End of Summer

I would be lying if I said I was sorry that summer is over but I am! Now it would be a bigger lie if I said I was looking forward to what is coming, winter! I have never enjoyed winter. I tolerated it better when I was younger but couldn’t say I really enjoyed it. Do find that with winter, if you can get out and do something like ski, sledding, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, you are less apt to hate the season. Should have included snow-shoveling (one of Gary’s favorite sports!) I have done all these in years past but no more. My focus is now on trying to stay upright and not going down on the ice!

Summer- this was supposed to be the summer of sitting at camp, swimming and growing heirloom tomatoes! I stayed one night at camp, went swimming twice and those tomatoes – nota!

We started in May preparing for a yard sale, helped plan the VAE Bennington tour, had the yard sale, greeted our grandchildren and son from Montana, took our son to airport for trip back to Montana, grandkids stayed, took in our Vermont grandchildren (now we have two granddaughters 5 and 7, two grandsons 8 and 9). We hosted the group for a couple of weeks. It was fun but so much harder than I remember. On July 20, we head west with the Montana grandkids in the big red truck with the ‘old’ basic pickup camper. First highlight was Niagara Falls with a ride on ‘Maid of the Mist’, then onto Ontario to a Butterfly Sanctuary, so far so good. Back to the USA and headed toward Mt. Rushmore, stopping at the largest truck stop on I-80 in Iowa. Can’t think of anything you can’t get or do there! (legal or illegal), about half way to Montana, Grace and Quinn decided that going by airplane was the way to go! There was quite a discussion on the fact they would be home and with family and friends and this way they would probably never get there! Thankfully, these thoughts were short lived as Grandpa found something fun and interesting to stop and see. We stopped and explored places, went through the Badlands and many, many more. We camped all the way out and back (about 6000 miles). Have to say that the ride back was extremely quiet. Some thought we were crazy and I guess we were a little. But, looking back, we are so glad we went this way. There were some tense times, some tears (mostly mine), a lot of laughs and a lot of talking (on their part and ours), we traded a lot of stories and tried to solve many world problems. Our wish is that a cross country trip with Grandma and Grandpa will be remembered and passed on to their children (with or without embellish-ments!) Should be good for a few laughs in years to come.
Now you would think that after a trip like that you could kick back and relax- not if you are ‘car people’! Just back and we headed to New York State for the ‘Slowspokes’ tour planned by Bill and Jan Sander. Great tour including train ride, boat ride on the Erie Canal and many wonderful sites. A great time was had by all. Is it over? No way. After a short time to clean your clothes, get a new toothbrush and pack, we were off for a 4 cylinder Plymouth tour, planned by Gary and Wendell. Beautiful tour of Ludlow, Grafton, Bellows Falls area (my home area). I think there were 31 people (from VT, NH, NY, Ohio, Texas and Ontario), there were 9 Plymouths and again, a great time was had by all. As I write this, Gary is on his yearly pilgrimage to Hershey with 2 batches of brownies and 5 dozen chocolate chip cookies. I’ve gone back to work.

We will still have to put the cars to bed for winter and there are leaves to rake, camp to close and then all that will be left is to find the perfect piece of cardboard and just wait for that first snowfall!

A Family Vacation

It was now 1928; and our family had never all been away together. In fact, Dad had not been away from the ranch since he came there from St. Albans with a carload of Vermont Jerseys in 1910. My Mother’s family worked for the railroad and always had vacations. Dad finally agreed to make arrangements to be away from the Ranch and it was decided to go to Colorado. Mrs. Coe, of the family that ran the general store, contacted her father, Mr. Shoemaker, who lived in Denver and he agreed to arrange a trip from Denver up onto the mountains and rented a cabin for us. We packed suitcases (no trunks, of course, in our old Dodge sedan) and stuffed them into racks on one side of the car. Inside we had a small case of eggs and a box filled with a double boiler, frying pan, and box of oatmeal. Our little sister, age 4, sat between the parents in the front seat and the other four of us sat in the back seat with our feet on top of the boxes on the floor.

The first day we got only as far as the Colorado border, a distance of 200 miles. It rained, making the gravel highway slippery. The roads always had ditches on each side for drainage, for often rains were heavy. We called that kind cloud bursts. On this day, every so often there would be a car in the ditch and we would have to stop to help them get back on the road. We stopped at the first group of cabins (the name for motels then) that we came to. Mother went in first and quickly pulled back the bedding to make sure there were no bedbugs! In the morning we had our oatmeal and fried eggs before we resumed our journey. The route was through the eastern flat land of Colorado and we noticed large fields of lettuce. Dad was curious and stopped to investigate – and ended up buying a small crate, which had to be crowded in with the other paraphernalia on the floor of the back seat!

It was late afternoon when we drove into Denver. At one point we came to a long line of cars in our lane. Dad just pulled over and drove up to the head of the line and went through. Mr. Shoemaker put us up for the night in sort of a loft in the building where he lived. We probably had another oatmeal and eggs breakfast before we started for the mountains; Mr. Shoemaker squeezed in with us in the back seat. We got back on the highway we had come in on, and Mr. Shoemak-er pointed out that there was a red traffic light ahead, and we were supposed to stop! This was the first time we had ever seen such a thing and, of course, we realized what had accounted for the long line of stopped cars when we came into Denver!

We soon got on to Long Mountain and were amazed at the narrow, winding road. Sometimes when meeting an approaching car, one would have to back up to a wider space. It was pretty scary. We arrived at the cabin safely, overwhelmed with the scenery, the like of which we had never seen before. The next day we explored the surrounding area, making snowballs when we found patches of snow. As we anticipated leaving for Denver, Mother announced that she would not go down in the car. “How will you get home?” Dad asked. Mother, coming from a railroad-oriented family said “There must be a train!” Needless to say she joined us for the trip down which we made safely. At one point when Dad remarked about the view, Mother told him “We’ll look at the scenery, you watch the road”.

After leaving Mr. Shoemaker off in Denver, we made a side trip but were advised not to try Pike’s Peak in our old Dodge. We found a park with charcoal cookers. Dad bought some ham and eggs which Mother fried in the skillet and of course we had lettuce too. The trip home across Colorado flats was extremely hot, and the patches on the inner tubes kept melting off, resulting in flats. After many repair stops, we finally got to Garden City, KS and bought replacements. We also decided to keep on driving through the night for the rest of the way home. Mother and I took turns sitting next to Dad to make sure he didn’t doze. It was daybreak before we arrived home. John and Catharine were sleeping soundly, so the rest of us rushed into the house and our beds. They had their own stories to tell about when they woke up, such as eating berries off the back porch vine.

We were so impressed with our “vacation” that very soon thereafter, I went to Dad’s typewriter and wrote a long account with carbon copies for the family back east.

Mary this Month

Have just returned from working in the Courtesy Booth at the 56th Stowe Show and again was totally amazed by the dedication of all the workers involved. Thanks to huge efforts and some adjustments, the weather Thursday night and Friday, for instance, from what I’m hearing, the Show was quite successful. Bob Chase, Duane and Marnita Leach, the leaders of the pack, did it again! Thanks to Andy and Marty Barnett covering for me at the Courtesy Booth, I was able to ride in the parade with Wendell in the Roadster and to enjoy the obvious appreciation of spectators along the parade route for our vehicles. It’s now back to the realities of weeding the gardens, haying, and hopefully, doing some harvesting of whatever grew in the garden. The weeds at least are doing extremely well! Those who know my husband will perhaps be shocked to learn that we now have a riding lawn mower – into the 21st century at last!! I guess he must see it as some kind of a suburban status symbol. This will, of course, leave me more time for weeding – yippee!

I was once again asked by one of my friends if I get tired of going to car related meetings and on tours, but, again, said that I have met so many truly lovely people I would not have met otherwise, it is just pleasurable, rewarding and fun. The VAE members truly rock, to use an old term, have led such interesting lives, done so many and varied things and are just plain nice. This is a trait (niceness) that seems to be getting lost in much of our world. With all of the digital technical devices being used today, folks can’t look up from their virtual world to view the real world. Writing on paper with a pen, or, gasp, a pencil, or face- to- face conversation with real people, smiling at others, (I do this and get blank, or puzzled looks) – you get the idea. Saw a cartoon recently that showed a person mentioning what they had read in the newspaper, and those present were using electronic devices trying to figure out what a newspaper is/was. Oops, maybe I/m ranting again – sorry. The bottom line here is that I feel fortunate to be a member of the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts and the old car hobby in general… Happy Fall everyone!

Old Age – Comes At A Bad Time

To be honest, my age never really mattered to me until last December when I received my Medicare card in the mail and I was informed that as of February 1st, 2013 I was eligible! I didn’t want it but there it was and now there was no turning back or trying to fool myself. That small little card was staring me in the face saying ‘you are getting old’!! Isn’t it amazing how ‘old’ 70 was when we were 40! But, how young it really is, right? When I found a few gray hairs, I found a great hairdresser. When I told Gary I was coloring my hair, his comment was “Emmylou Harris let her hair go gray” – my comment back “when I can sing like Emmylou I’ll go gray”! I can’t get over how age just creeps up on most of us. One day you are working 40-60 hours/week, shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning, gardening, raising vegetables and two boys. Then, the boys were the first to go! I didn’t throw them out they just somehow grew up and left. Or maybe it was the cleaning first, but the garden was next, reasoning that the ‘Farmers Market’ does a great job and we DO need to support it, next, Gary took over the laundry (I wash – he dries and folds), he also took over the dishes, then the 40-60 hour/week job went to about 10 hours a week and the paycheck disappeared!, still shopping and cooking (but far less of both). Unbelievable, one day I was doing it all and with what seemed like overnight, my body feels like it still is, but certainly isn’t! My question is when did I cross ‘the line’? Maybe it was back when I realized I needed singing lessons. Got to close, I have a 4 o’clock audition to sing back up for Emmylou. Just think of the time and money I’ll save not coloring my hair!

The Day I Didn’t Quit Smoking

A friend told me about a man down in New Hampshire who could hypnotize you to quit smoking. I had been smoking for a few years and this seemed like a good idea. Also, our son Clark had mentioned he wanted to quit, so I called him at Lyndon State, where he was a student, and he said yes he did want to quit, so I made an appointment with the hypnotist for the next Saturday. We agreed to meet at exit 19 or 18, and after some confusion about getting to the right exit, we finally met there. We parked my Camaro in a parking lot near a mom-and-pop store and gas station and both rode to the hypnotist’s in Clark’s old ”winter-beater” Cadillac.

When we got to the hypnotist, it was a simple office set-up with an inner room. I paid $50.00 for both of us and Clark went first. This session lasted about half an hour. Then it was my turn. A darkened room and I began to wonder if the man had to say the same thing over and over, or did he use a tape recorder? So, instead of concentrating on what he was saying, I kept listening for the hiss of the tape being played. I didn’t get hypnotized at all.

After we left, I realized I had just wasted $25.00. Clark said he seemed to have been hypnotized. Anyway we found a place to eat lunch and afterwards drove back to the Camaro. I took the keys out of my purse and was going to unlock the trunk to get my jacket. I inserted the key in the trunk lock, started to turn it and the whole key assembly fell into the trunk, including the keys! I expressed rage and frustration in language “not suitable for a family magazine” and agreed with Clark that maybe we could at least open the car with a coat hanger. He went over to the nearby store to borrow a coat hanger. He was gone quite a while. What’s keeping him, I thought. Finally he returned with a coat hanger and this explanation: he went over to the store and as he opened the door, he looked up and realized a man was robbing the store, pointing a gun at the clerk behind the counter. She was unloading the cash register into a bag he had on the counter. Neither of them saw Clark, who quietly and quickly withdrew. There was a sort of niche next to the door and he was able to hide in there. He couldn’t see the robber and the robber couldn’t see him. He waited, and soon the man came tear-ing by him, ran out and jumped into the car his accomplice had waiting. They roared out of the gas station and disappeared. Clark went into the store and after the clerk calmed down and called the police, she found a coat hanger and Clark returned.
“You could have been killed!” I shrieked. “I know it” said Clark, “but anyway here’s the coat hanger” he said, with a grin. We couldn’t open the trunk with the coat hanger so we fiddled with the door peg, managed to pull it up and opened the car. The only way to get to the trunk was to take the back seat out. After a fierce struggle, Clark managed to get it out and I squeezed in and grabbed the lock and keys.

After all this, we both were a little shook, so we talked for a while and then said good bye. Clark went back up to Lyndon and I headed for Burlington. I hadn’t had a cigarette since the night before, and my nerves were screaming. I pulled over at the Richmond exit and bought a pack of cigarettes. (After all, Clark could have been killed!) I happily started smoking once more. The best part of this story (which happened nearly 40 years ago) was that Clark never smoked again.

Sad(ly) Missed

I tentatively decided not to go on about my hang up with the loss of adverbs these days, like I once went on about the lack of manual transmissions. This is the “Softer Side” after all. BUT, how many times a day do I see a sign saying “Eat local”. What’s with that? What’s local? Is it something to eat? What’s it taste like? Or is it local? “Buy local”, “Drive Slow”? Is Slow some new kind of car imported from China? I drive a Ford. Whatever happened to adverbs? They “modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or preposition, a quality, place, time, degree, cause, opposition, affirmation or denial, and in English also serving to connect and to express comment on clause content”, according to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. As an old English major, I, get a little frustrated, literal(ly), reading the Burlington Free Press, for instance, unlike our Wheel Tracks publication. Oops, I did it again, when I’d meant to just mar-vel at the welcome arrival of Spring: the cheery daffodils, crocuses, tulips, lilacs, fiddlehead greens and green leaves, and of course, the “peepers” in our swamp. It also means raking, lawn mowing, garden preparation, spring cleaning (what?). Uh oh, is this the start of negativity?? This being Vermont, we’ll have a rainy spell, but great(ly) needed. Dang, I finally gave up and faced the fact that this is another tirade – sorry. The adverb was my friend. I could use it to helpfully point out to my husband that he was sloppily dressed, rudely sarcastic and usually both. But that friend has sadly passed away – I actual feel real bad about that.

And, by the way, sloppy and sarcastic did some goodly things. He rototilled the garden, readied the lawn mower for me, split wood I could (hopeful) lift, put his dishes in the sink, helped make our bed, didn’t complain, too much, when I left the curry out of curried rice, and always comes home, eventual. After all, there is always a glass of wine waiting. In short, I real miss adverbs; they are great needed.

Out of the mouths of babes!

On the 29th of April, Gary and I will have been married 41 years. We probably should have “big” plans to celebrate but have found that, like so many couples, we have settled into a fairly quiet and comfortable existence. I bring this up because sometimes something happens to make you at least take a step back and reflect.

What happened in our case was a comment made to Gary from a 12 year boy who was doing a history project on ‘How automobiles had changed’ and he interviewed Gary, here at the house with his teacher. Gary gave them the ‘grand’ tour and thankfully he could get the 29 Chevy started and gave them a ride around Derby Line. As you can imagine, Gary has plenty of interesting ‘stuff’, especially to interest a 12 year old boy! Of course, Ryan invited Gary to the History Expo to see how he put his project together. Fast forward a few weeks and it is Expo day. Gary takes his camera and heads to Derby to meet Ryan. When he saw Gary, he was so excited and asked Gary not to move while he went and got his mother so he could introduce her. When Gary went to leave, Ryan said, “Mr. Olney, you are the most awesome man I’ve ever met”!! Gary got home and told me what had been said and I, of course, laughed! This is where the ‘reflection’ part comes in. I asked myself if this 12 year old was seeing something that I saw over 40 years ago but after raising 2 boys, preparing approximately 30,750 meals, about 1000 batches of chocolate chip cookies, and over 10,000 loads of laundry, not to mention all the cars, motors, fenders, etc., that I have helped move from one place to another, had kind of forgotten. Had I gotten to the place his mother was, when Gary, after having a full beard for years (I had never known him without one) shaved it off? His mother looked at him and said ‘have you gotten new glasses?’ Knowing something was different but hadn’t really looked at him. Is the term ‘taken for granted’? When I met Gary, he had traveled over the world, been in the Air Force with 2 years in Turkey and 2 years in Japan, been to college, had a great interest in cars, parts, post cards, signs, and many other things too numerous to mention. After we married, he graduated from Vermont Technical College with a degree in Land Surveying, which he worked at and loved for many years. What I’m getting at is, that this is Gary today with all his interests. Back then I thought all this was awesome and have to admit, I guess I lost sight of it all but thanks to a wonderful, articulate, and interesting 12 year old, I’m reminded- maybe I will plan something big for the awesomeist man in the world for our anniversary. I’ll start right after I get supper, get the cookies out of the oven and – hang on, Gary is calling me from the warehouse, he’s in the ‘31 Plymouth and needs a push!

Dopey Things We Do

Here at Allenwood, where I now live, the majority of the residents eat dinner at night at tables of six. One night we were discussing dopey mistakes we had made and Evelyn told us this one:
She was shopping one Saturday and came home, parked the car in the parking lot, gathered up her groceries and came inside. There was a minor snow shower or two that night and Sunday morning. All the cars Sunday morning were lightly dusted with snow, except hers. “That’s funny” she thought, but maybe the north-west wind had just happened to clear the snow off. She didn’t go out at all Sunday. Monday morning, more errands, so she walked down to her car with the keys in her purse, she thought. To her surprise, the car was unlocked. She got in and saw the key in the ON position in the ignition and the engine was running! The car had been running since Saturday with the heater on! She raced to the nearest gas station and told them to “Fill it up!”

Another one (nothing to do with cars) of my daughter Linda:
She was painting the bathroom and had gotten to where she had to paint behind the toilet and sink. She put a towel on the toilet lid and set the paint can on it. Carefully dipping her brush in the can, she knelt down and stretched forward to paint. Her shoulder unknowingly pulled the towel and the full can of paint down on her shoulders and head! She let out a scream and her teenaged son came running in. Appraising the situation at a glance, he said “Hold it, Ma, I don’t want to miss this! I’ll get my camera!” Linda pointed out to us that thank God it was a quart of latex paint and not a gallon…

And, so in closing, I quote Oscar Wilde “Be yourself. Everybody else has already been taken.”

Sugarin’ and Cats

One of the many things I love about Vermont is the weather, yes, the weather. This is because if you wait a couple of minutes, weather you don’t like will become weather you do like. Of course, it also can become quite dreadful, but that is life in Vermont. According to that noted groundhog, Spring will come early this year – we’ll see! Of course, with Spring comes lawn mowing, gardens to be planted and weeded, haying, etc., but in early Spring, comes sugarin’ time. We didn’t sugar last year due to a lack of help and “someone’s” defective ankle. With no effort, we made no syrup, but others expended a lot of effort and still didn’t make much syrup. It was a lousy season anyway. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get back to it by tapping fewer trees and with help offered by a neighbor who is available during the week. In case you didn’t know, sap usually starts to run on Monday morning when people with jobs have to be at work. Again, we’ll see.

On a totally different subject, I so related to Nancy’s cat tale, and commend Nancy and Gary for persisting in taking on Willy despite many rejections. So many animals are neglected, abused and/or dumped with no thought about what may happen to them. We have taken in many strays over the years as people see a barn and just know this is a good place to dump their unwanted cat or dog. When we bought our house in the early 70’s, there was a mother cat and her five kittens trying to survive in an old shed. Unfortunately, they all had distemper, so after finally catching them, we took them to the Humane Society for humane care. Our latest cat had to be rescued from a tree (our resident cat had chased him there). He was a skin and bones kitten with what seemed to be a broken tail. His tail was saved and he is now a fluffy, not fat, twenty pound tiger cat. (Those of you who have met Oswald probably are having trouble imagining him as “little”.) As members of his staff, he tolerates us and usually sleeps with us. But never expect a cat to show a lot of gratitude, as they know who is special – after all, they once were worshipped as gods and have never forgotten that! So that’s the weather and cats in one Softer Side!!
(And old cars are right up there with the weather and cats on my good things list, o.k., guys?)

Mary Tours China

It seemed appropriate to give the “softer side” of our trip to China, observations I noticed, such as the flowers, which were every-where possible and all trimmed and lovingly cared for. One example was a wall of flowers in an elaborate pattern composed of plants in individual pots and somehow set into it; apparently this is a standard planting technique for flower beds as well, at least the ones we saw. There were few overweight Chinese as the majority walk or bicycle everywhere. They need to be agile, as cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, scooters, motorized bicycles with a rickshaw setup for passengers, all competing nonstop for spaces in traffic, and pedestrians do not have priority. As Chris told us, “Look four ways twice” before trying to cross a street! The other part of the street scene is vendors trying to sell passersby everything imaginable, “very cheap” and they are eager to haggle, in fact almost insist on it. These folks are also present at every tourist attraction; the walk up to the Great Wall was lined with them. Meals, ordered by our translator with input from us, were placed, dish after dish, on a huge lazy-susan in the middle of the table. They included lots of tofu, spicy or not, always bok choy, cabbage or swiss chard, a fish and/or meat dish, then rice, and last, soup (it is impolite to fill your soup bowl to the top) and fruit – usually watermelon. Then came the challenge to master chop sticks in order to get the food to one’s plate, not to mention in your mouth – there were spoons for the soup! Speaking of food, we went to a “wet market” where vegetables and fruits were displayed. The meat section was piles of meat – pork, chicken, beef – to be picked over by buyers – a big pyramid of hamburg that was picked up by hand and placed in a plastic bag to be weighed. It was a little shocking as we are used to everything being packaged and in a cooler, but we learned that food is purchased every day, taken home and eaten right away. I stayed away from where the live chickens were, with customers waiting. There were fish, eel, shrimp, clams, crab, etc., swimming around in tanks. Back on the sidewalk there were, besides “very cheap” sellers, street cleaners, mostly women, using what looked like a witches broom made of twigs to sweep up any bit of debris – a lot of cigarette butts, despite “No Naked Flames” signs. There were bicycles passing by with huge loads of cardboard folded for recycling and laundry was hung from racks attached to apartment house balconies. We visited temples which were crowded with people burning in-cense, bowing and praying to Buddha as well as patting the heads of big reddish fish which is believed to bring good fortune, and leaving money in and on the various statues of gods. There are many rituals and traditions the Chinese observe. One last thing to mention were the ladies rooms away from hotels – the “facility” is a porcelain basin set into the floor, no hand holds, and paper goes into a wastebasket. Enough about that! The Chinese people seemed genuinely anxious to try to talk with us Americans, which was gratifying, and their work ethic is to be admired. For someone who originally said no way she would go to China, it was an extraordinary trip, largely thanks to Chris Barbieri’s great organizing, choice of guides, introducing us to new Chinese foods, sights, and all with a fun group of VAE members.