The Opel Kadet Challenge

When I was 10 or 11, my parents bought the most uncoolest car in the world; a gold-colored Opel Kadet station wagon. Being a small car, it only sat three people in the backseat, meaning one of us four kids would have to climb in the very back behind that backseat.

One morning, we loaded up and hit the road, heading south towards Eureka and later Fortuna. Uncomfortable and bored, I started pestering my two sisters and brother.

As we dropped down the hill near Clam Beach, where the California Highway Patrol had an unmanned weight scale and shack, Dad had enough and glared at me in the rear view mirror. Being somewhat intelligent, I knew exactly what that meant: “Knock it off!”

But being only ‘somewhat intelligent’ and realizing I was about to get in big trouble was my forte’. Therefore, I pressed my luck by doing whatever it was I had done to one of my siblings one time too many.

“Don’t make me come back there!” Dad shouted as he looked at me in the rear view mirror.

To be perfectly clear Dad was driving the car, so I felt very certain that he was not about to let go of the steering wheel and climb back to get me. To that end, I was only partly correct.

“I’d like to see you,” I smiled as I did it again and one the kids squealed.

That’s when Dad stopped the car. I mean he didn’t step on the foot brake – nope, he tugged hard on the emergency brake — and everyone behind him went flying towards the dashboard, including me.

Without turning around, he grabbed his intended target, me, and jerked me over my siblings and out through his driver’s door. And right there, on the side of Highway 101, fairly close to the vista point on the south end of Clam Beach and somewhere beneath the airport on the bluff overhead, he commenced to giving me a butt-whipping.

Several log trucks and chip haulers went screaming by as he tanned my back side, each one blasting their horn in amazed approval. Then he marched me around to the back of the car, popped open the hatch and made me climb in before slamming it shut and returning to his place behind the wheel.

Never again did I smart-mouth my dad by challenging him to do something like that, having learned to accept his warning at face-value. And to this day I have no idea why I didn’t think about the fact that all he had to do was stop the vehicle to ‘come back there.’

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