The original Caretaker was a ‘Dogbert’ stuffed animal which was assigned in 1997 to the vehicle ‘Yankee Hotel,’ better known as the ‘Great White Shark.’ ‘Shark’ was almost immediately dropped from the name after its purchase. This vehicle, which is still in service in Texas, was the first 15-passenger van purchased by dadwithnoisykids. For a while the ‘Great White’ was known as ‘Dogbert,’ but as the hazards of being a Caretaker took their toll on Dogbert(including his mysterious disappearance), the former name became the name by which ‘Yankee Hotel’ will always be remembered. During his tenure, Dogbert lost his glasses, suffered from a stuffing leak, and was constantly being thrown across the dashboard whenever dadwithnoisykids took the van through some rather dangerous maneuvers. His fate is not known.
Two other vehicles, the ‘Calais’ and the ‘Black Box,’ never had Caretakers. They were also ‘northerners,’ vehicles purchased in Michigan, and did not come with air conditioning systems which were an absolute necessity for living in San Antonio. They did not last long, and were avoided by all stuffed animals.
In 1998, ‘Bravo-76’ was purchased to replace the ‘Black Box.’ This vehicle became dadwithnoisykids’ work vehicle, and earned the nickname ‘The Aardvark’ for some unknown reason. For the remainder of the time in the Air Force, the Aardvark served with an aardvark Beanie Baby, until the child who owned it requested its return. In 2000, ‘Horse’ became the Caretaker for the Aardvark. Horse was modeled loosely on the horse belonging to the cartoon character ‘Dudley Do-Right.’ At the time he joined us he was working in a hospital in San Antonio and wanted to travel. He served well for the next two years, and pioneered the technique for holding the clip-on sunglasses of the driver. He would have continued in this position – and possibly having the Aardvark renamed after him – if he did not injure his neck with the repeated acceleration/deceleration forces that came with dadwithnoisykids’ driving. He is medically retired, and was replaced by a smaller aardvark, one who can tolerate the stresses of driving.
Mr. Horse shows how weak his neck is from the stresses of driving.
Mr. Aardvark holds a pair of clip-on sunglasses
In 2005, ‘Yankee Hotel’ was replaced by ’61-Papa,’ a 15-passenger vehicle with a V-10 engine and a few additions which made it more family friendly. This vehicle was initially referred to as the ‘Big Blue,’ in reference to its size. Like the ‘Great White,’ the vans were thought of by some as being ‘big as a whale,’ and so ‘Big Blue’ also alluded to a blue whale.
Selecting a Caretaker for the Big Blue fell to dadwithnoisykids, who picked a quiet, introspective, young adult moose named Cabelas. At the time, Cabelas Moose was trying to discern his vocation, and had already declined several overtures from some families in his parents’ herd. He took the job immediately when he found out that his obligation was terminated when the ‘Big Blue’ was removed from service by dadwithnoisykids. In an earlier interview, Mr. Moose explained why the job of a Caretaker was so appealing:
“The idea of being committed to serve a family in this manner, cut off from the social obligations of a young moose, appealed to me. At the time I hired on, I was trying to determine if a religious vocation was what God was calling me to, and I found the proximity of young lady mooses to be very distracting, extremely distracting. So now, I spend a lot of time in solitude, staring at the open road, or the wall of the garage, thinking about what my role is in this world. For now, it is one of service to the dadwithnoisykids family. Perhaps one day I will realize that my vocation was really to just be a single moose serving families.”
Mr. Cabelas Moose
Present Day Caretakers
In 2006, the price of gasoline took a turn upward for good, regaining the high prices which followed in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Cabelas Moose was instrumental in the decision to purchase another smaller car for Wifeofdadwithnoisykids to use instead of continuing to drive the ‘Big Blue’ for errands. A spreadsheet, totally produced by him, indicating the cost of using the ‘Big Blue’ for daily driving at less than 50% capacity, was the final selling point. The selection of a new car also gave the Caretakers more influence, as Mr. Moose and Mr. Aardvark collaborated on determining the ideal choice for another car. The new car was the 2006 version of the Aardvark, nicknamed ‘The Batmobile.’
Since the Batmobile was (and is) a woman’s car, Wifeofdadwithnoisykids chose Miss Bear to be the Caretaker for it. Miss Bear was also trying to determine her vocation when she was approached about the job:
“Oh no,” she laughed, “I needed to beat the suitors off with a stick! I just wasn’t ready to commit to the married life. As a nursery room bear, I had a lot of experience dealing with babies, and I knew I needed to grow up a bit before settling down. Just like Mr. Moose, I look at this job as a way to step back, get some time to think before plunging into my vocation.”
“Still, I can’t help thinking Mr. Moose got jilted by some lady moose. He sure is kind and fun to be around.”
The Future of Caretakers
Caretakers are a small cadre of stuffed animals which originally began as mascots for the dadwithnoisykids family vehicles. Over the past decade, they have expanded their role beyond this to the point that they wield a significant influence over the family’s decisions. With the two oldest Noisykids starting driver education, the Caretakers are involved in the training of the next generation of vehicle owner/operators. The Caretakers are not afraid to criticize any driver and to recommend re-training (see this blog at the end).
Mr. Aardvark inspects an item on the back seat.
In the summer of 2006, the Big Blue was involved in an accident where a Roman Sacristan struck the front fender while it was parked. After that incident, water was observed to issue from the front fender, and those stuffed animals which bathed in it were cured of various ailments. Mr. Moose quickly gained control of this phenomenon, avoiding any kind of scandal, and establishing a gift shop to sell the various items that were requested by pilgrims(See these and these blogs). His decisive action avoided turning the dadwithnoisykids household into a modern-day Woodstock. This incident resulted in the Big Blue being renamed the ‘Big Blue Miracle.’
This last experience made Mr. Moose yearn even more for a contemplative life, even though his business sense has made the Gift Shop a profitable enterprise. In January, he almost left the Big Blue Miracle to join the Benedictine Monastery in Alabama, but his promise to fulfill his commitment kept him on the front dash of the van.
The risks of being a Caretaker can not be ignored, especially when considering the fate of Dogbert, or the injuries sustained by Horse. In addition to riding, the Caretakers are responsible for the safety of the crew and passengers. This can range from cleaning the carpet all the way to dragging passengers out of a burning car. They take a pledge to give up their lives for the safety of the passengers and crew of their vehicles.
Despite this, the list of volunteers to be a Caretaker is long. As long as there will be Noisykids driving, there will be a Caretaker along for the ride, insuring the safety of all in their care.
Miss Bear enjoys the ride Eastbound on I-30.