Hoodwinked is the first story in the World of Cars book.
Many years ago, way back before the Interstate was a glimmer in a steamroller's windshield, Mater didn't have a lick of rust on him. He was shiny and blue, without a dent in sight. Heck, he even had a hood.
Mater was one of the top 4 or 5 best looking trucks in town, if he did say so himself.
And he did. All the time!
"Tractors is so dumb!" Mater always liked to say.
But their favorite thing was to go fishing on a lazy Sunday afternoon. They'd fill their coolers with cans of ice-cold motor oil and head to the lake, drop their hooks in, and wait for a bite.
You wouldn't believe the amazing things they'd find: bent windshield wipers, flat tires, rusty bumpers, and broken rear view mirrors!
As Grammy Mater always used to say, one car's trash was another car's treasure. And ain't that the truth!
But the stories of the ones that got away were what Mater liked best.
"That fender was this big," Cousin Buford always said.
Mater took his fishing very seriously. He had been practicing and practicing a new casting technique every chance he got. He couldn't wait to show it off to his cousins. One sunny afternoon, he was ready.
"I ain't bragging or nothing," Mater said. "But watch this!"
The cousins watched as Mater swung his tow cable twice around his cab, flipped it over his left taillight, and aimed for the water.
He had hooked his own hood, tore it clean off, and tossed it into the lake!
His cousins stared.
"Did you mean to do that?" Cousin Buford finally asked.
"Shoot, no!" Mater cried. "I done lost my hood!"
It took a while, but they finally fished out the hood. "Well, I'm plumb tuckered out," said Cousin Judd. They looked at their day's catch. 4 rusty windshield wipers, 3 bald tires, 2 bent steering wheels, and 1 blue hood, slightly dented. It was time to call it a day.
"Well, lookee here," said a voice.
Dad-gum it, thought Mater. He didn't have to look. He know who it was. It was Bubba, the biggest, baddest bully in town. Bubba liked to pick on cars smaller than he was. His favorite thing was to challenge them to a race. He always won, of course.
"Fishin' for junk again?" Bubba said with a sneer. Then, fast as greased lightning, he picked up Mater's hood and tossed it to his friend. "Keep-away!"
Finally, they grew tired of the game. But instead of giving Mater's hood back, they tossed it into a tree!
"See you later, kids. It was fun playing with you!" Bubba called as they left.
"Look what he done did," Mater said dejectedly. He knew his mama was going to be madder than a wet tractor if he came home without his hood! She'd say, "Do you know how expensive hoods are, young man? Do you think they just grow on trees?"
Staring up at the tree, Mater had to laugh. It sure looked like they did!
Luckily, Red, the town fire engine, passed by just then and rescued the tree-bound hood.
Once Mater's hood was back in place, he and his cousins left the lake.
"What's that noise?" Judd asked.
"Nothing," said Mater. But his cousin was right - his hood was making a terrible rattling racket!
"That rattling don't sound like nothing to me," Judd replied.
So Mater tried squeezing his hood tight. Didn't work. He creaked it open a little. No dice. He zigged. Nothing doing. He zagged. Same thing. And then he had an idea so strange, he thought it might work. . .
"Whee-hee!" cried Mater. "Kiss my grits and call me Nancy - it works!"
And best of all, it was more fun than a barrel of tailpipes!
(Mater just had to be careful not to crash into anything.)
Soon, they headed back into town.
"Uh-oh," said Cousin Cletus. "Are you seeing what I'm seeing?"
So we meet again," said Bubba. "You got your hood back, huh?" He narrowed his eyes. "well, I guess it's time for a race then!"
Mater gulped. Bubba leaned in so close that Mater could see the bugs in his grille. "And to make things even more interesting, the loser has to buy the winner a tank of gas. I could use some high-octane fuel!" Bubba exclaimed.
Mater gulped again. But then he smiled. He had an idea!
"I'll race you all right," Mater said. "But are you thinking you can beat me if we race blindfolded?"
"Of course," scoffed Bubba.
"If we raced on 2 wheels?"
"No problem," said Bubba.
"How about if we race . . . backwards?" Mater asked.
"Whatever," said Bubba. "I can beat you any day, any way."
Mater's Cousins smiled.
The race course began on Main Street, wound twice around the Stanley statue, and went straight to the finish line.
Cousin Judd agreed to be the starter. "On your mark, get set, go!" he shouted.
And with that, Red rang his bell.
They were off! Bubba shot into the lead, laughing away. But he soon realized that driving backward was a talent - one he didn't have! Halfway around the Stanley statue he lost control, screaming like a little scooter!
Meanwhile, Mater zipped down Main Street, spun around the statue twice, and was headed toward the finish line. That's when he saw Bubba spinning out of control!
Moments later, everyone honked and cheered as Mater won the race!
Mater was so happy, he couldn't help showing off. He did a little victory dace - and his hood popped clean off.
"Dad-gum it!" Mater shouted.
"Shame on you, Mr. Tow Mater!" called a voice. "Put that hood right back on - you're in public!"
"Sorry, Mama!" Mater said.