Saying Goodbye To The Blazer

Brad Gill | December 7, 2018

On Sunday, I had to say goodbye, not to a pet or even worse a friend or family member. This was just a monetary thing, but it was still sad to say goodbye.

A man from Summerville, who was accompanied by his 44-year-old son, left Putnam County the proud new owner of my dad’s 1974 K5 Blazer.

It was on April 22, 1974 when Dad sat down with the Chevy salesman at Leiphart Chevrolet in Decatur and ordered all the bells and whistles he wanted on the Blazer. I was just three months old at the time.

The Blazer had to be built up in Detroit, and it wasn’t until June, 20, 1974 when Dad was able to actually drive his new Blazer home with just 5.1 miles on it.

A lot has happened since he left that Decatur car lot 44 years ago.

It was Oct. 4, 1988, a cold day in the Gilmer County hardwoods, when I shot my first squirrel. I rolled him up with a scoped Marlin .22 as he hopped down a log. The first shot missed, but I worked the lever quick and made the second shot count. I remember driving back to our Gwinnett County home that afternoon and sitting in the front seat so proud with that squirrel tail in my hand.

A year later, on Dec. 31, 1989, I sent a load of 00 buckshot across a small, Coweta County kudzu patch to bring down my first deer. We loaded that 1 1/2-year-old 4-pointer in the back of Dad’s Blazer and hauled him down to Wayne Moore’s Deer Processing in Moreland. Through the years, there’d be a number of other deer that would make it to the tailgate.

The author’s first turkey, a B.F. Grant WMA jake, made it to the Blazer’s tailgate on April 21, 1991.

I wasn’t until April 21, 1991 when I finally shot my first turkey. It was a jake from B.F. Grant WMA, and I was proud to put that wild turkey in the back of the Blazer and take it to the check-in station to sign my name on the check-out sheet. A few weeks later, I would fill my two-gobbler limit with a B.F. Grant longbeard.

At 44 years young, the Blazer has some special qualities for those in the world of collecting older vehicles. My Dad was the only owner for all those years. It had never been wrecked and had been garage kept. It still had most of the original stuff, including the 350 engine and burnt orange paint.

Dad was meticulous with records and paperwork. I was able to hand the man 44 years of maintenance records, along with several booklets and pamphlets that Dad received in 1974, including the original receipt where he bought the Blazer for just $5,400.

To me, it’s not really about the money or keeping a collectible vehicle. It’s the memories that were made inside the Blazer driving back and forth to the woods from our metro Atlanta home. It was the conversations shared and eventually learning to drive. It was seeing that big orange machine pulling into the school parking lot early on Fridays. It was the nights slept on a blow-up air mattress in the back. It was tailgate suppers warmed up by a Coleman stove.

To me, it was a vehicle that allowed me and Dad to go hunting and build a collection of memories. Even though the Blazer is gone, those moments of time will never be erased and will always be cherished.

So why sell it? Truth is that part of me is still shaking my head that we said goodbye. I can’t explain in a short blog why I sold it, other than to say it just wasn’t feasible for my family to keep it anymore, and Jesus gave me amazing peace about letting it go at this point in my life.

That peace was confirmed within a few minutes of meeting its new owner. He’s a collector of older vehicles, and he seemed equally interested in the history and the stories behind the Blazer than how it ran and what may have been wrong under the hood. I appreciated that, and for me, it allowed for an easier ending to my time with the Blazer.

It’ll likely get a facelift and sit on display with several other fixed-up vehicles he has at his home. If he can ever get it looking like it did in 1974, there is one thing I know. He’ll never be able to scrub away all that rich hunting history enjoyed between a father and a son.

I’m thankful he would never want to wash that history away. I’m thankful he recognizes it’s those first 44 years that adds extra special value to his new Blazer.

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