Ask Jack: We All Need Somebody to Saleen On
Chalk one up for the Widow Douglas — or maybe for Aunt Sally. Both of them tried to “sivilize” Huck Finn. His response was to “light out for the Territory,” which was the wildest and least “sivilized” place he figured he could reasonably reach.
How many boys read that book and nodded in sympathy at Huck’s desire to get away from the coddling and constraining arms of civilization? How many of them used it as a model and pattern for their lives, whether they ended up breaking the sound barrier or starving to death in an abandoned schoolbus? And for how long has our primary impulse as young men been to get out and experience life face to face, on our own terms?
Those days are mostly gone. Today’s young men are “sivilized” by default. If they have any desire to leave their mothers, it is just so they can move to a big city and experience life as part of a communal organism. Whatever desire they might have had for some sort of frontier has been ground out of them bit by painful bit until their default approach to the empty and unknown is a fearful one. A few weeks ago, I read a screed by a young man who was planning to quit his job because his employer was forcing him to ride in an unsafe vehicle. Remembering the thrice-wrecked, permanently dogtracking Plymouth Arrow stakebed conversion I drove for David Hobbs BMW in 1989, I eagerly scrolled down until I could get the details of the deathtrap in question: a 2017 Ford Fusion, which apparently did not receive top marks in some part of the Euro NCAP test.
This is not to say that every young man is afraid of his own shadow. There are still a few dudes out there who imagine themselves rolling towards the unknown in the coolest or hottest car they can (not quite) afford. Which brings us to this week’s episode of Ask Jack.