It’s All About the Mud

mud season vintage carDisclosure: “The views expressed in this article belong solely to the writer and do not reflect the VAES’ idea of a good time”.

Mud season is frustrating for non-mud enthusiasts, most classic car owners and livestock caretakers alike. If Vermont were to name a state season, mud season would be a viable candidate.

Vermont’s fifth season is undeterminably long, it disappears only to reappear spontaneously, striking without notice. June tent weddings, Fourth of July and the Stowe Car Show have all fallen victim to torrential rain and mud. I like car shows best when the solar deity, Ra, chooses to be in attendance.

vermont road mud season
“Muddy road after thaw, near Stowe, Vermont” – from the Library of Congress – April, 1940

Some folks are drawn to mud like a moth to a flame, adding mud to sporting events to enhance player and viewer enjoyment. Mud wrestling, mud volley ball, mud football, and let’s not forget my personal favorite – mud bogging caravan style, entice a cult following. I have personally experienced mud bogging due to a kind hearted gentleman who saved my husband and I a coveted spot in the back of his 1952 Dodge Power Wagon. His vehicle was meticulously restored and CLEAN which meant its occupants were not motored through a 30′ by 60′ foot pit of mud. This pit was truly impressive, indiscriminately swallowing up jeeps, miscellaneous retired military vehicles, men – women – children- dogs, and beer coolers. Needless to say my husband now attends this rally alone.

On the brighter side, mud season is the catalyst for change. It ceremoniously welcomes in the running of the sap, spring flowers and the highly coveted dog days of summer.

Old vs. New

old vs new carsFrom time to time some of my friends and I discuss young people and talk about things that they will never have or never do or just what is different from our generation to theirs’. I am reminded that that is what ‘old’ people do and have done for centuries. I guess I would use the word, ‘matured’ rather than old.

I will start with the ‘book’. There is something about reading a book and having the actual book in your hands. I love to read and have at least one book going all the time. I also have a ‘Nook’ tablet and have several books on that which I have read but it just isn’t quite the same. I can’t really tell you why, it just isn’t. My guess is there are children born today that will never read a book, in book form. They will read books from a Nook, IPad, PC and some will even go to the library and find that all the material has been converted to digital.

Map reading is becoming a lost art also. With the advent of GPS systems, you can throw your maps away. I remember when you traveled you looked forward to collecting maps and all gas stations gave them away. I know some of you collect maps but not for navigation anymore. I guess it is kind of like the compass; there aren’t a lot of people that would know how to use it if they had one. Most cars come with GPS as standard equipment now and if not, your cell phone will have one.

Email has become the letter/note/thank you that used to come in the mail. This type of communication was looked forward to and still is for me. I love getting a nice let-ter/note in the mail. Some people blame the price of stamps, their time (or lack of), but most just never learned to write a letter. I’ll have to ask my grandchildren if let-ter writing is still taught in schools. I will say that I do check my emails and am glad to have one or two in my ‘inbox’ but again, it’s not the same as holding a letter that someone took the time to write and put a ‘forever’ stamp on and mailed and when it was received I knew that it was meant for me and not everyone in your ‘contact’ list.

I could go on and on about the changes in the world from generation to generation. It comes down to, if you never had it – how can you miss it. I’m sure that those of us who never had to walk in the dark at 20 degrees below zero to the outhouse- have ever missed it! And realize that those who traveled West in a covered wagon, never missed the GPS but I bet if given the chance – would have loved it!

This younger generation will not miss some of the things that I have held ‘near and dear’ but I will continue to miss it for them.

One More For The Road

I realize that I am late in saying this, but hope everyone had a happy Christmas and that the New Year will be a good one for all. Our Colorado daughter and her son were here for Christmas day until New Year’s day. Having our three “children” and their children, plus my brother and his wife from New Hampshire, made for a great holiday get together. My New Year’s resolution is to have our house “spit spot” for the summer’s family get together, well, dust freer, and wallpaper replaced in upstairs bathroom. The paper was one of the first things we did – wallpaper really doesn’t stay nice forever I now know. Maybe if I start tomorrow, but it is too cold for housework – smile. Our son Tom’s New Year’s resolution at his wife’s urging, is to get to work on the 1935 twelve cylinder Packard limousine he was given by my Dad. Dad had acquired it from a ne’er-do-well young fellow whose wealthy father became tired of supporting his son, told him to pick a car from his extensive collection and get out of his house. This “back to nature” type of guy ended up living in a house that my parents owned, out in the woods and with no utilities. At the end of his brief tenancy, he didn’t have money for rent, so he gave the Packard to Dad. All our kids took a shine to this impressive yacht of a car and especially enjoyed riding in it during parades. Tom especially loved it so his grandfather willed it to him. It has been with Tom in New York, then St. Albans and currently in his garage in Westford. I think, in the past, I have mentioned that the three-car garage was the selling point for their buying in Westford. There was also a house and several acres of land, but those features were irrelevant to our son. Given the current lower gas prices, it might even be feasible to drive this gas-guzzler a bit. In any event, looking at it and working on it should be a good father-son bonding experience. Wendell’s resolution is to get his 1939 Chrysler roadster finished – no surprise there! It’s the same as last year’s. Must get back to writing Christmas cards. I thought of doing New Year’s cards, but too late for them too. Maybe if I start in October this year, I’ll get them out in time, maybe. There’s always hope.

Goodbye to one of my Heroes

We have recently said goodbye to one of my heroes in the “car world”, Tom Magliozzi. I can’t imagine you wouldn’t know who this is but if you don’t, he is the “Click” or the “Clack” (I don’t believe it was ever decided which was which) of the Tappet Brothers from NPR’s “Car Talk”. He and his brother Ray could turn any car, situation or person into something to laugh at, nothing and no one spared. Believe me sometimes Tom’s laugh, just listening to it and not even hearing what had been said would make me break into a huge laugh. It must be said that one of the chief things he laughed at was himself and of course, his brother. I don’t know but think that antique cars weren’t the passion for him as they are to several people I know but he seemed to love cars in general, different makes which there were a few he seemed to like better than others. Have to say that he did beat on a certain make of cars and on his ex and present wife. (I don’t know if he had an ex or not). There are very few things that you come away feeling good every time but “Car Talk” was certainly one of the things that did it for me. When VPR stops airing the reruns and quiets Tom’s laugh forever, will be a sad day for all of us who love to laugh. The lesson I take from him is laugh as often as possible and realize most things shouldn’t be taken so seriously and in the ‘scheme of things’ most things deserve a good old fashion belly laugh. RIP dear friend.

Stowe Show Musings

Once again, I marvel at the work of the dedicated people who put together our Car Show at Stowe. I am pretty sure they are already at work for next year, in fact. Despite the rain and wind on Thursday, the next three days were pleasant and sunny, a little muddy, but great by Sunday! The kitchen team this year certainly presented many, many delicious meals. Then there was the setting up for vendors, car parking, registration booth, where Gael Boardman and Serge Benoit made announcements throughout the Show. There was the car corral, crafts tent, and the information booth.

The souvenir tent was an excellent vantage point to get a valuable perspective on the show. Thanks to Tom Alag of Shelter Logic for giving us a large white tent to work from. It gave us room for displaying things for sale and room for people who needed a place to sit out of the sun. They also had one of their tents set up nearby to be raffled off to a VAE member. Non-members could qualify by signing up on the spot, which they did. We gained a substantial number of members as a result. The winner was a lady who signed up about ten minutes before the drawing. Then there was the fashion show competition (Thanks, Julie, for covering that for me). The “everywhere needed twosome”, Duane Leach and Bob Chase, who were always (mostly) smiling and al-ways helpful. If I wore a hat, it would be off to them! Also, to Chris Barbieri for his many interviews promoting the Show. Thanks to Nancy Olney for staying at the booth so that I could be with Wendell in the parade. Also to Isabelle and Clark Wright, Theresa Rayta and Anita Bean.

Our constant interaction with the public provided us with interesting comments and suggestions. Many were valuable and a few were just “off the wall.” Some didn’t care for the car on the back of the sweatshirts, unless of course it happened to be their favorite car. So since we can’t please everyone, maybe just the VAE logo or show date should be on the back! Others would like a pocket on the tee shirts, tank tops, sleeveless tees, hats, VAE decals, pencils with VAE or Stowe Show on them. Several people would like to have the option of a three-day pass, rental carts for handicapped people and, as part of the judging awards, a “teen choice award”. Another suggestion was to have a tent for Bingo if someone would like to sponsor it.

The field is now empty and shows little evidence that it just hosted the best car show in the northeast. After a little bit of a breather, I look forward to being a part of it again.

What Can I Say…

I am sure by now you are all tired of me sharing stories about our household’s automotive trials and tribulations. Which leaves me in a dilemma, “What should I write about for this issue of Wheel Tracks?” I dig deep for inspiration, but this ballroom dancing lady is struggling. Let’s see… I have been to one car show all summer; the catalyst for this was a visit from my father.

That old saying that women end up marrying men just like their fathers is all too true in my case. My father is a self-confessed high performance street car enthusiast (junkie), and the mastermind behind a line of race electrical products (Auto-Rod Controls). He grew up during American Graffiti, and remembers a time when a half a dozen full blown street races occurred nightly. I do not believe this happens much anymore, except for maybe LA (according to the motion picture industry).

I interviewed my father and had him list his most memorable cars: a 1958 something or another, 1940 Ford Coupe, 1962 Ford 406, 1969 Ford 428 Super Cobra Jet, 1970 429 Torino Cobra he trad-ed in for a 1970 Honda motorcycle and last but not least, a 1970 Ford Pinto he stripped down into a race car lovingly known as PERNICIOUS.

I have vivid memories of this car. I was frequently called into the garage to maneuver my small hands into tight places to hold bolts and wrenches in place. I will never forget the occasional starting of the engine; mind numbingly loud, our whole house shook, as did the neighborhood.

The rebuild took 4 years in total. Eventually, he and his race car made it to the speedway in Epping, NH. He raced the quarter mile; best time – 9.65 seconds; maximum speed – 138 miles per hour. I never got to see him race but I wish I had. That would be an image worth holding on to.

Ask for Help?

My mother raised four children in a single parent home and to my knowledge, never asked for help. She raised our food, canned and froze everything for the winter, baked bread (you can imagine 4 children when they were given the “treat” of Wonder Bread) of course now realize what a “treat” we were having every day with her homemade bread, tapped 4 maples and boiled the sap on the stove, she made stuffed toys, clothes and she could cut anything that needed to be cut with a big meat saw. I didn’t mention that she was a full time secretary in a department store at this time. We lived in a small town in southern Vermont and for 13 years of my life, we lived in a house on my grandparents’ farm. Being from a small town and living on the farm was a definite help to both my mother and us but again at the time we probably weren’t convinced of it. With saying all this, the outcome was 4 adults growing up and realizing that we had to take care of ourselves and we weren’t to run for help every time things got rough, though I think sometimes she went too far with the lesson. All my siblings and me are always ready to help but go to great lengths not to ask for help.

This brings me to this summer when Gary and I went on a 7000 mile trip to Montana to pick up 2 of our grandchildren and bring them to Vermont. On our 10 day trip from Montana, we went to Iowa (car auction with Vin Cassidy), visited every place President Lincoln lived except Washington, to Mammoth Caves in Kentucky and to the largest insane asylum in the world (late 19th century). Arriving home, we picked up our other 2 grandchildren in Waterbury and headed for camp. In all we entertained the children for about 2 weeks when their parents came for 10 days and then took them home. Have to admit mixed with sadness of seeing them go was a bit of glad-ness at seeing them go! Gary and I agree we have never been so tired in our lives (that we can remember). It wasn’t that hard raising our 2 boys! Guess I forget that we were about 40 years younger!

Now “the rest of the story” and the point of my rambling. Last month I received an email from Gary Fiske telling me that it was my turn to write for Wheel Tracks (thank you for reminding me, Gary, I would never remember on my own) also saying that if I wasn’t up to it that maybe Mary Noble would trade months. Though it went against the grain to ask, I did. Mary graciously agreed to write the arti-cle in my place and did a fine job of it! She helped me out, for which I will forever be grateful, while entertaining her grandchildren, gardening (on a scale that would put the Green Giant to shame) and raising pigs. Lesson: Always go to a busy person if you need help. I have to tell you it really didn’t hurt at all asking for help but please, don’t turn and run when you see me coming because I’m probably not looking for help.

Postscript: I wrote my article before the Stowe Car Show and want to tell you about a couple of things that happened there. The first was Sunday morning about 7 AM when I pulled into the entrance for “Antique Cars only” and two gentlemen came to my window to ask what I was up to. I explained that I needed to drop off our young friend, Ryan and meet up with Gary for a few words and I assured them I would come out this entrance to prove I wasn’t sneaking in. They looked a bit skeptical but helped me out by letting me in (I did go out that way and thanked them).

Next, I had another favor to ask (imagine needing ‘help’ twice in less than an hour!) well, Lloyd Harvey stepped up to the plate and helped me out. Thank you Lloyd (and Steve for looking at Lloyd ‘like help the woman’) I think I see a pattern forming so if you see me coming – maybe you should RUN!

Changes

On a recent drizzly day, we were coming home from running errands and I noticed something that struck me as unusual and I pointed it out to Wendell. “Look at that. There are two little kids out playing in their yard.” There was no adult supervision. They were just playing around in their raincoats and boots doing whatever their creative little minds led them to do. Isn’t it kind of sad that something like that catches my attention because it is so unusual? Today we would expect them to be in-side in the captivity of their video games, oblivious to the weather outside.

Whatever happened to making mud pies, pushing match box cars around, swinging on a swing or from an old tire, badminton, reading un-der a tree, etc.? Then I try to remember that trends are just that, trends, and they change, hopefully for the better.

I sure hope this one happens soon! Speaking of change, we have become a working farm again with huge gardens of vegetables growing in our hayfield, pigs in the former pigpen and cows in the pasture. All this through the efforts of one man who believes in hard work being a good thing, and getting paid for it should be even better. However, he has discovered that finding young people to work even for money is not easy these days, as they like money, but not work. Two exceptions are our grandsons who are very happy to work for money – one helped plant tomatoes (there are about 500 plants!). Our Colorado grandson has bonded with the piglets, rubbing their bellies and holding them as well as feeding them. Initially, they were surprised to be paid as they were just glad to be outside with growing plants and curious, but friendly pigs. A huge benefit of letting our land be used is that we have vegetables given to us and one of the pigs will be ours – we can make our own ham, bacon and sausage again – and I suspect we will also have some beef from one of those cows. Our vegetarian daughter is trying to remember that the reason for having pigs and cows was then sending them off to be eaten is a farming fact of life. However, she will be glad to be in Colorado when that day comes.

My Dad and Cars

My husband suggested that I should devote the “Softer Side” to my Dad’s interest in old cars. I have to admit that as a teenager, I didn’t think much about cars, except as a means to get to a dance, a ballgame, or a friend’s house. In my earlier years, Dad was always busy farming (milking, making and selling butter, haying, plowing, sugaring, selling insurance, being a Selectman and banker. He was also a Grange member and a Mason. Restoring and/or working on an old car I don’t remember. Yes, he had a 1935 Packard, a 1936 and a 1937 Chevrolet, as well as that 1928 Dodge coupe I wouldn’t drive, preferring the family 1955 Chevy station wagon! I know, shame on me. Sorry, Dad, —and Wendell. Guys of my teenage years were always fixing up a “clunker” car and then driving it around town to impress the girls, and each other. Cars now seem to be more of a status symbol, not a tribute to the authentic restoration of a car. But back to my Dad. Growing up on a farm certainly builds character and gives one an appreciation for work being a good thing. (Of course, for some it means to get away from all that work as soon as possible.) We learned that when the hay was dry, it had to be raked, put into windrows, and pitched onto the hay truck to the person “treading” the hay to get as much as possible on at once. When the beans, peas, tomatoes, etc., etc., were ripe, they needed to be picked, made ready for canning or freezing right then. Cows need to be milked twice a day. Basically, my brother and I learned the valuable lesson of not putting off what needs to be done. Our reward usually was a trip to the “dairy bar” for ice cream cones or frappes (I’ve learned to call them milkshakes, but in New Hampshire, a milkshake had no ice cream in it).

Presently, I do appreciate classic cars (I know, I still have only driven the Dodge twice) and truly enjoy riding in them, plus being impressed over and over again by the patience and tenacity of classic car restorers. So, kudos to you all!

Spring Cleaning

Did you ever sit down to a blank piece of paper, and have your mind go as blank as that piece of paper? It seems for some reason that I’m finding it harder to come up with a new clothing subject this month. Could it be that spring is around the corner, and all I can think about is getting the cars out and doing some spit and polishing! I guess I could say the same thing for the outfits too… the need to get them out, and look them over.

I did take time the other day to clean a couple of closets. Might just as well, the snow didn’t look very inviting to do gardening. Pushing things around in the closet, I came across last year’s vintage outfits. Everyone who wore something to the fashion show looked splendid, and it’s really hard to say what was the best outfit. Every outfit is the best and the folks that participate are the best for helping put on a fun show. Last year at Shelburne, we had a few more participants and a few more spectators. I think the interest is there, but folks are not quite sure if what they have is what they should be showing off. It really doesn’t matter if it is a day dress or an evening gown.

Even if you don’t have the complete outfit, it’s still all right to participate. Please come and show us that hat or pair of shoes. Lot’s of time, when looking for items, I have found hats that are just out of this world, and think that just maybe someone would like to see the hat instead of a complete outfit. It’s not so much the winning as it is to show the styles that were worn back when. Now I know that some of you gentlemen out there are just dying to show us a fancy tie or spectator shoes or a shirt that was worn by former family members, and we would love to see them. Maybe there is a fun story that goes along with the article of clothing that you can share with all of us. A couple of years ago Gene Fodor gave us a wonderful rendition of his British Army uniform. Come join us and have some fun with the rest of our club members.

Shelburne’s show this year is going to be held in the courtyard of the Diamond barn, unless the weather is not good and if it isn’t, we will revert back to the “Ti”. Some of the participants expressed a desire to show a couple of outfits, and there really isn’t a sufficient place to change quickly on the Ticonderoga. Also, this year, are some new changes in store for the Stowe fashion show, so I hope that all of you are going to start getting those vintage articles of clothing together for a spectacular event. Jan Sander does a great job with the Stowe fashion show, and is to be commended for her dedication. But, she also needs your help in participation. Please come!