CASPER & THE PIRATE’S CHEST

“With the added skull and crossbones, it gives this a safe a desired pirate look.”

“Casper”

I’ve met several people over the years that named their vehicles after people, animals, or other things. My wife and I did the same with one of ours. It’s a 2009 Chevrolet HHR panel that we affectionately call, “Casper.” The namesake came about in a most unusual way.

Casper has been in the family since 2009. He was purchased new at Alaska Sales & Service in Anchorage. HHR’s are modeled after early 1950s era Chevrolet pickups for whatever that’s worth.

The Chevy stayed in Alaska less than a year before being shipped via truck to Seattle. Prior to it leaving the 49th state, I constructed a special rolling-wood-platform for placing a heavy gun safe on. That cumbersome honeycomb device was loaded in the back of Casper and securely tied down. It took me and another guy significant effort to load things because of the weight.

My platform was manufactured using wood screws and will easily hold 2,000 pounds with its special oversize caster wheels. There’s 3/4-inch plywood on both top and bottom, thus the inside is hollow except for diagonal 2″ x 6″ braces. That’s where the honeycomb design comes into play.

Somewhere at the Alaska / Canadian border an inspections officer deemed the apparatus unusual and ordered this box removed and inspected. There was an official customs statement stapled to the plywood attesting to such. We discovered it upon picking our car up in Seattle.

I’d used torx head screws to hold things together and evidently those bumbling border agents didn’t have a special bit to fit them. It was apparent they tried using a Phillips screwdriver instead, because some of the torx screw heads were stripped. Undoubtedly, they never physically got inside, because someone’s blood was on a section of wood. Even if they’d removed screws, I glued things together for added strength. I’m sure they x-rayed the contraption before loading it back in.

During removal from the HHR’s rear door, agents scratched up the plastic bumper protector after all four caster wheels rolled over it. Thirteen years later those marks are still there. Back then, I made sure to call and complain but only got the usual government runaround. My wife advised me to not go further, saying they’d have Michael Hankins pegged as a troublemaker next time he crossed the border.

That’s how the car’s name came to be. Casper sounds a lot better than Caster. The round automobile design does remind me of Casper the Friendly Ghost, especially with its frosty white color.

Casper is approaching 112,000 miles. He was slated to be sold but with fuel prices approaching $5.00 a gallon, I believe he’ll be around for many years to come. With a 2.0 liter, 4-cylinder engine, this little Chevrolet gets excellent fuel mileage.

Each time I see the damage, I wish there’d been a camera and microphone inside my HHR, capturing the exact moment and words uttered when scratches were made. Casper knows the pain someone went through, yet unlike the cartoon character, he isn’t talking.

As far as that safe goes now sitting on top of the platform, there’s a story behind it as well. My Papa Haynes had an old trunk next to his bed that most everyone wanted to know what was inside. He kept it locked. The older cousins believed it was stuffed full of silver dollars and other valuables. When Papa died, his pirate’s chest as we called it was finally opened.

There were silver dollars within, but all newer ones and not vintage 1800s as everyone thought. Not knowing all those years made things special for me. I wanted to duplicate the same mystery and excitement for my grandchildren.

There’s nothing of real monetary value inside ours, other than some old family photos and books that I wrote for each grandchild. With added skull and crossbones, it gives the safe a desired pirate look. That’s exactly what I was aiming for.

After Joleen and I are gone, our kids and grandkids can have fun opening it. There’ll be a little something for everyone, although nothing that a real pirate would lose blood over.

On the other hand, should gasoline ever hit $10.00 a gallon and Casper’s still around, that’ll give them all something to fight for!

The Pirate’s Chest

Author: michaeldexterhankins

ordinary average guy

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