Another Chapter

Cars are bedded down for the winter, holidays are over, there are still remnants of cookies and fudge and decorations, so now you would think that we could all settle in for the cold and snowy days ahead. Maybe catch up some of the reading you have wanted to do or some “winter” project that you want to get done. If you are like us, these “projects” have been begging to be done for several winters. But, this is the year to get it done. Sounds good, doesn’t it? As usual, something seems to get in the way of all our good intentions. Let me tell you about ours.

About March of 2012, a skinny, scraggly, dirty cat showed up at our door. He was very skittish and extremely hungry. So we started to feed him and he came every morning about 6 AM and scratched at the door and waited for us to give him his breakfast. This was repeated again about 6 PM and we soon learned his schedule and tried to comply, even asking a neighbor to bring his meals when we had to be gone. We named him Willys (Willy) and tried to get friendly with him but making friends was on us, he continued to accept and maybe I should say, demand, service but didn’t seem to get any “closer”. At one point he bit Gary, bad enough to draw blood. While not exactly the behavior we had wanted from him, it would have been ok if there hadn’t been a rabies scare in the area. From the look of Willy, with his crooked tail and a piece torn out of his ear, with no shots, Gary could be at risk. He contacted someone involved in catching stray cats and they set up a “have a heart” trap. If caught, Willy would be taken to a vet, get a checkup, have shots, be neutered and taken to a farm in the area that accepts “refurbished” cats. I don’t know which of those things Willy objected to most (Gary seemed to think he knows) but Willy had other ideas! Half in the trap, it triggered the door, faster than lightening, Willy backed out and was gone! Back to square one and the days before Gary would have to start rabies shots were ticking down. Advice from the vet, and Gary’s doctor: watch the cat (if he returned) and see if he displayed any strange behavior. To make a long story short, Willy returned to eat and eat and eat. No friendlier, no less demanding but thankfully not sick.

Since then, Willy has been spending the cold nights inside, in my chair. You would think we have our teenagers back the way we worry about where he goes for sometimes hours. Willy now likes us to pet him, give him treats and make of him. He checked out our grandchildren at Christmas and decided to make a fast exit until they left. We check the door when he is out and about, making sure he isn’t waiting on the doorstep to come in. Willy went out New Year’s Eve and was still out when we went to bed about 12:30 AM. At 2:45, he was at the door and I was there to welcome him home. Now, we could sleep! We can’t believe his attitude: he ignores us, and he doesn’t seem to be concerned with how we fuss over him and will just walk away or turn his back. All the teenage years come rushing back. Just thankful he doesn’t drive. Have to cut this short, Willy’s supper time.

The Eighty Days of Christmas

If my memory is correct, I believe it used to be the twelve days of Christmas. This year the Christmas “stuff” started to appear in two local stores at the same time the Halloween candy appeared in August. Back “in my day”, the Christmas season started when the Sears Christmas catalog appeared around Thanksgiving. Many an hour was spent pouring over that book, pencil in hand, to mark all the dreams a child could muster. Dream as we did, we also knew, somewhere in the recesses of our mind, that we might get one toy or game or maybe nothing from the catalog at all. Growing up, Christmas gifts were made up, mostly, of what we needed – not wanted. This was the time to get new PJs, socks, warm clothes – things that we had worn out or outgrown. Many gifts were geared toward what the whole family could use – like a toboggan or skis or skates for the oldest and you would get the equipment passed down. I remember opening the “used” with the same enthusiasm as the new. My Mom would always add something to the used to make it seem new, such as, new laces, paint touched up, polished and maybe our name stenciled on the item. Actually, one of the highlights was our stockings from Santa. Many a Christmas Eve, my Mom was woken before dawn, to find four children creeping around in the semi-dark house on a mission to see if Santa had come and gone. Again, the stocking held things like toothpaste, new toothbrush, candy cane, and always a nice orange in the toe! It was a wonderful, magical time that I think has been lost since Christmas starts coming at us in August. Also, who needs anything? I would admit I have quite a few wants but certainly, at this writing, no needs.

By now you can see why I’m writing this. Wouldn’t it be more meaningful and fun to go back to the “twelve days of Christmas”, not eighty? Actually be able to give someone something they need and get something you need. Teach each other that waiting for Christmas to get what may be waiting in your stocking or under the tree isn’t a bad thing but it just makes the anticipation even sweeter. Now, I’m not lobbying for you to not buy new socks or PJs when you need them and if you do, I’m not saying you have to wait for Christmas to get them. All I’m saying is that we all should have a little restraint when it comes to buying. When you can’t think of “anything” to get a person for Christmas – just maybe they already have too much.

I told you that I don’t have any needs. I just remembered I do. I need a haircut – should I wait for Christmas?

As The Leaves Are Falling…

…As the leaves are falling, old cars are being readied for their winter rest, gardens mulched and the lawn mowers put away, I watch farmers trying to get in their corn, chop the last loads of silage, and, of course, spread that aromatic slurry, I marvel at their tenacity in keeping their family farms intact and maybe make enough money to be debt-free. That ethic, in my opinion, is the best of Vermont. Wouldn’t it be nice if those who wish to demonstrate, wave signs, and do “sit-ins” put their energy and enthusiasm into helping folks trying to recover from tropical storm Irene or even help out on a farm. How much better off we would all be if that time and energy were put into producing material well-being. And there are jobs to be had; nothing wrong with a “menial” job – we can’t all be, or want to be, CEO’s. It is necessary to take the first step to get to the next one.

While in high school, I worked as a waitress, in a shop at a golf course (never did play golf), babysat and when in college, tutored a student who was dyslexic. She once asked me how you look up the spelling of a word in the dictionary, if you don’t know how to spell it. Good question since we didn’t have spell-check, let alone computers! I guess my point is, there should be a “point” to what we do in life, and we are so very lucky to live in a country where we have the opportunity to do so. See, I didn’t even mention manual transmissions or trash thrower outers!

When Did I Learn That?

Have you noticed that there are things that you know, that other people don’t seem to? Gary and I have discussed this from time to time. We can’t tell you why or how we know things but seems that we have always known certain things. This was brought to my attention recently, when my left blinker started blinking really fast which is the warning that your directional bulb has blown. Not wanting to take the time to check into it immediately, I decided I could us hand signals for a short while.

WRONG!! Stick your hand out the window to turn left and see what happens! One young lady looked at me like I was crazy and gave me a “look” that said, get off the road Granny! Some blew their horns, saying, use your blinker! I got at least one “wave” back at me! This was something I thought everyone that drives a car knows – hand signals. From this experience, I guess not, but isn’t it still covered on the drivers’ test?? One thing that I hate when driving some of our older cars, you know the ones, the ones without directional’s…. is corners. It is always in my mind, do they know about hand signals?? I can tell you that I decided that a new bulb was in order, sooner than later. Looked in the trunk and then went to the car book of “how to”. I, personally, feel the directions were not easily understood but between Gary and I (and the threat that we might have to ask for help) we got the bulb installed. The book does say that you may have to take the car to the Ford dealer for proper installation. I really don’t think Henry intended that we had to see the dealer to change a light bulb! Changing light bulbs, now that’s something I thought I always knew!

The Tropical Storm and…

Trying to think of a “Softer Side” topic, I initially drew a blank, so I picked up a new, yellow, lined pad of paper for inspiration. Hmmm, not so inspiring after all. Then came tropical storm Irene and the havoc it wreaked on Vermonters. We were in northern Maine that weekend for a family reunion, where there is no cell phone or radio reception. There were lots of relatives, pine trees, lakes and loons, but no information on the storm‘s track. The last we knew Friday morning when we left home, was that it shouldn‘t affect us until late Sunday afternoon. We left Maine early on Sunday, not knowing anything until well into Vermont. Thanks to VAE member, Ken Squire’s reporting on radio station WDEV, operating on generator power, we were guided safely across northern Vermont and all was well, but, oh, poor central and southern Vermont! Reports of Vermonters helping Vermonters, including several VAE members, men, women and schoolchildren all were working to restore power, repair roads, clean up people‘s homes and posses-sions, bringing in food and water, rescue and recovery operations, were so heartwarming. Such a lot of courage and resilience was shown by all involved. On the lighter side, we have been enjoying the Mountain Slow Spokes and Gypson Tours lately. What is especially enjoyable about old car touring is the great reception you get from people as you drive by. Most people notice and give you a smile and a wave. They all appreciate and are glad to see you. We even pulled up alongside a State trooper who rolled down his window and gave us a thumbs-up, even though we didn‘t have an inspection sticker. When you are in an old car, everyone is your friend. What a shame that some folks miss this experience, and don‘t even realize they are missing it. One can drive an expensive sports car and get attention, but the reaction from observers is more of a single finger wave, than those smiles and waves our classic cars receive. As VAE members, we treasure that reaction and hope more folks will be eager to take the road to that same experience.

Vacation “highlights”

Gary and I just returned from a 6 week vacation. I used the term vacation but perhaps it should be more like an Odyssey. It really wasn’t what I would term a “vacation”. Gary drove (and I rode) over 7,000 miles. That isn’t 7000 miles of new road, it is 7000 miles, some of which is backtracking and going forward, sideways and back again! He likes to tell people that he does all the driving, which sometimes is true but this time it wasn’t. After finding a wonderful collection of old cars, tractors, etc. and parking me in the direct sun, I took matters into my own hands and backed the truck (with camper) into the shade!! Thus breaking his record for doing all the driving! Enough of that subject. My main reason for this article was to let everyone know that all roads lead to cars (in my world anyway) and the cars lead to owners or someone who knows the owners. Everyone we have met has some connection to someone or someplace or something that we do. Sometimes it is almost eerie! We started our trip traveling to Ontario for the 4-cylinder Plymouth tour. That proved to be very enjoyable. We met a few new people and many we already were acquainted with which was good to see them again. We went from there to South Dakota to search out Jim Lay, a “Plymouth” owner who was in the process of restoring his car and had contacted Wendell Noble who had given Gary the information. We arrived at his place without too much trouble, (thankful for cell phones), and found that indeed he was doing a restoration. Of course, you know where that leads so I’ll move on. During their conversation, Jim left to get something in the house. When he returned, he gave Gary a picture of a car on a trailer – Gary looked at it and quickly realized that it was a picture of his 31 Plymouth Convertible Coupe!!! He turned the picture over and stamped on it was; Return to Harry F. Olney, 62 Chester Rd., Springfield, VT. That was Gary’s dad. It seems that Jim’s dad and Gary’s had corresponded about 50 years ago and as you could tell, Jim’s dad never returned the photo!! It is now back in the family’s hands! We were eating with our grandchildren (THEY were the reason for the trip!!) in an A&W in Helena, Montana, when a man drove in (with his grandchildren) and probably wouldn’t have caught our attention but he was driving a ’63 Ford Galaxy Convertible. Waiting for food, Gary went and talked to him and found out he was from Connecticut but had lived in Montana a long time. And of course, found the history of the car! When their food arrived, they left and got into their car. I noticed he had left his wallet and cell on the table. My husband grabbed the items and ran after him and thankfully caught up with him. Needless to say, he was very grateful. The point of this story is that if he hadn’t had that car and Gary hadn’t talked to him, we probably wouldn’t have noticed his left behind items. On our way back to Vermont, after putting on several hundred miles going around the flooding in North Dakota, we were able to link up with Jim Benjaminson. Gary and Wendell wanted to thank him for his 40 years of service as an officer in the Plymouth Club and deliver some of Wendell’s wonderful maple syrup to them. What my husband said would be an hour visit lasted all day! Are you surprised?? But, even I have to admit, it was extremely pleasant. We saw his collection, a museum he is involved with and a nice lunch. I couldn’t ask for more. So on your next vacation, go with the flow but make sure to take along a few books (I read 7), knitting or anything else that helps pass the time when you feel you can’t listen to one more car story.!!!

You Want Character… Live on a Dirt Road

There has been a lot of complaining in the media, diners, coffee shops, etc., about poor road conditions, from pot holes to mud bogs, now flooding. We live on a dirt road, and, in fact, with each new Town Manager, we bring him or her a copy of a piece entitled “Dirt Roads”. A quote from it says, “People who live at the end of dirt roads learn early on that life is a bumpy ride”. Thus dirt roads give one character. We do not want our dirt road paved as we need all the “character” we can get. I guess “character” started when we had to walk to view this house with the realtor as the road was a mud bog – but we still bought it! Just like our vintage cars, the roads we drive them on need maintenance. This is particularly true for dirt roads. Technically, of course, the Town is responsible for road maintenance, but they need a little help from the taxpayers to let them know what is needed and where. There are two approaches to doing this, the positive and the negative. Although some people don’t seem to understand this, the negative approach gets negative results and the positive approach gets positive results. With the negative approach, you make a phone call to the highest possible town managerial level, and speak loudly to be sure you are understood. Be sure to mention your credentials in terms of taxes paid and political clout. Also mention your assessment of their credentials and then explain what you want done. This will definitely get results. For example, during a winter snow storm, your road will be widely plowed, giving the mailman easy access to where your mailbox used to be. The positive approach doesn’t require any phone calls. I’ve found that a periodic stop at the town garage with a tin of sticky buns or whoopee pies gets very positive results. Our road is frequently graveled, graded, raked and chlorided to keep the dust down. That’s how they let me know when some more treats would be in order. Just as a little attention and TLC keep our vintage cars running smoothly, the softer touch keeps the roads smooth. Now don’t let me get started on people who feel a dirt road is a good place for their trash to be tossed. There is not enough room to cover that!

How Far Is Too Far?

You’ve all seen that sign that says, “Unless you are naked, don’t touch this car!” Years ago, when I first saw it (back in a time when I was trying to impress my soon to be husband), I wondered why anyone would take and put such a sign on their beautiful car. Was it a way to trick people into removing their clothes for the treat of touching their car? I never did see anyone fall for that but I can tell you, I keep my eyes open! What I’m really getting to is the cars that owners guard like Fort Knox. You can spot them at most car shows. They are the ones trailered, and covered. Oh, they tease you a bit by dropping the wheel covers to give you a seductive look at those wide white walls. They keep a duster in hand at all times. Ever vigilant to the speck of dust or the errant finger print as they circle the car, caressing the fenders with their duster. Stopping only long enough to survey the crowd for any hint of someone who might step too close! What I imagine Homeland Security to be like when the President is in town. But, unlike the President, he will take questions- in fact welcomes them. “What about the paint job?” In great detail, he will tell you about the 23 coats of hand rubbed acrylic gloss at the cost of 213 hours and $28,000. And then swing into many other details, all the while scanning the crowd for anyone that might breech the perimeter! Come on, lighten up a little. These cars are supposed to be fun. Fun to me is not taking your car out of hiding once or twice a year and spending your time worrying that something or one might touch it! I REALLY do appreciate all the precious time and money spent but there is a limit! (in my opinion). Most of these cars never saw a paved road and if you could ask Dr Horatio Jackson, some never saw a road at all! I TOTALLY agree they need to be respected and “gently” used. Don’t get me wrong- would I give my 3 year old granddaughter, Addison, a candy apple and say “go play in Grandpa’s car?” Or give Cooper, our 6 year old grandson, a couple of die cast cars and tell him that the fenders of the ’37 make a great car track? Probably not, but on the other hand…………………. Just kidding! I get it! But I have to tell you, there isn’t much better than having your grandchildren come to a car show, “drive your car” and at the end of the day, sitting on the running boards- proclaim, “Grandpa, we LOVE car shows.” So for my cars, lift the hood, open the trunk, lean in to get a good look at the dashboard and don’t forget the odometer! But, PLEASE, keep your clothes on! My grandchildren are at an impressionable age and come to think of it, “so am I!” Yes, after 39 years, I’m still trying to impress him!

The Epiphany That Created An Enthusiast

As a one-time “old car widow”, I have experienced an epiphany! When my husband first joined the Vermont Automobile Enthusiasts, one of my friends suggested with great sympathy, that going to meetings and events would be just old car “stuff” and boring talk about old car “stuff”. I tended to agree with her, so Wendell and I reached an accord in that he wouldn’t require my presence at VAE activities if he didn’t have to go to craft fairs. At some point I decided I should be a little supportive since he was so enthusiastic and worked so hard to fix up our 28 Dodge coupe. I remember a phone call from him during the Shelburne car show asking if I’d be o.k. with him buying another car, a Plymouth roadster ( we really did “need” a car with a rumble seat). I, of course, was at a craft fair. Despite my surprise at the “consult” and having no clue what a “roadster” meant, of course I agreed and he was a happy man, a very good thing. When I started to attend meetings with him, I found myself meeting a lovely group of men and women whom I otherwise wouldn’t have met. They welcomed me and made me feel needed. Since I pretty much live to be useful and to feed people (ask any of our family), the potluck meetings fulfilled that desire. When Wendell became activities chair, requiring us to bring the basics for dinners, the “new fangled” coffee pot was a challenge, but again, there was always help. And, by golly, the meetings and events were fun, informative and interesting – and that Stowe show flea market turned out to be a bonanza of really good “stuff” I could relate to while the guys talked cars. To complete my “epiphany”, when we recently attended the Farm Show in Barre, just like my experience at VAE meetings, I noticed how pleasant and friendly people there were – they would smile back at you, something sadly lacking in most crowds these days. It is very good to be surrounded by “real” people. So, I guess this makes me an “auto enthusiast” for life, as VAE members are, like, totally real. Ladies, give it a try!

New Year’s Ball

The most magical dance of the year was fast approaching and no purchased gown was to be had that satisfied the idea. The annual New Year’s Ball that was held at the town hall every year was a grand event not to be missed and especially so if one was to lead the grand march. What an honor!

After many hours of searching for the perfect ball gown it was decided that Gram would make one based on the specific instructions of my Aunt Gladys. The dress must have a sweetheart bodice with a little one-inch strap that left the arms bare. It must have enough material in the skirt to be showy, as it would flare out when the grand waltz was in progress, but not so much that it would encumber the many swinging turns and dips.

The material that was chosen was a tissue taffeta of a heavenly dark blue. The one surprising aspect of the design was a wide inset of white tissue taffeta on each side of the gathered skirt. Taffeta in itself is an amazing fabric, as it tends to shadow with movement and creates a different hue at each turn. The design was simple but stunning and looked just terrific on my aunt who was quite tall and slender. She wore elbow length white gloves with a wrist corsage of orchids and a strand of white pearls. Her shoes were strappy dark blue suede high heels made for dancing.

My mother’s gown was a beautiful pale pink waterfall satin also with a sweetheart bodice with an attached nylon train of the same shade of pink that trailed down the back to the hem. She also wore long white gloves, pearls and a corsage of white flowers that was pinned to her upsweep hairdo.

The grand march and dance was a complete success, as were the dresses. I can just see the sea of beautiful gowns and hear the terrific waltz band playing now!