Friday, January 27, 2012

Let's Get in the Car

It might be for a ride to Bow Lake from my Massachusetts home where I marked time until I could go back to NH. It might be to explore Tampa after we had just ridden for 1,200 miles from NH. It might be to buy a dog statue for my mother to place in the garden. Or even a "Deep Woods Adventure" with my mother and brother and, later, with my kids. Motion and possibility. All things are possible if you will just get in the car.

My Dad drove at a maximum speed of 48 miles an hour. Just right for the curvy switchback roads of early NH. Dad disagreed with other relatives who took the longer way because the roads were straight and flat. He felt speeding wasn't the answer. Although I do remember sailing through the pines, zipping around corners to make sure we arrived before that other relative. Soon we would come to the white stones which someone had placed along the road - it was our sign that Bow Lake was very close.

When the dog days of summer pressed down on us here on Water Street, we got into the car and took to the woods. It was cool and shady, although my brother threatened to throw up if we didn't get him some ice cream soon. I was 16 and mostly drove barefoot. My leather hard soles were beaten into toughness from years of barefoot summers. It did present some problems as driving barefoot was illegal. At the time I wore a size 6 1/2 shoe. My mother wore a size 8. She would place her shoes on the hump on the floor in between us. The theory being that, should we be stopped, I could quickly slide into her shoes. Heaven only knows what would have happened if I had been asked to step out of the car in her "boats"!

Most of the driving on our "Deep Woods Adventures" was all on dirt roads. Some times we would take a woods path and discover it to be an old logging road. Grass in the middle of the road was a sign to stay in first gear. I'd never heard of 4 wheel drive back then. Occasionally we would come to an old wooden bridge. My method of assessment was to get out and jump up and down on the bridge to test its safety. In hindsight I wonder why it never occurred to me that my 103 pounds might not be an accurate test for a 2000 pound car. But we always made it. We also drove into fields following the tractor paths. Exploration of fields was always problematic due to hidden wells. We watched for lilac bushes, a sure sign of an early home with a dug well.

Whatever we had in the refrigerator was not what we wanted to eat. So let's go to Rochester. I remember my father calling to us as we got into the car, "Don't buy the most expensive hot dogs". Gas was cheap so, of course, we would go for a ride. We drove around the lake, drove to the store, drove to get ice cream and, oh yes, we
drove because we could. Dad gave us "egg money". He always liked eggs fresh from the farm stand, preferably extra large or jumbo. But we wanted to have "running money". So while he was back working in Massachusetts we ate tiny pullet eggs and spent the rest of the money on ice cream.

There were responsibilities being the operator of a car. Just like us people, getting clean meant going into the lake. We had no bath tubs or showers in our cottages and certainly no car washes were available. But we did have, as luck would have it, a boat launch ramp right across the street from the cottage. There were also lots of new cleaning products on the market back then. Lestoil was advertised as being the answer to all dirt. So I drove the car down the ramp. Neglecting to read the instructions, I poured the Lestoil into my hand and smeared it all over my 1953 blue Chevy. Since we didn't have a hose either, I rinsed the concoction with a bucket and was pleased with the results. The color looked a little "parched" but it was clean. The weekend came and Dad came up to "straighten us out". It seems that our neighbor's water line ran right up from the boat ramp and I had provided him with Lestoil scented water. It wasn't pretty!

A short drive gives one time to think and challenges the person behind the wheel to control the situation. Maybe I didn't say the right thing, but I am able to control this weighty car. I can play loud music in the style others don't care for. I can change my scenery. Things seem less threatening pulling back into the yard than when I left because I am empowered with the ability to change my scene.

Years have gone by; I'm now a painter in oils on canvas. Although the subject matter of cars and trucks has not always brought good sales, I'm continually fascinated with the next vehicle to place on canvas.