My name is Benjamin Moore. I am the middle child in a family eight. My family is originally from upstate New York. When I was three, my dad decided to become a missionary.
Dad sold his portion of the farm for about a third of its value. He got an old 1939 International Harvester Metro panel truck, complete with “teardrop headlights,” and built out the insides with a bottom and top bunk. He added a little partition where he installed “The Pot,” an old five-gallon grease can we could use as a bathroom. Then to complete the project, he mounted a giant loudspeaker on the back and hand-painted signs on the sides and back that read, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” and “If you are not willing to leave your father and mother for me, you are not worthy of me!”
When the Old Truck was ready, Dad loaded us up. My older brother Dan was eight, my sister Althea was five, and my little sisters Ruth and Martha were two and less than a year. Mom and our old farm dog Pepper completed the ensemble.
The Old Truck had a top speed of 45 mph; and in 1959, the freeway system was yet to be built. It took us ten days to get to the Texas Soul Clinic, outside of Thurber, Texas.
While I was growing up, we sometimes lived in our car.
Money for food was rare. Birthday cakes were even rarer. We survived on damaged canned goods bought at discount prices from the bins in the back of grocery stores. Mom cooked meals on a Coleman camp stove on a cement table in roadside parks. We were not always in school, and I don’t remember the countless gas stations, water holes, campsites, roadside parks, state parks, backyards, side streets, construction sites, and church parking lots we called home.
When we weren’t living in a car, we lived in a rented adobe shack with a tin roof and no locks and no windows.
Most of the time we were in Mexico.
Teardrop Headlights is the story of what happened.