The Flying Potato


Betsy is The Holbs's truck. He bought her off of some senior citizens our first month in Idaho. 

Once she was parked in our driveway and we'd had a chance to get to know her properly I asked The Holbs what we should call her. He answered without hesitation, as if he'd been thinking it over all afternoon. "Her name is Betsy. Betsy The Flying Potato!"

Betsy The Flying Potato is a 1973.5 Datsun Pickup. She is the oldest member of our family and as such she deserves a certain amount of respect. She shakes like the dickens when you start her up, she rattles in the third gear, she has no power steering, no cup holders, and no seat belts. You can watch the road pass beneath you through the holes in her floor. She has four gears and when going downhill I've seen her reach speeds as high as 55 miles per hour!

She can fit three people, but only if the one in the middle straddles her gear shift in a rather inappropriate manner.

The past couple of mornings have been deathly cold, and The Holbs has been taking the SUV to school instead of warming up our good old Potato and taking the time to scrape the ice off her windshield.

Poor Betsy, abandoned three days in a row by her one true love, just so Brandon can coast to school in a cushy black ride of rugged sports utility vehicleship. It's just really heartbreaking.

When I saw old Betsy sitting in the driveway this morning instead of my usual ride, Barry White (formerly known as Monica, but it has been explained to me by my redder half that the Xterra is actually a boy, excuuuse me), I fired off a text message.

You left me Betsy? Noooooooo!

But actually,  I love Betsy. Sure, she's inconvenient, but she is a classy old broad. Errands take on a whole new glimmer when we're out together. Her upholstery is torn but bouncy, so you kind of bob along down the road just-so. Groceries go in the back, things you don't want stolen go under the towel (Betsy doesn't really have doors that lock . . .) When it snows or rains you sometimes have to crank the windshield wipers manually with your arm out the window. You can't put a price on an experience like that!

Also you can't put more than ten dollars of gas in her tank on account of she has a hole in her tank.

People look at me differently when I'm in Betsy. I get hit on by guys with facial hair a disproportionate amount when we're together.

So when I was bustling about the kitchen later today doing nothing much in particular and I could hear her calling to me, it didn't take much to convince me to take her out for a joy ride. Don't you want a soda? she beguiled. I think you're running low on bread? And anyway I have found that there is just a certain kind of special satisfaction that you can only get from driving around an old beast while holding an icy soda in one hand, steering with your knee, switching gears with the other hand, and somehow managing not killing anybody.

Today she asked me if we could go harass The Holbs at school and leave notes for him in the the other woman (who is now a man, see above). Then she wanted to deposit a check at the bank. She let me fiddle with her radio stations and didn't complain much when I almost stalled her at the corner of Sixth and Washington.

Members of our ward tell us all the time how jealous they are of our ride. We're pretty sure if we wanted to we could start a heavy bidding war over her when we leave Moscow.

But part of me has already decided there is just no way we could ever leave her behind.


  1. I feel I have found a kindred spirit in you, Nat. I too have an old truck named Betsy who harbors wasps in her engine. Our Betsy is a '64 Ford Ranger with her very bald spare tire in a rack on the front of her grill. She is the one thing my husband brought with him when we got married. The entire time we were in school I drove Betsy to campus. She looks rough but is a wimp. I had to be pushed out of the parking lot more than once on snowy days. Nowdays Betsy spends most of her time napping in the driveway waiting for us to take a load of branches to the dump. Like you, I am really fond of our old girl. I like to give her a little pat when I walk by her on my way to the garbage can. Good Betsy.

  2. Ah, Betsy the Flying Potato. You're not the only one to name your vehicles. I've had the Evil Frog (a '74 Ford with a regular need for repairs and a tendency to stick irretrievably in first gear) and The Pet (an '88 Honda Tardis, er, CRX that was cute as a button (if you find buttons cute)). Betsy's a doll, and I hope you keep her running!

  3. Ooh I want a Betsy!! I feel I am missing out. I have a Sammy instead. Sammy the Sedan is my extremely reliable Ford Focus. Only while I'm away at school, he's at home with my parents, quite abandoned parked on the street instead of in the garage now. I talked my Dad into driving him to work at least once a week though, to "keep the engine running well," but really so Sammy's not so neglected. Maybe one day, years and years and years from now, he'll be my "Betsy."

    PS -- We name all of our family cars. Favorites are Clifford, a red Ford sedan of my mother's, and Pegasus, my Dad's old Dodge Caravan. My sister's car is Ironhide. She went a little nuts when Transformers came out...

  4. Fantastic! You are definitely not alone on the vehicle naming thing. We've had Shazzer (the Charade), Bazza (the BMW), Kazza (the Kawasaki ZX6R motorcycle) (picking up on a theme there?), Roxy (the Jeep) and Scooby (the Subaru). They all have had their own personalities and we've loved them all.
    I never realised before how many vehicles we've been through! This is crazy. I blame my fickle husband.

    Another great post Nat, thank you :)

  5. I name my cars also

    My first car was a little Ford Escourt with a white vinyl top and his name was Clifford. Then I had a maroon Ford Tonic called Moodley. A black Nissan Micra called Mamba and my current ride : an orange (my favourite colour)four-door Ford Focus ST called Beast.

    You're not alone...

  6. i don't name my cars... probably because i drive my mom's still and it never occurred to me, but i named my laptop (joe) and my brother-in-law named my camera (jeffery).

  7. Three former cars have names (and they usually have several names). We're clearly into making our cars into real members of the family:
    -1990 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight is either the Bunny Car or the Grandpamobile, depending on who you talk to
    -1997 BMW Z3 is either the Mid-Life-Crisismobile or the Baby Car
    -1996 Saturn SL2 is either the Bitch Car or Baby (she used to be the Bitch Car because my friends would get in my car and vent about their days for hours on end when I would chauffeur them places (yeah my friends don't drive), but I felt bad and renamed her because I didn't want her to hate me and break down on the mountains of WV when I would drive from Ohio to Atlanta for college)

  8. Besty looks cute.I think I've falling in love with her.

  9. My first car was "Chronic", #2, "Sparkly Dirt", and my 3rd and current car, "The Bucket."

  10. Oh, you are not alone. My first car was named Clara. I cried when a stupid mean old man slammed into her bumper. My second is Dallas. :) They like being named.

  11. A guy magnet huh? Like you would need one of those! You are darling...That old betsy, possibly short for beast?, reminds me of Bell's truck in a way. Definitely a guy magnet that one!

  12. I have a mini-van. One day when driving around the city with my daughter, I decided we should give it a name. It had just had an oil change and was purring away, and I was praising it and patting the dash...and realized that it just needed a name. So, much to my daughter's embarrassment, she thinks it's weird to name our van, we now call her Vaniella.

  13. My dad used to drive this old car when he and my mom were dating. It was this really, really ugly bronze colored car (i've seen the pictures). He called it "Joan", but my mom called it "The Tank".

  14. back in the glory days of high school I drove Little Bitty, an old plymouth reliant. her belts squeaked like no other when she started order to sneak out at night, my friends and I had to push her down the street before we could start her up. she did have a/c but if you had it on, you couldn't go faster than 15mph. and her alignment was so off she blew out a tire at least once a month. I loved her.

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  16. I have only owned two cars in my 27 long years of life. An Acura Integra. (not the cool ones that are all sportzy and stuff, but an old one...with a hatchback) and i called her "mystic". She was always amazing me with new things. One time, i killed her battery and at that point found out that i had an alarm system on the car. Not only did i have an alarm system, but it would not turn off until i replaced the battery. An hour and a half after she started blaring! Also, when i took her into a professional cleaning place, i found a bong under the rear seat. Now, i have NEVER smoked anything...and the people i bought her from...well...apparently have. She was always amazing me in some way. Currently, i have BOO! my silver chevy Malibu. Boo! and i have GREAT times together. Frolicking in between traffic. (and by frolicking i really mean frolicking...she jerks about and then calms down and then jerks about. Her and i have a great bond. Boo! I LOVE YOU!

  17. my roomie in college taught me about naming cars based on their license plates. this doesn't always work but sometimes it does. like my plate has jqk in it. (which i think is awesome if i played cards or something) so my car's name is jack. i guess it's a boy. also, promising treats and then giving none...i shivered a bit when i read that. not only do we not dare to attempt such trickery. ben and i compete to see who will give the cats more treats and then who will subsequently be their favorite. i think 3 treats is plenty. that husb of mine, he will sometimes give them 5. (5!) no wonder we have 2 15 lb cats...

    happy thursday! *heart*

  18. My entire family names our cars! We have 2 4Runners - James and Isabelle, Sally the Solara, Holly the Explorer, Callie the Caliber (brother =/= creative), Mitsi the Eclipse (Mom also =/= creative) and Jimmy the jeep.

  19. Sadly, my car doesn't have a name. And I've had him/her for 7 years so I don't think he/she really wants a name anymore.

    No seatbelts?! I am the biggest safety freak - I could never even ride in there without seatbelts. I guess it's something you can't really add later on!!!

  20. I was always under the impression that all cars are girls. Naturally, really; most mechanics are of the male persuasion, and they (mostly) love cars with revered awe (something to do with that silly Y chromosome, me thinks).

    But then I met MY car, a 2003 pewter-colored Nissan Altima with tinted windows. And when we met, there was no confusion; I knew that THIS car is a boy. He's called Handsome Rob. (NEVER forget the Handsome, it's very important.) Okay, technically, so says my brother, it's a 2002 body with 2003 parts. What the what? I call him an '03. And I love his body just the way it is; so much, in fact, that I rather strongly dislike the bodies of the newer versions of the Altima. (I don't think the rest of them are boys; I like to think that Handsome Rob is rare, right? As rare as a 2002 bod with 2003 guts.)

    Anyways...he's given me some grief, this Handsome Rob of mine. But he's a good car, and I'm rather fond of him. He's timeless to me, don't you know? A couple of summers ago, the gas door thingy (that IS the technical term) wouldn't open, so I had to buy a new one. Did you know that the parts place sell parts in black? Then you have to go some other place and fork out who-knows-how-much-money to match the paint of your beloved car? I thought I'd get around to it, but I never have. And do you know what? I'm pretty sure I never will. That black gas door thingy, it's a part of Handsome Rob; it gives him character, like the scar on the back of my right ring finger. I've gotten accustomed to the way he looks with that little black door; it matches his tires and his tinted windows.

    I never knew I had so much to say about Handsome Rob.

    You really bring out the best in me, Natalie. Kudos. :)

  21. Oh, I wish I had a Betsy! It sounds like you two have so much fun together!

    Instead, I have a Betty, she is a 2002 Chevy Malibu and I've had her since my senior year of high school. She is my first and only car. I named her Betty because it's kind of an old-lady car (bronze) and Betty was the cutest old-lady name I could think of. I think she likes her name, she usually behaves really well. Unless it's raining or snowing, and then her brakes stick and squeak, because my uncle (her previous owner) has a horrible habit of ruining the brakes of every car he's ever driven by slamming on them at every stoplight.

    This post made my day a little brighter, as always. Keep up the good work chica!

  22. My dad had a brown Datsun named Betsy when I was growing up! We, too, could see the ground through the floor! Love it!

  23. When I got my license, my parents loaned me a Jetta. His name was Freddy. Sadly, my parents decided he belonged in Arizona with my sister, when she moved out of the dorms, so Freddy had to move away. Now I drive a beautiful blue VW Beetle but after 2 years, I still have not been able to settle on the perfect name :( If anyone has any suggestions for a good name please share. My poor car seems lost without a name...

  24. I have a green Saturn, and her name is Chloe. Previous cars were Belladonna & Belle. I love that there are so many ppl who name their vehicles! : )

  25. Call me a nerd, but I name my computers. Sorry, I don't name my cars, though. Not that I don't think it is a very cool thing to do, but the closest I have gotten to that was our little "Toyota 800." It cost $800, we drove it like crazy for 4 years, sold it for $500, and just the other day I saw the owner driving it at Walmart! Those Toyos. I'm tellin' ya!

  26. First of all, I like how many people name their cars! I especially liked Handsome Rob. Myself, I've had Little Red and Sir Berg. My husband's was Victoria. I know technically cars, boats and whatnot are supposed to be female, but I always get male vibes. Maybe because I'm a female?

    I also named my instruments when I was in band (hello, Joe and Pierre!) but computer are all called Crappy.

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  28. 1973.5? means they made two models that year. one is the 1973, and the other the 1973.5. They did that with the 1967 mustang too, i believe

  29. The white weenie, the 72 chevy pickup, long bed. It required 2 parking places (lengthwise) cause the tailgate wouldn't stay up. Then woody the wood paneled mini van. Then the faux-cedes-mali-benz. I know long name but it's a chevy malibu that my father in law tweaked to "look like" a mercedes, I think it was very appropriately named. Betty Blue is the current vehicle, even though the name is betty blue, he's a boy.

  30. I'm totally pretentious and call my Honda Civic Harrison Honda. I like the alliteration. No, it's not Harry. It's Harrison.

  31. My car's name is Petunia... cause she's so sweet!


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