When I posted that I had finally acquired the M-37, John Woerheide sent me an e-mail saying: "CONGRATULATIONS, I'm jealous, and I bet you will walk around it a million times tonight."

It got me thinking, and you know, he was right...

This is dedicated to all of us who salvage old war-horses, and, in the process, recover a bit of the glorious past...

"First Night."

by William R. Benson

The recovery vehicle had disappeared down the road in a cloud of diesel

exhaust and the grin of the buddy who loaned its services. The neighbors,

who had come out to gawk at this new "thing" had bid their "good-nights"

and headed inside to eat dinner, watch "Jeopardy", or put the kids to bed.

The day faded into night, and the world filled with the serene silence that

lay like a comforting blanket over all.

It sat there, a shape in the darkness, illuminated by only the light

spilling off of the porch. Even in its dilapidated shape, it commanded

respect, like an old soldier trying to straighten to the position of

attention for the flag he fought for so long ago. The newer vehicles

around it seemed to bow to its presence, as if understanding that they

served a daily and useful purpose, but that this newcomer would perform a

more noble deed.

I looked at this tired old survivor, and didn't think of the many hours it

would take to get it up and running. I'd do that tomorrow.

Not tonight...

Tonight was a night to rest. It was a night for me to shed all of the

feelings of anxiety and worry. A night for me to take a deep breath and

accept that this old war-horse was all mine, with the title in my pocket.

Tonight was a night for the spirit of this vehicle to accept that it was

now in the care of a pair of hands that would treat it with respect, and

maybe even a little love. It would never sit in a barn, covered in

garbage. It would never sit in the middle of a field, lonely and rotting

away.  It would never feel the hands of some casual driver who looked at

it as "just another farm truck". It seemed to breathe a deep sigh of

relief, like that of a rescued soul...

Tonight was a night for ghosts. A time for all those spirits of warriors

past to find this vehicle, to invest in it their own stories, stories which would

be revealed as I researched this truck's past decades of faithful service...

I watched it for a little while, and then put my hands on the dented hood.

I could feel the energy over the span of time. How many hands had touched

this very place. I walked around it, my finger trailing along its fenders,

its doors, its sides, its tailgate, all the while wondering at the places

it had been, of the men and women it had carried, and of the events it had


Here, in the darkness, I could almost see the faces of the young men,

dressed out in their combat gear, riding in the back, on their way to meet

their destiny, be it the front lines, or simply from the field to the

chow hall.

Tomorrow I would begin to restore this diamond in the rough to its youthful

livery. Tomorrow I would work my will upon it.

Tonight, however, I would be still, and let it work its will upon me...

(The author grants permission to duplicate this piece in it's entirety, to include the author's name, for publication in other works dedicated to the recovery, restoration, and preservation of Military Vehicles .Copyright 1999 by the author.)