August 5, 2020

Cowboy

Cowboy

It was always exciting to see what car he’d be driving. Dad worked at Saint Roques Automobiles, a car dealership on Ward Road in Dundee. He’d come home for lunch and we’d all eat together. When it was time for him to head back to work, rather than being sad, I was happy. In fact, I was thrilled. It meant I’d get to drive his car. We grew up at the bottom of Strathaird Place, a cul-de-sac. He’d have to perform a three-point turn. It was my time to shine. He’d get in, nudge the seat back a bit, and then I’d sit on his knee. He’d take the pedals and gears. All I had to do was steer. As a young kid, there was nothing quite like it. As I got older, and my driving skills were no longer in doubt, I advanced to shifting the gears as well. My Dad, unquestionably, had the coolest job ever.

When being Head of Used Cars was no longer enough for him, my Dad made the bold decision to make his own way in the world. With one of his colleagues, he launched his own second-hand car business. Not only did he have the coolest job ever, now he was his own boss. Even at a young age, I was proud of him. Eventually after a change of business partners and locations, my Dad owned Glencross Motor Company. In my early teens my Dad gave me a job washing cars. I loved working with him. As bosses go, he was pretty good. Being the only kid in a land of adults was great. Mike, Malcolm, Christine, my Dad, and me. These days were filled with laughter.

Lunchtimes were the best. Someone would take the lunch order and head off to a nearby shop. I was a creature of habit. Cheese and pickle roll with an apple turnover to follow. Every single time. I’d regularly make the teas and coffees. Before tucking in, I’d mirror the real workers. I’d roll up my sleeves, push the pump action and watch the pink gritty slime fall onto my hands. It was Swarfega. OK, I think in reality it was a cheaper knockoff, but its grittiness was undeniable. I’d do what Malcolm and Mike did, I’d work it hard into every pore. Of course, they were both mechanics and had oil and dirt to rid themselves of. My hands were practically spotless. When in Rome, and all that.

Throughout the years I was fiercely defensive of my Dad and his profession. Second-hand car dealers don’t come with a great reputation. In some cases, it’s entirely merited. Not my Dad though. Still, as I got older I got in on the act. It was a quality source of family banter. My Dad, the cowboy. Some people were even bigger fans of my Dad than I was. On my last ever visit to Glencross Motor Company another ‘c’ word was used to describe my fathers character. At this stage, he was semi-retired and rented the garage to another trader. I’d been helping my Dad with something that day and he said he needed to pop into the garage on his way home. While my Dad went to do whatever it was, I was left with the new owner of the garage.

“Your Dad’s a great unmentionable c word. Lot of shady unmentionable c words about, but he’s one of the good unmentionable c words. That unmentionable c word would do anything for any unmentionable c word.”

Just to be clear, I, at no time had enquired as to this mans opinion of my Dad. This was completely un-prompted. I am no prude. I have been known to drop the odd ‘sweary’ from time to time, just not this particular one. Up until that moment I had no idea that it was possible to be utterly horrified while simultaneously feeling a deep sense of pride. It was a strange cocktail of emotions.

When we were back in the car Dad shared with me something that I was already well aware of.

“He’s a bit of character, isn’t he?”

“Yeah he is, but he thinks very highly of you.”

“Really?”

“Yeah Dad, if I may summarise - ‘you’re a good unmentionable c word.”

I swear there was the merest of swerves.