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Sittin' Purty in an Alabama Front Yard
By Angela Gillaspie

Car photo
Last night after the X-files went off, I saw a teaser for the 9 o'clock news. The reporter, dressed in navy, deadpanned to the camera, "Having a car on blocks is no laughing matter." The camera closed in on her face, "and it could be against Alabama State law! Stay tuned for the rest of the story."

    Instead of flipping off the television as I usually do, I punched up the volume to find out more.

    Soon, I learned that Alabama State Rep. Demetrius Newton, a Democrat, has sponsored a bill that would allow cities and counties to seize and sell inoperable cars that people leave in their yards. Currently, cities and counties can already remove non-functional vehicles that are left along the side of the road, but they lack the authority to seize them on private property.

    Furthermore, I learned that the inoperable car bill is one step away from winning legislative approval. Last month, Newton's bill sailed through the House uncontested and won unanimous approval from the Alabama Senate Fiscal Responsibility Committee.

    In a nutshell, this bill states that the city or county can not remove an inoperable vehicle until the property or vehicle owner is notified. The owner can attend a hearing or remove the vehicle. If no action is taken, then the city or county can remove the vehicle at the owner's cost. If the property owner shows that he does not own the heap, he will not be held accountable for the cost of removal.

    The city or county will then sell the removed vehicles by bid or auction. Rep. Newton was kind enough to exempt any vehicles that are stored in garages or under sheds.

    What started all of this, the reporter said, was a story Newton told of a Sunday trip to church in which he counted 20 or so abandoned cars and felt that the rusty heaps were a public nuisance.

    OK. I have a few questions. First off, what exactly does inoperable mean? Any Southerner worth his weight in bacon grease knows that there is always hope. Even if there is nothing left but a chassis and an axle, Bubba knows if he has a six-pack or two, some good buddies with a few tools and some redneck engineering, he can rebuild his heap to its former glory. Most of the Bubbas I know cannot afford a fancy shed to store their work-in-progress, and the garage is usually full of saw-horses, work benches, coolers, mowers, old appliances, peg boards and lots and lots of power tools.

    I would bet Newton never felt the elation of warm black oil running from the oil pan over his fingers as he unscrewed the plug. He has probably never fussed over a stuck lug nut and then felt the unbridled ecstasy when he finally pried it loose with his engraved silver-plated lug wrench. I wonder if he even knows where the spark plugs are?

    How will the government prove ownership? Most of the inoperable vehicles I have seen do not have tags. If there is a tag, chances are that it expired back in the '70s. I reckon the government could possibly track down the ownership that way, but a lot can happen in 20 years. Bubba could have given Bubba Junior the heap for his 10th birthday, and over the past several years, Junior might have lost it in a poker game or given it away to his girlfriend as a special gift representing his undying love. You just never know.

    If Bubba is found to be the owner of the vehicle, I can only imagine him telling the court with watery eyes of the loving attachment he has for the vehicle. Junior will wipe his nose on his sleeve as he nods and adds his, "Ayyup, Mister Judge, sir. It's a sad, sad thang — Please don't take my daddy's truck from him! It's all he's got in this whole world other'n Momma and the recliner."

    One thing is for sure, never take a sentimental vehicle away from a Bubba.

    Lastly, I question what the government will do if it cannot unload the inoperable car. Seriously, how many guys will line up to bid on rusted-out cars? Oh wait, I take that back. Bubba and Junior would be there lickety-split to buy their heap back because they will be more determined than ever to restore it to its former life, and to its place in the yard. If the government boys get wise to this move, they will then have to amend the bill so that only junk dealers would be allowed to purchase the vehicles.

    And if that ever happened, you can bet that Junior would meet the junk dealer behind the Wal-Mart at midnight to buy the heap at a jacked-up price. The policemen would conduct a sting operation and bust a black-market ring of heap dealers while Junior is handcuffed, shaking visibly due to car-restoration-withdrawal.

    The best bet would be for the government boys to drive the removed vehicles over to Mississippi or Georgia and abandon them on carefully selected lawns. They take our gamblin' dollars, so they can have our heaps!

    Where would the Alabama inoperable car bill end? What would be next?

    Next might be the Alabama Unwanted Refrigerator and Couch Bill empowering the government to repossess the couches and refrigerators on our porches, because they clash with the pink flamingoes or reflector lollypops adorning our lawns.

    And you can bet the Indecent Mowing Bill would be close behind. This bill could make it illegal for fat guys to mow their lawns without shirts on. These offensive folks would be clubbed and thrown into paddy wagons and forced to attend lectures by Miss Manners on proper attire and grooming.

    I never thought I would see the day when Alabamians would not be allowed to store a cherished possession on their own private property. If Newton wanted to tackle a public nuisance, then he should deal with the crumbling schools kids attend, or the butt cracks we are forced to view when traveling past construction sites, or even the bathrooms at gas stations along the Interstate! Talk about nasty nuisances!

    In my opinion, the inoperable car bill is like something out of the X-files. But the FBI should send Jeff Foxworthy to the Alabama House instead of Fox Mulder, because Foxworthy would convey the thrill and challenge of rebuilding a 1973 Chevrolet El Camino and the agony of waiting for a part to arrive from a faraway land. The representatives would get up close and personal with Bondo and if the beer is flowing just right, they might even a glimpse a UFO.

Angela Gillaspie is a free-lance humorist and member of the Net Wits Internet Humor Columnists. Her weekly columns can be found at www.southernangel.com.
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