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Family fun: Drive a tank, crush a car

With his wife. Heather, riding on top of the tank, Eric Waterman drives around at Tank Town USA, a heavy-equipment playground in Morganton, Georgia, on April 28, 2013.

ATLANTA — There are few feelings more stirring to the soul than driving a tank and crushing a car with it.

Believe me, when you’re driving a tank up the hood of a car, it’s nice. And just before the tank sends its 30,000 pounds down on the roof, there’s a pause that’s a moment of pure existential bliss.

Heather Waterman gets this. When the mother of two teenage boys found the Internet site for Tank Town USA in north Georgia, she saw an opportunity to become the coolest mom in town.

It’s not easy to impress kids these days, but a tank-driving, car-crushing weekend still gets their attention.

Tank Town is run by Todd Liebross, a Morganton, Ga., resident who has loved military vehicles since he was a kid, and who has figured a way to live a GI Joe dream. He charges $50 for 10 minutes in the driver’s seat. That allows a person to crush a car that’s already been run over. To crush a fresh car, it costs $499.

Making the 3 -hour drive from Laurens, S.C., Waterman kept the Morganton destination a secret from the kids. It was raining, so by the time they arrived at the 4.5-acre site near Blue Ridge, the field where you drive the tank was a giant mud pit. But she wasn’t about to retreat.

Rain does not stop a tank. Think about it.

Waterman figured the boys didn’t have a Spring Break trip, and they would be leaving the nest in a couple of years, so why not? “We’re making memories,” she said.

Once inside the tank, her son Brunner, 15 and fresh from getting his driver’s permit, headed for a Ford Taurus with malicious intent.

Inside the rumbling vehicle, he could smell the oil and diesel fuel as he steered using two levers: pull the left one back to go left, and likewise to the right. Step on the big metal pedal to gun it. (Sorry, there’s no gun to shoot.) With Liebross nearby giving him directions, the ninth-

grader and aspiring Army grunt quite efficiently eviscerated the Ford’s roof, flattened the back seat into the trunk, squeezed the tires till they popped, and squashed the trunk so far down it looked like a bumper.

His older brother, J.W., not to be outdone, plowed the FV432 over a nice-looking gold BMW. As the treads rolled over it, the windshields cracked and exploded and the collapsing metal shrieked into submission. Another pass nearly ripped off the driver’s side door. By the end, it hardly looked like a car at all.

“I liked it,” J.W. said afterward. “Actually, I loved it.” Then came Mom’s turn. Heather, a Web designer by day, thought she might just drive around the field, foregoing the vehicular carnage. But once in command of the growling green machine, she couldn’t resist. She ran over the BMW.

At that instant an incongruous thought crossed the mind of her eldest son: “My mom is driving a tank,” J.W. said out loud.

Emerging from the vehicle, a little mud on her face, Heather looked at her family and exclaimed: “It was awesome.”

Before they left, Brunner and J.W. said they wanted to come back, and Heather’s husband, Eric, pronounced her “the coolest mom.” And standing there, in the middle of a muddy north Georgia field, Heather glowed the glow of a mother having herself a moment.

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