Black Galaxie 500
Black Galaxie 500 is not a tricked up figment of imagination. It was the real thing -rescued from beneath a dusty canvas in a Massachusetts barn more than three decades after its owner, a Vietnam War vet, never made it home. Advertised for sale by the vet’s parents, the Ford Galaxie found a new home and a new life with our late son, Rip, who was doing design work in western Mass. It was a shiny black convertible with a deteriorating canvas top but a mint-perfect body and like-new red naugahyde interior. It sported a 390 V-8 with a Holley 4-barrel carburetor, original tires, factory wheel covers and only 26,000 miles on the odometer. Rip paid $17,000 and towed it to a garage where it received a new battery, fluid change, and new hoses and belts. With a new custom top as the crowning touch, the second life of the black Galaxie 500 had begun.
Rip moved to New York City several months later, so he left the Galaxie temporarily with us in Fort Worth, because parking her in NYC was impractical. My wife, Carolynn, and I had married in 1965 so the car held special significance for us. We would take out the Galaxie once or twice a month to exercise the 390 and show her off on local streets, top down. I worked for Texas Instruments' Missile Systems Division, and would drive it to work on occasion. On one such day, driving home in the afternoon with the top down, a guy pulled up alongside me on the freeway in a 2000 Ford with dealer plates. Traveling at 65 miles an hour, he shouted over the roar of the freeway.
“Wanna sell it?”
“Nope! It’s my son’s.”
And so it went, anytime we took the Galaxie out in public. We drove her to Dallas for our 35th wedding anniversary in September 2000. and she made quite a splash. We enjoyed tooling down Central and South Dallas streets, playing 60s rock music on the Galaxie’s after-market CD player... real cool, man. Her second life was a significant part of our life, both of which would soon change.
I changed jobs and went to work managing the proposal department at Lockheed Martin in Greenville, South Carolina. The Galaxie moved with us, but Rip soon hit a dry period with work and had to sell her. Advertising the classic '65 around New York, it didn’t take long before someone snapped her up - a well-known actress who will remain anonymous. So the Galaxie, sporting new shoes, went off to her new home in the Southwest. Around that time, we were reminiscing one day on the great times we had enjoyed with the Galaxie since her resurrection… and concluded that she deserved some kind of notoriety. I suggested that she become the title and cornerstone of an un-plotted novel in the yet to be written Bear Kotah action/adventure series.
Rip agreed. “Yeah, make it a mystery and make sure someone gets rich in the end.”
So was born the initial idea, which went into my computer file, though little more than a title and a one paragraph summary.
Time wore on and nearly fifteen years later the Galaxie made her first appearance in fiction, my first novel in the Bear Kotah series - Crossing the Red. Bear Kotah, Slick Kotah’s older brother, needed a distinctive classic car for his role. Slick & Bear's mother had been gifted the Galaxie after a brief visit to her dying husband’s friend, a Shoshone in Montana. Mrs. Kotah had returned from the visit, pregnant with Slick. But no one believed that her husband, lingering with terminal cancer, was the real father. Because no one in the family liked talking about it, the true background of the Galaxie became a de facto mystery as she gathered dust in the family barn after Mrs. Kotah's death.
Bear came across the heirloom Ford when he retired from the Army and returned to the family ranch. Suffering from PTSD, he needed a project to provide a sense of purpose, and the Galaxie seemed the perfect solution. He revived the '65 black Galaxie 500, performing the same restoration to her in the pages of fiction as had our son, Rip, in real life.
In the midst of his PTSD therapy, Bear left the ranch in a huff over an incident with his long-time girlfriend, Hunter O’Neil. He found an isolated retreat in Northwood Lake, west of Oklahoma City, but his family soon tried to fetch him back to resolve a land lease issue with a distant relative, Ramiro Jenkins. Bear refused, though, until the body of his close cousin, Danny Big Elk, was discovered in a ravine near the Jenkins ranch. Suspecting murder, Bear loaded his bed roll, a few weapons, and his Australian Shepherd into the Galaxie 500 and headed south to right the wrong, unaware that he was also staging another chapter in the mystery of his mother’s heirloom Ford.
A few chapters later Bear headed back to the lake in the dark of night, certain he had settled the land lease issue, but was attacked by Jenkins' gunmen en route. With the Galaxie shot up, Bear returned to the ranch in search of Jenkins and sent the Galaxie to the shop for repairs. While at the shop, mechanics discovered a mysterious item inside one of the Galaxie's door panels. But it would be tucked into the back of a family desk - forgotten and untouched - until I resurrected it as a critical plot element in the novel Black Galaxie 500.