(Possum travels and honors us with the tales. Please journey within and share your story. – promoted by Betsy L. Angert)
My father was a country veterinarian. He traveled many miles every year across local county roads which were not always in the best of condition. His vehicle was always the same sort, a station wagon, packed with the tools necessary for farm work. The memories of that car are many and varied. This is a collection of thoughts about Dad’s car. Come along, children, as we visit the farm call vehicle in another of the possum’s tales.
My father (I always called him Daddy until I was a teen and then changed to just Dad) always drove Chevrolet station wagons which he purchased new each year. By the time the year was up the car usually had endured about 50,000 miles of really hard driving. The roads around our home were mostly gravel, often rutted, and generally just tough on a vehicle. The cars were pretty well done by the time they were ready to be returned to the dealer as a trade-in. One car died in a spectacular way on the road when both front wheels broke off the suspension. Dad had the wrecker (in those days we had wrecks and wreckers instead of accidents and tow trucks) take the car to the local Chevrolet dealer. The broken vehicle was traded in and Dad drove off in a new car without further ado. While we loved the idea of the car falling to pieces like that, Dad saw more of the danger and failed to see the humor the same way we kids did.
My earliest memories are as a very young child riding in the passenger front seat. My feet did not touch the floor of the car in those days. I remember being somehow honored that my father took me along in those days, but he always did seem to take interest in his children and shared as much of his life as he was able with us. Sometimes he’d take Mother or another brother along, too, but there was not room for more than two passengers. Every one had to sit in front as the entire rear of the car was filled with work stuff.
The car had a distinctive smell of medicines and various manures. That smell endures in memory to this day even though replicating the odor would be nearly impossible. The farm smells that accumulate in a vehicle are distinctive and are a special part of the particular vehicle. The various odors were supplemented by my father’s smoking habit. He kept a carton of Camel cigarettes under the driver’s seat for all the years he drove those cars. The smell of tobacco was a constant addition to the mix in his life. His cigarette supply was the beginning of my teen smoking, a habit that extended about 10 years from start to finish. Ahhh, the things we learn from our fathers.
The inside of the car was always dusty. The dashboard was deep enough in dust that we kids could write our names there. No matter how many times someone cleaned the surfaces, the gravel roads and dusty byways insured the car would be dusty. Some of the dust moved from car to car with the changing of equipment every time a new vehicle came along. That way most of the longtime smells were carried right along to the new car. The new car smell lasted only a few days in those vehicles before the various farm and medicine smells took over again.
The entire back portion of the car was filled with a large box fitted out with various drawers. Every item had a special place in the different compartments. Over the course of years and traveling with Dad each of us kids learned the system well enough to restock at the office or to retrieve the necessary item on the farm. A two-way radio was in the floorboard behind the driver. In those days those devices were large, heavy boxes filled with tubes, not the tiny electronic radios of today. Buckets, pails, and larger tools were stored behind the passenger seat. Somehow all fit just right even if a few rattles were noticeable. At least nothing flew about during travel times.
The rear of the car was so heavy that the headlights pointed too high in the air. People were always blinking their headlights at my dad thinking the bright lights were on. In fact, the ground nearest the car was never properly illuminated due to the elevation of the front end. The car had all the appearance of a whiskey bootlegger’s car, but the local policemen (no women on the force in our town in those days) knew my dad and never bothered him for the car’s appearance. He did get a speeding ticket one time, but that is the stuff of a whole ‘nother story day.
Early on after I got my first driving license, dad let me drive on a call. Coming home I misjudged the driveway length and nearly knocked down our brand new carport wall. The front of the car missed that brick wall by only a few inches, but even so Dad always let me drive thereafter whenever we were doing calls together. He was always the supportive sort toward everyone in his life and especially toward his children.
Those days of traveling about the countryside with my father are special indeed. So many fine memories. Today his spirit lives on in memory and in his stories. He told many tales of his youth along the way. Most of our discussions in the car were either stories of his own childhood or talking about the farmers we were about to visit. Dad never seemed to tire of talking about life and the lessons to be learned along the way. Ohhh, the memories, the wonderful memories.