Jeeter’s wife, Lou, was feisty, not the type to “go broody” and hole up for a period with checkout counter magazines and palliative junk food like some of her girlfriends enduring beer-soaked marriages. She had no complaints about Jeeter personally, but rather about his projects and his “hulks,” a ’58 Olds and a ’48 Chevy pickup. She had countless opportunities to describe recent vehicle failures. To her best friend, Norma, she would replay her anxiety at setting out with a car that might fail anywhere in Lamoille County or mercifully before it even left the driveway, responding with eerie silence as she turned the ignition key.
Lou was undaunted by most of life’s challenges, but standing tall next to Jeeter’s highly recognizable wreck of a car clutching four bags of groceries while hitching a ride home from Brousseau’s Market was, as Lou said, “…beyond the pole.” She would confide her elaborate plans for revenge to Norma and to Cathy, the checkout lady at Brousseau’s who had often let her use the manager’s phone to call Jeeter when the Olds lay smoldering on Portland Street.
Jeeter’s efforts to improve Lou’s opinion of him as well as their social status in town focused mostly on shiny objects. If Lou’s anger began to weigh heavily on him, Jeeter would bound off to Dagnon’s Auto and come home with spiffy new seat covers, a car heater that plugged into the cigarette lighter (further taxing the exhausted battery), a new hood ornament, or some shiny accessory that would at best not compromise the car’s motile function.
When the Vermont legislature saw fit to liberalize vehicle-inspection laws, to accommodate a slumping economy and higher levels of auto body rot in deference to Vermonters on fixed incomes, Jeeter saw himself as off-the-hook with regard to the Olds’s sheet metal. This led to several catastrophes for Lou that left Jeeter beholden and Lou suffering from what she often referred to as “post-dramatic stress.”
The 18-gallon gas tank had fallen out of the car on the way home from Norma’s, yet again leaving Lou standing on the side of the road next to the Olds, the gas tank sitting several yards back in a large darkening stain on the dusty Gap Road. Lou’s fertile vocabulary surprised even Art Farnsworth, who picked her up and gave her a lift home in his pickup. Jeeter, oblivious to his wife’s predicament and rage, was stacking wood and waiting for his bride to make a hot dinner. Jeeter had Sugar Pops and slightly off milk.