"I wrote 63 songs this year. They're all about Jeter." Just kidding. The game we love, the players we hate, and more.

Culture and Criticism

From Norman Mailer to Wendy Pepper — everything on film, TV, books, music, and snacks (shut up, raisins), plus the Girls' Bike Club.

Donors Choose and Contests

Helping public schools, winning prizes, sending a crazy lady in a tomato costume out in public.

Stories, True and Otherwise

Monologues, travelogues, fiction, and fart humor. And hens. Don't forget the hens.

The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » Stories, True and Otherwise

Big Country Little Car Tour, Day 5

Submitted by on March 28, 2010 – 8:40 PM25 Comments


I ran errands Saturday morning. It's weird running errands in a town not my own. I feel like an impostor, a little bit. "You can't just mail something here — you live in another time zone!" Mail I did, though, for mail I had to; I'd brought a bunch of books for last-minute research tweaks to my presentation, none of them paperback, and Campbell was like, "Tennessee is hilly, boss. It's them or me," so they went.

Campbell is my car. Buntings name their cars and assign them genders. We name them after horses, Sesame Street characters, fictional '80s action shows we made up while playing mini-golf, Shoeless Joe Jackson's bat, and senior CSIs. And groceries. My car is red and silver, like a can of Campbell's tomato soup, and about the same size.

I had Junior Brown's "The Gal From Oklahoma" stuck in my head for days. I sing it to the car when she's having a hard time, rough road, long hills, things like that: "She's the sweetest little gal from Shelter to Brush Hill (sweetest one) / She's the sweetest little gal from Shelter to Brush Hill / Well, I'm proud to be her owner and I know I always will / Yodel-ay-heeeeee-hoo, yodel-ay-hee-hooooo." (I think he says "Shelter." Could be "Chilton." Don't email me.) Cam hauled a pretty heavy load up and down every 6% grade between here and Philly, most of it in the rain, the last few days, so I've sung it a lot.

I finally got it dislodged, but I'd forgotten one of my favorite things about the Crestwood Suites: it's near railroad tracks. Now and then, a long train comes through and sounds the whistle, long mournful blasts. So then I got the other verse stuck in my head: "When I hear a lonesome whistle blowing by old 75 / When I hear a lonesome whistle blowing by old 75 (think I hear it now) / It reminds me of my Campbell, where she always lived her life."

Cam and I took state highways to Memphis, TN-96 to TN-100 to TN-64. A very nice, very quiet drive through logging areas and little farms, and at several points, I didn't see another soul for 15 minutes at a time, or any evidence of human activity; the "busiest" it got, passing through Franklin, I had two cars ahead, two behind, and a kid on a fence making the "pull the horn, trucker" gesture. When he saw the Smart, he waved both arms madly, so I waved back. In the rearview, I could see him looking frantically around for someone to tell. That's a strangely frequent reaction to the car on the part of children, the "Big Bird trying to prove the existence of Snuffleupagus" manic tugging on the parental sleeve. Kid: "Mom. Mom. MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM lookit that car MOM LOOK."Mom, on the phone: "Uh huh, it's red." Kid: "…Mom."

I arrived in Memphis to find everyone at my hotel already amiably drunk at 5 PM. Bachelor parties, NCAA, Lord knows what all else. My room is right above the rooftop pool as well. Dear fellow guest who bellyflopped in wearing nothing but sneakers: the seventh floor is unimpressed for a variety of reasons.

I could also have done without the prodding from the hotel on the reading-material tip; the photo above is how I came upon the Bible when I entered my room. Thanks, but I've got this.

Next stop: Graceland.

Be Sociable, Share!



  • Amie says:

    Try the grilled peanut butter banana sandwich at Graceland. It… well, even though I love me some peanut butter and banana … wasn't as great as I expected, but it was worth it for the experience.

  • jenn says:

    I want a close up of that Bible shot. You seriously walked into the hotel room and it was open (to what book?) on the dresser? hmm.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @jenn: Book of Matthew, on the desk between the phone and the coffeemaker. The note is from the hotel manager and talks about traveling.

  • AB says:

    Can't wait til your next NEXT stop: Chao Camp! Yay!

  • autiger23 says:

    Gotta love the Bible belt. Graceland is just cheesily awesome, even if you aren't a big fan of the King. But Gus's fried chicken is something you MUST get while in Memphis. Corky's BBQ is good, but Gus's is ridiculous.

  • kategm says:

    I've had Blue Bandit since 2005: a 2002 blue Ford Focus. She's named after that Simpsons episode where Snake's car, Little Bandit, is auctioned off and Homer buys it. Even more dorky is that a little stuffed crab sits inside Blue Bandit's dashboard as he sat on the dashboard of every car I've driven since first getting my license. So Crabbie's lived in a 1988 Taurus, 1991 Aerostar, and now Blue Bandit.

  • Jaybird says:

    My kids had that exact reaction to a Smart Car we saw zipping around in NE Arkansas, back in December.
    "Mommy Mommy MommyLOOKIT. Why's that lady's car so little? If somebody hits her will she DIE?"
    "Thanks for that morbid thought, and I don't know. Eat your McNuggets, sprout."

  • Sandman says:

    Heh. "… for a variety of reasons," ouch.

  • Jen S says:

    My freind in college had a similarly ludicrously tiny car in college. She called it the pregnant roller skate.

    So, are you allowed to take the bible with you? Or is it chained to something?

  • Jen S says:

    Shit, that's what I get for not reading my post. Two In Colleges in a row!

    The Department Of Redundancy Department is on the line. Sheesh.

  • GracieGirl says:

    Even more dorky is that a little stuffed crab sits inside Blue Bandit's dashboard…

    @kategm, I have two little stuffed turtles in my dash. Alas, my car does not yet have a name. I just got her about a week ago and am still figuring out her personality. Love "Blue Bandit," though!

  • Leslie says:

    Ohhhh you were periously close to where I grew up–Dickson, TN. You would have been VERY impressed. heeeee

  • Jen M. says:

    Hell, I have that reaction to Smart Cars, still. They fascinate me.

  • badkittyuno says:

    My family names trees. Our Bradford pear? Brad. Our Oklahoma Redbud? Bud. My favorite? The crabapple. Named Grumpy.
    We're also big dorks, thank you.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Jen S: I think the point of hotel Bibles is that you can take them if you want to, but the whole weirdness of this one was that the hotel manager had pre-selected the book he thought we ought to read.

  • J says:

    I know some think it is odd, but I don't understand people who don't name their cars. My cars, all very much with their own personalities and issues, have been named George Arthur, Greg, Gayorg, Gorren and Steffan.

  • Laura says:

    My first car was a 1992 Buick Century (hand-me-down from my grandmother) named Ferris Buick. I like Campbell.

  • bristlesage says:

    My husband's family names all cars the same name, Bessie, which is a good car name, but the complete dismissal of car personality by them bugs me.

    My best car name was my 1994 navy-blue-with-no-air-conditioning-in-Las-Vegas, manual-transmission-to-climb-the-mountains-between-Las-Vegas-and-L.A. Ford Escort, Danger Mouse. She was a good car.

  • Des says:

    What kind of maniac DOESN'T name their car?

  • Kristina says:

    Wow, I was kind of a leper (until now!) for having named my car. My first car was a Geo Metro named Quasimodo, and then, love of my life, my 2-door red Civic named The Bitch. THE Bitch, FYI. She liked to choose my music for me. Chicago ate her alive, and I miss her.
    And then I got a bike and named it Bill Haverchuck. He got stolen, and I miss him too.

  • Bridget says:

    We've named the GPS Dolores. Don't ask me why.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Bridget: So you can sing "Hello Dolly" to it?


    My GPS, which is the cheapest one, has a selection of voices, which it named at the factory; I went with Tom, because he sounds the least "delayed," and when he gets me unlost, he's Tom Terrific. Most of the rest of the time, he's Goddamn Tom.

  • shellei says:

    not entirely on topic: I saw somewhere that you can download Snoop Dogg's voice for your GPS. How awesome would that be? He would probably yell back at me though.

  • Shannon in CA says:

    I love smart cars! We had a big discussion about them on my vanpool during the drive home which led to me telling the story of how, someday, everyone will drive a smart car and the freeway at rush hour will look like someone dumped out a bag of Skittles.

  • Bridget says:

    @ Sars: Well, we sure will now. And thanks for putting that in my head.

Leave a comment!

Please familiarize yourself with the Tomato Nation commenting policy before posting.
It is in the FAQ. Thanks, friend.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>