By Rheta Grimsley Johnson
FISHTRAP HOLLOW, Miss. – I have this stubborn streak. When somebody tells me I can’t or shouldn’t do something, I usually die trying.
The vintage travel trailer that made it fine to Colorado and back last summer has been sitting neglected in the backyard ever since. I threw a wreath on it for Christmas and took its picture in the eight-inch snowfall last winter.
Then I forgot it, went away for four months and left the poor workhorse in the edge of my woods. That’s when critters took over, and it wasn’t a Disney scene.
Remember when Snow White discovers the seven dwarves’ cabin in the woods and her animal friends help her clean it up, presto, before the little people heigh-ho home from work? A bird holds one end of the bedcovers and helps her make a bed. A rabbit licks the dishes clean. And so on.
The varmints in my little trailer weren’t so helpful. A rat made a nest in the cabinet. Ants found the coffee and used it to build pyramids beneath counters and seat cushions. A homeless squirrel took up residence. The pink flamingos outside fell over on their plastic bellies, and the gnome party lights dangled off the turquoise awning like a dog leash. I think, but cannot prove, an armadillo may have been involved.
A couple of friends asked to use the trailer while I was gone. They planned to haul it to another state and park it by a pretty river. Fine, I said. It needs to be used.
I was surprised when they reported back. After driving a long way over to get the trailer, they decided against it. They were vague when I asked why. “Just decided not to bother,” they lied.
When I returned home, I understood. The trailer was a mess, a real rat’s nest. I apologized to my friends, who then opened up and described their experience. They had taken the anticipatory tramp to the trailer, opened the door and recoiled in horror. A cynic with them at the time, Tom Fox, had taken one look, cocked a brow and said the only thing for my precious trailer was to “burn it.”
I found that comment gratuitous and mean. It’s one thing to look the gift horse in the mouth and say “No thanks.” It’s another to condemn it to death.
I decided to get serious about restoration. I’ve been scrubbing, airing out, washing cushions and telling the critters in no uncertain terms not to return. I’ve also been checking out vintage trailer websites. There are websites aplenty.
Seems dolling up vintage trailers is a serious business. One outfit assigns themes – the Honolulu model, rocking and rolling or the cowboy look. Some folks follow a chosen theme down to the toothpicks. And people get big bucks for adding whimsical touches.
Next month, I’m going to a Bastille Day celebration in Alabama. My trailer will sport a new French look, with vintage souvenirs – I seem to have lots of those – carrying out the tony theme. You can put out your butt in an Eiffel tower ashtray, or drink Perrier from a glass from the Champs-Elysees. If you sit at the tiny table in the tiny trailer you can squint and pretend you’re at a table in Maxim’s.
Nothing like scorn to set me on the right track. I’m determined “Le Petit Fox,” gleaming and sleek, will be ready to roll by Bastille Day.
Syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson lives near Iuka. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852. To find out more about Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books, visit www.rhetagrimsleyjohnsonbooks.com.