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While it was devastating enough that I'm only now barely able to laugh about the story today, I can tell it without feeling like I'm going to vomit: Three weeks ago I backed into a telephone pole -- the one across the street that everyone else hits, too -- which pushed in the spare tire, thus buckling in the rear door far enough to stick an arm through the gap.

No amount of pushing from the inside could fix it. Tying one end of a rope to the tire rack and the other to a tree and attempting to pull it out seemed almost reasonable, but my history in non-Chilton-endorsed repairs is not a stellar one, and only risked almost-guaranteed damage to the other end of the van, the end that actually makes the van go. So, we had to find time to hit the junkyard and find replacements.

For door-removal instructions, I turned to Chilton's of course. Anyone who's attempted anything more than changing oil is wise to get one of these, if only to blame the book when something goes wrong. Ball joints are spendy in the shop, due to the amount of effort required, but the manual seemed to show it a relatively simple process. Remove the cotterpin, remove the bolt, drill out the rivets, put the new one in. I probably could have figured that out on my own, if I had looked at it, but The Book said so. I also have at my disposal my father, who grew up on a farm and has a history of repairing things himself, and Grandpa Howard, a mechanic of the olden days when hooking up a computer to a car was a ludicrous concept. I even went out and bought a couple tool-kits with the word "ball joint" in them. How could we fail?

Well, the first ominous warning was when Grandpa Howard said he'd never done ball joints before. Well, it can't be that hard, right? The Book said so. So we continued.

After around an hour, we had one cotterpin out.

After two-and-a-half, we had cut, ground, drilled, pounded, and pried on the rivets, but nothing was coming loose.

This was about all I, my 50-something dad, and my 70-something grandpa, should be put through on a warm July afternoon, so I called my mechanic. Bring it over, they said, they should be able to get to it the next morning. Driving a mile and a half on a ball joint that, according to The Book, should be loose once the rivets are drilled out, did nothing to loosen it. The mechanics make good money doing these things for their customers, The Book be damned.

Back to the doors, however: These looked even simpler. Remove a pin, remove two bolts on each hinge, and the door should be free. I called out to Hazer's, the junkyard of choice around here, and they said they should still have a van with the rear doors on, so I could pull 'em myself for $100 each. I recruit The Wifey to help because, after all, The Book said it was simple.

It turned out to be right, of course. Over all, from brakes to water pump (I can change it blindfolded now) to thermostat, The Book has been pretty accurate. I brought The Book along to the junkyard, just in case.

D was tenative: this was far outside her girly background, but she was game. It turns out, she had far more fun than she expected, and we took a bunch of pictures.

And, of course, the doors came of exceedingly well. The only minor problem was that one of the eight bolts to be removed was a different size than the rest. Why would anyone do that?

I even ran into an old friend there. Around a hundred feet from the van we cannibalized, I caught a glimpse of something big and green, and knew it had to be the same:

Grandpa Howard, mechanic of olden days, had a green pickup like this for much of my youth. I think I'd driven it once or twice, but I remember my dad driving it around when we were having van trouble during my childhood. It helped us move antiques around a couple years ago, and the last I'd heard it had been taken out to live on a farm where they'd be able to take care of it better. Seriously, that was the story. This couldn't be the same truck, could it?

Registration still in the glove compartment, registration with Grandpa's name on it. Bye, old truck.

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