Don’t know what I did. I can remember passing some time with this and that but… jeez, sorry. Must blog the same night.
Oh, right. Tuesday was Channing House Writers’ group. A dozen elderly people on a Zoom meeting, each in turn reading out some piece of writing they did, in response to a “cue” put out by the group leader. This week’s cue was “my life with automobiles” and there were a lot of interesting reminiscences. I think I will just dump mine in here to take up space.
There’s a “kodak” of me, age 3, absolutely enraptured, staring into a foglight on the bumper of a ’37 Hudson. I’ve been mesmerized by cars right from the start.
In high school, however, my driving was limited to what my family owned, which was a 1951 Chevrolet 4-door sedan. It was a drab pale green in color and devoid of any of the exciting performance features that I could read about when, each month, a new issue of Road and Track arrived at the school library to alert me further to the unattainable possibilities of performance cars.
The Chevy did not have a V8; it had a straight 6 engine that was ignored, when not positively derided, by the columnists of Road and Track. It did not have a stick; it had General Motors’ worst attempt at an automatic, the abysmal “powerglide” transmission. With that engine/transmission combination, if you “floored it” coming off a traffic light, all you got was a louder hum as the engine revved up. Then, with the stately motion of a battleship leaving the dock, the car would slowly accelerate, gradually working up to the speed limit.
But that was what I could use when, after I had my driver’s license, I could ask girls on dates. Before one particular Saturday night date, I spent most of the morning cleaning the Chevy, inside and out. I don’t recall what I did that afternoon, but I was away while my father used the car.
It is important to know that we were a farm family. Ours was a working dairy farm, with a small herd of cows that had to be milked morning and night. We had a fairly elaborate milk-processing system, milking machines to automatically divest the girls of their bounty and a refrigerated tank to store it until the tanker truck from the farm co-op came every second day to collect it.
Cows age and get retired (as meat products for the family freezer), and have to be replaced, so there were always a couple of young heifers being raised up as replacements. My father chose this particular Saturday as the time to go to a nearby farm and bring back a “weaner calf”. Nothing to do with sausage; a “weaner” is a calf that is old enough to eat solid food and has been weaned from its mother: a young cow, perhaps a bit larger than a Great Dane, easy enough for a grown man to handle.
My father chose to transport it in the back seat of the Chevy.
The calf was deeply upset about being separated from its home and put into a strange green humming box, and expressed its distress as calves often do, by pooping and peeing. Actually not as much as it might have done; perhaps it hadn’t been fed lately.
To his credit, my father made an attempt at cleaning up the car. He didn’t apologize, though, although I’m sure I made my distress known. It was a farm car and it got farm uses, and that was how it was. I put more hours into cleaning. I honestly don’t remember how the date went, or even which of my few high school girlfriends it was with. I hope I had the sense to make a funny story out of it up front, rather than keeping a window open and trying to pretend not to smell the lingering odor of cow poop.
And while I really never forgave my father for that event, I did come to get along with him in later years.
That Chevy will be mentioned again here in coming days. (Foreshadowing!) Here is the Kodak of me age 3 (so, 1945). I spent quite a bit of time on the internet trying to work out what make of car that is. That grille is very distinctive. I believe it is a 1937 Hudson.