The Van

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Tim Thompson
Monday, January 16, 2012

"Duh," I thought. "This car is white. Why WOULDN'T I want to paint a Brewers logo on the hood?"

So I did. It was a Sunday afternoon a little more than a decade ago. I grabbed my old-school logo Brewers hat and headed for Menard's, where the gal behind the counter matched the blue and yellow as best she could. They probably weren't exact matches, but I really didn't believe anyone would be that hypercritical; they would be too busy shaking their heads. Being just west of the Mississippi River, I knew most peeps (for some odd reason) were drawn to the team to the east whose logo contains a "C" and for some reason paid little attention to the franchise that lies 160 miles northeast. People tend to make weird decisions when surrounded by corn and without a "hometown" pro sports teams. I've seen it happen. ("The Bullpen" notes: As have I. Iowans are weird like that.)

I went home and got to work. My plan to project the image onto my car (or onto a big piece of paper and then traced) was dashed when my aunt informed me that would be a copyright violation. To avoid any legal problems, I would have to draw it free-hand. Made sense to me, and I'm glad I did it this way -- it was simple and took very little artistic talent.

I took the lid off a garbage can, traced it with a pencil and used that as a starting point. I drew a smaller circle for the baseball and took my time adding three fingers for the "M" and the thumb to complete the "B." Even in pencil, I could see the glory that was to be. Just like a pro, I taped it off and started painting. In no time my work of art was done and I couldn't wait to drive it.

I LOVED getting stopped at stoplights with that car, merely for the people around me to have the chance to see my old '91 Ford Tempo reppin' the Brewers with a giant old-school logo on the hood. I did not stop smiling...until the time came to sell it. I made a promise to myself -- and to the car -- that day that the concept would one day be resurrected.

Regular readers may remember me mentioning the "crew" with whom I've attended at least one series per year since 2000. It's a pretty exclusive club and there are some pretty serious rules to follow. Perhaps I'll tell you all about it someday. The group consists of myself, my slightly shorter/wider older brother whom most (not me) call "Scrot," a cousin we call "Cowpie" who likes to work with his hands ... until those hands are needed to buy a round, and a second cousin called "Tumer" who makes up in intelligence for what he lacks in looks.

We had talked about someday buying a van we could paint up and use solely as our cruiser for the special weekend. Well, when my co-worker mentioned he was selling his white '91 Ford Aerostar I did not hesitate to call the crew.

"Do you guys want to split the cost four ways and this will be our Brewer Bomber?"

The tally was three emphatic "ayes" and one weak "nay." I won't mention who said no, but let's just say that my brother ended up being part owner (in name only) thanks to a generous wedding gift from yours truly. Anyway, we were now the proud owners of a new-to-us '91 Aerostar.

Tumer and I hopped in the van and drove a few hours to spend the weekend at Cowpie's, making this van right. We discussed a few options, put some thoughts together and off to the races we went. We did all the work in his garage, either because it was chilly outside or due to the top-secret nature a project like this demands. I went to work with the pencil and Cowpie followed with the tape. Tumer, of course, came next with the paint. We started at about 5 p.m. and didn't finish til after midnight.

We didn't go overboard, but what we did was just right. Old-school logo on the hood and two main doors. The words "Brew Crew" in bubble letters on the hood. Blue and yellow pinstripes down both sides. The Brewers' retired numbers printed on the back. Thanks to Cowpie's little girl, whom of course is called "Calfpie," we had one blue and one yellow steel wheel on both sides. Last, but certainly not least, we took out the third-row seat and put in a perfect-fitting loveseat. Yup, we had a couch in the back of our van that we pulled out for tailgating.

Whenever we parked that van at the stadium we would annoy the lot attendants by breaking from the line to claim the corner of preferred parking by the Sausage House so we could be right next to the pedestrian bridge. They definitely weren't happy, but if you unload fast enough they won't make you move!

That van, simply put, was freakin' awesome. We could haul a half-barrel and all the food we could handle and still have plenty of room for the beanbag boards (which, of course, were custom-made with Brewers logos). The van (I refuse to believe it was the half-barrel) invited in a pretty much nonstop flow of strangers. Flash bulbs were constantly popping from the walkway. There were always numerous people asking if they could take a picture next to our van.

Sadly, the van is no longer with us. It was sent to auction because the cost to repair the brakes and several other things outweighed its value to us. It probably wasn't exactly safe, either.

Sort of like a deer camp in Wisconsin, every year we wax nostalgic about past years and the van always comes up. Probably not as often as the story about the time Cowpie forgot to bring the tapper for the half-barrel, but the van still lives on in our minds, and we will resurrect it again. I'm basically just waiting to get the right vehicle in on trade, and when that time comes you may see a new "Brewer Bomber" buzzing around the streets of Janesville .

This van is also just another reason, one of a thousand, that I have earned the right to say "we" when I talk about the Crew. What do you think -- are we crazy for putting our money into something like this, or are you one that would LOVE to ride in in a vehicle like this?


Last updated: 10:43 am Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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