Spoilers: None beyond aired episodes
Finally, at long last, here is the latest chapter in my chronicle of the Impala’s history, the collection of shorts I began last summer to place the Impala and the Winchester family into the canvas of real-world American history by doing one story for each year of the Impala’s existence. My first six stories – the ones spanning 1967 through 1972 – were turned into an alternate history by Eric Kripke’s script for Swan Song, with its story of her first owner Sal Moriarty and his Bibles, but I’m going to continue writing my version of the Winchester years.
It’s just going to take a lot longer than I thought it would back when I started. :)
The Impala Chronicles (Forty-some Years in a Life), Chapter 10
June 17, 1976: Stars And Stripes Forever
Mary dipped her brush into the blue paint, consciously ignoring the Ramones’ pounding “Blitzkrieg Bop” blaring from the shop radio as she worked on applying even color in straight lines around the white five-pointed star glistening on the garage wall. The official U.S. Bicentennial star emblem – a five-pointed white star inside red, white, and blue stars with rounded corners – was trademarked and could only be used under an expensive license, but nothing prevented an enterprising entrepreneur from using a more generic red, white, and blue star on his business to cash in on the current Bicentennial craze. She and John always needed extra money, and Mr. Woodson, who ran the garage where both John and his father worked, had been happy to pay when Mary offered her painting skills to turn the street-facing wall of his business into a patriotic ad.
She wondered what he would have thought if he knew what she was really doing. She wasn’t thinking about art or advertising as she painted. Instead, she heard her mother’s patient voice from a lesson long ago, when she was just a child.
“The five-pointed star is a potent symbol even when it doesn’t appear as a pentagram or pentacle, with connective lines inside it. It stands for the five senses, for the five wounds of Christ, and – from an even earlier time – for the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water being ruled over by spirit. It’s no accident that the stars on the American flag are five-pointed ones, with the single point on top; there were hunters as well as Freemasons in the colonies who built protection and spiritual defense into every symbol of their new country.”
“Were they Campbells?” she had asked, and Deanna had laughed.
“Some of them. Campbells have always been hunters, all the way back into Scotland. They brought the lore with them to the new world right from the beginning. To hear your father tell it, Campbells won the revolution!” Her mother had hugged her, and her rich, happy voice had dropped as if to share a conspiratorial secret. “Just between us, though – I think he exaggerates a bit. Now, can you show me how well you can draw a pentagram?”
She’d sketched the heraldic mullet design onto the garage wall with chalk, telling herself she’d made the star a pentagram purely out of habit because it was the best way she knew to make all the points equal. Even as she painted carefully over the chalk lines, however, she was conscious of them still being there under the paint, still providing their hidden protection to the building where John worked every day. She hadn’t thought like a hunter for a year or more, feeling calmer and more removed from the past with every quiet month that had gone by, but news of the thunderstorms that had ravaged Iowa and spawned the F5 tornado that destroyed the town of Jordan just four days earlier had brought it all raging back. The freak storms had triggered every hunter instinct she possessed, ringing alarms her mother and father had drilled into her with the knowledge that supernatural activity often played hob with the weather. Frustrated and hating feeling helpless, she’d jumped at the excuse of earning a bit of extra cash by putting art on the garage. Seeing the results of her work taking on almost finished form brought unexpected peace.
The familiar growl of the Impala’s engine announced John’s return before the car itself appeared from around the corner. “Witchy Woman” poured from the car’s open windows to collide with the garage radio’s rendition of CCR’s “I Put A Spell On You.” Given what she was doing, she winced as much for the irony as for the cacophony, but she smiled in answer to John’s wave as he pulled past her into the driveway and killed the Eagles with the ignition.
“It looks great, honey!” He stopped to admire the paint job, then unlocked the trunk and started wrestling out the boxes of specialty auto parts he’d picked up from the dealer two towns over. She hid her own indulgent smile as she turned back to the wall to apply the last few finishing strokes to her work. John’s pride in his car showed in his refusal to drive the garage van on any pickup that could possibly fit into the Impala’s trunk. She thought wryly that he would never have felt that way about the old VW bus she’d tried to get him to buy. His persistent joy in the car had gradually won her over from her initial instant dislike of its foreboding, hunter-like black power. To her own mild surprise, she realized she now found it solid and reassuring rather than dark and threatening.
And no doubt those thunderstorms were nothing more than thunderstorms, and the star she had painted on the wall needed to be nothing more than a star.
But it hurt nothing for the Impala to have raw power under its polished hood and capacious room in its trunk, and for the bold American star to contain a pentagram’s protection.
In 1976, I graduated from college and started law school. In between, one of my greatest joys was attending Third Century America, NASA’s celebratory exposition on the grounds of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral in Florida. The biggest Bicentennial star emblem anywhere was painted on the side of the VAB beside the biggest U.S. flag ever; they remained there until 1998, when the NASA emblem replaced the star. You could walk right into the VAB (which is so big that it has its own weather – inside!), and there were technology exhibits in a whole cluster of geodesic domes beside the VAB. Best of all, however, was the Launch Control center, where they reset all the monitors and screens to replay the launch of Apollo 11 in real time. Watching and hearing the heavy steel blast shields close over the plate glass windows facing toward the empty launch pads, and then reliving July 1969 in the countdown and the changing computer readouts, I got goosebumps on my arms. The building trembled even with just the recorded power of the massive Saturn V launch. I will never forget that; it’s a memory I treasure that can never be repeated, because all the old computers and monitors were pulled out and replaced with newer technology – several times over by now. And now we’re once again going to be without manned launch capability when the Space Shuttle program ends. I grieve. I always wanted to go to space; back in 1976, I thought we’d be a hell of a lot closer by now to me realizing that dream.
1976 was also the year of the very first commercial Cray supercomputer, and the creation of Apple by Steve Jobs. And I’ll never forget the first commercial flight of the supersonic Concorde jet, either – another futuristic dream we’ve lost since then. Finally, 1976 was the year Kansas released “Carry On Wayward Son” as the lead tune on their album “Leftoverture.” Alas for me wishing to use it in this summer story, the album wasn’t released until October.
And did you know that in heraldry, a pentagram is a mullet? Maybe there was a mystical reason for Dean’s taste in music and Ash’s taste in hairstyles!