him a famous writer and a car guy.’

We rarely let people write their own pieces without extensive editing, but this is Sig Brouwer-so we gave him a big thumbs-up.

Here’s his story.

“When I see high school kids today — in an era of texting, internet, Wii, youtube and Facebook — I wonder if cars mean as much to them as it did to to me and my friends in the mid 70s, when the first countdown was to a learner’s permit on the 14th birthday, and the major countdown was to sweet 16 and the freedom that came with a driver’s license and your own car.

Today, kids roam the world via cyberspace; all we had were the streets of Red Deer and the back roads beyond the city limits.

In 1975, at age 15 on the verge of my next birthday, I spent the entire summer working towards my first car. Not an unusual story, of course. For me, it was at a local farm.

Putting in fence posts, painting grain sheds, planting trees. I wasn’t working for cash, however. The deal was simple. Once I reached the agreed upon amount of hours, I would be rewarded with a vehicle that had been retired and parked inside a garage for years.

A 1960 Dodge Pioneer. Sky blue, with a pale cream blue hard top.

The farmers had purchased the car new from Northwest Motors in Red Deer, and still had the bill of sale. This car had served the farm well. First for road transportation, and in its later years, to haul hay bales in the spacious trunk out to the cows in pasture. In the summer of ’75 the Pioneer was simply a safe haven for nesting mice.

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That was fine with me. Every morning at the farm, first thing I’d do before work was go into the garage and look at the car and dream about my 16th birthday, my driver’s license, and how at the end of the summer I’d be able to drive it to high school. That vision would sustain me for the hours of labour ahead.

But when the end of the summer came, circumstances had changed. Although I’d earned the car fair and square, I had to regretfully ask for wages instead. And the Pioneer remained behind to gather dust and provide a home for future generations of mice.

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Over the years that followed, I stayed in touch with the owners. Not because of the Pioneer, but because they were great folks, interesting and kind, with conversations that were wide-ranging, unpredictable and fun. Much later, when I had a family of my own, it became a summer ritual to bring my daughters over to the farm for tea and lunch. The Pioneer was still parked, and although I’d never driven it, I’d take my daughters into the garage and show my daughters my first car.

It struck me one summer that perhaps my dream was not quite over. So at tea, with a promise that I’d take good care of it, I asked whether I might have the chance to give the Pioneer a new home.

The negotiating was simple. I was presented with a receipt of what I’d earned in the summer of 1975. (Yes, it was still in the farm records.) Would I be willing to pay this amount?

The answer, of course, was yes. I don’t believe that this was about money. I think it was about symbolism. For them, and for me. Thirty years had passed, with the Pioneer still parked inside the garage, still waiting. Finally, it was mine.

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It has needed work. But much less than anticipated. The engine, with only 76,000 miles on it, didn’t make much more noise than a purr. New brakes, new gas line. White wall tires. I splurged on upholstery for the interior, and I’m about to get the front end replaced. Last step will be a paint job.

But in the mean-time, I was able to accomplish my single biggest goal. Driving back to the farm, and taking my friends out for lunch.  Them. Me. And the Dodge Pioneer.  

Old friends, from a long ways back.

Sigmund Brouwer