Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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Taking the curves slow--in memory of a red convertible
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   10/14/2005)

Every time I see Sally, I feel a twinge of nostalgia for lost youth, and yes, I see the old '86 Mustang convertible often enough. She's sitting at a car repair establishment in the metropolis of Sevierville, where I took her for a series of repairs one day and left her abandoned. It's a long story, but my buddy the mechanic and I just never got around to finishing the pricey reclamation. I bought something more practical. It's a pity. Sally would be fun to drive on warm autumn days like these.

Yes, sometimes I miss her. She liked taking the curves fast. Whipping up a wind at 60 mph on a cooling summer evening just after dark with the moon rising above the black trees and lightning bugs rising from the grass, she was a pleasure to drive. She wore over-sized tires for an extra wide wheelbase that adhered to the curves, and her six-banger engine gave her extra kick, so that it was fun to accelerate through country roads. Alas, all things must pass. The times call for slower take-offs, less braking.…

If you're like me, you've assigned chapters of your life to each hotrod, love bug, soccer van or luxury liner. My chapters tend to be long, as I prefer to keep cars long after final payments--recouping investment, saving capital for things like travel, kids' college expenses. I kept Sally five years or more.

Never intended to. In fact I'd never intended to buy a convertible at all. I bought her as a stopgap measure after the death of her predecessor, a midlife crisis special—my old red Chrysler Le Baron. Flipping through the pages back to that chapter, I see I'd intended to buy something more practical for a country-dwelling man--maybe a pickup truck. But the Le Baron, shining in a corner of the car lot that day so long ago, slyly winked at me. She was a beauty I thought at the time, with a snug, white interior and matching ragtop, and enough bells and whistles to accessorize a troupe of baton-twirling majorettes. I took her for a test drive and she seduced me.

We settled into an intimate relationship that first year or so, until the morning my daughter drove away in the Le Baron for her driver's license test with a Highway Patrol lady, leaving me standing on the sidewalk, feeling old and in the way. It was about a year later that Alexis took the car to meet friends who were scouting colleges with her. She looked in my doorway that cold morning and told me she was going. I said honey don't make up time on the road. Two minutes later, the phone rang, and all that came through the other side were the sounds of stifled sobs. “Where are you?” I asked.

She was at a neighbor's house. She'd hit the de-fog button and the windshield had gone frosty white. Even though she was going less than 35 mph., she'd teetered off the road, hit a small culvert under a driveway, which bent the frame slightly and inflated the airbags. Incredibly, the car was totaled. Alexis was intact, though, and that's what mattered. Still, there was a car to replace. And that brings us back to the Mustang.

I bought it because Alexis and her younger brothers loved the Chrysler, and in their minds the Mustang--also a red and white ragtop--was a worthy replacement. The body was scarcely blemished, mileage was low, and the price right. The insurance payout from the Chrysler paid for Sally.

If the Le Baron was a baton-twirling majorette, Mustang Sally was a greaser moll, complete with tattoo and Marlboro reds rolled up in her T-shirt sleeve.

Actually she had burnout wheels with studded rims and an old-fashioned six-cylinder engine. I felt funny driving her. A woman in a Kroger's parking lot once said to me, “You've got the car you dreamed of in high school, don't you?”

Alas, an '86 Ford convertible six-banger is a tough car to keep on the road. Most parts have to be special ordered, and the car began falling apart. In quick succession, one rear window got stuck in the up position, the other one down. My front passenger seat began to slip around in its tracks. The air-conditioner locked up, my radio affected a staticky voice, and the motor-mounts revolted. When I became embarrassed to drive Sally even when ALONE, I knew a chapter was coming to a close.

I got a good deal on a serviceable Pontiac Grand Am four-door. What can I say? It's been a good post-midlife sort of car. Practical, in a word. Good for taking the curves slow.