First Car

As my octogenarianism grows into its fifth year, my mind continues to wonder as I wander.
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My first car was going to be the coolest in town. Many of the coolest old cars of today are the ones we rejected when we were in our teens.
To be seen in a pre-WWII Plymouth sedan or other ‘granny car’ wasn’t cool. Now one like that can get over $10,000 on the open market. Even some of the other transports of that time are worth far more than then.

There were two cars in town that nearly every one of my peers and I wanted. The owner of a café frequented by teens had a four-door 1939 or 1940 Ford phaeton convertible. The other was a seldom driven 1941 Ford coupe owned by the spinster head librarian at the city library.

My first car never ran, but it didn’t cost much either.
Like many boys with a new license and visions of having something cool to drive, I got a free hulk from a neighbor. A few bucks at a wrecking yard got me a windshield from a 1935 Auburn Phaeton. How cool to have a rumble seated roadster with a custom windshield.

Our neighbor landlord had been a Ford mechanic and taught me how to pour babbitt bearings. I started to re-assemble the engine so I could sell it and get a V8 for what would be the coolest roadster in town.

Mother convinced me I was pounding sand into a sink hole, so I sold the hulk and partly assembled engine to the junk dealer. But I kept the Auburn windshield for several years.

Driver Education

As my octogenarianism grows into its fifth year, my mind continues to wonder as I wander.
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Seventy years ago I started paying serious attention to cars.

I learned some of the basics of driving when I was eleven. Not on the road, but in a North Dakota farmer’s field. The farmer hired me for $2.00 a day to drive his tractor and pull a combine for harvesting oats and wheat. This is not the time to discuss child labor! In ten days, I had enough to buy over 100 gallons of gas if I’d had a car.

I was sure I’d get to drive his truck alongside the combine and take grain to the elevator a few miles away the next summer. Underage farm kids had implied but not necessarily legal permission to drive with that purpose. Legal or not, it was a very common practice. But we moved.

The summer after my 14th birthday in Minnesota, I anticipated getting a learner permit, but with no family vehicle, I couldn’t even cheat at some time behind the wheel. Well, one of the farm kids I’d met in high school had been driving an on the farm only unlicensed pickup since he was about ten. I’d talked about my tractor work and he invited me to practice with the 1930s something REO.

I’m sure that his dad knew, but he never said anything about my friend stopping their newer truck a half mile away from the farm with a load of farm product and letting me take the wheel. That was good practice for me, but certainly not legal for either of us. As tempting as it was, we didn’t stop at the A&W or sneak a drive through town.

I got my official Minnesota Driver Leaner Permit in October 1951. My mother, legally blind, wasn’t licensed in Minnesota and as I said before we didn’t have a family car. We had a car in ND, and she drove it to MN. The prospect of getting legal experience was as bright as a snowless winter in MN.

My only option was to sign up for official driver education offered by the school as soon as the snow was mostly off the ground the spring of 1952.

My mouth got in the way of what the rest of me could do quite well. Parallel parking was done with posts at the corners of an on-street parking place. I’m not sure just what I said, but it was something like, “Mr. Xxxx, I believe it’s ridiculous to park with sticks when the real test would be to have some wrecking yard cars parked for us to get in between.”

The instructor’s look told me I should keep quiet, but I added as I completed the maneuver into the space, “How many times have you had to park between sticks.”

He got out and told me I was more than a foot from the curb to which I said something about the street-side posts being much more than a car’s width from the curb, so I’d actually parked correctly. I did a recovery and asked if he’d show me how to get closer to the curb. He hit the front stick twice, then sent me home.

I got a letter authorizing me to take the state patrol test and the next week two junkers were parked the required six inches from the curb in front and in back of the driver education practice spot.

Sixty-nine years ago this month I got my Minnesota Driver License.



As my octogenarianism grows into its fifth year, my mind continues to wonder as I wander.
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I quote myself, “The crows don’t seem to show fear of the dogs. They just fly up until the dogs pass and settle back to their eating or whatever is on their morning agenda.”
And it hasn’t faded from my mind that a number of times a Murder ripped new Walla Walla Sweets from where I set put the starts. And there’s the corn issue.
The roto-tilling* is finished and the winter grass clumps have been removed. Tomatoes will have to wait until the sun warms our Southwest Washington soil enough to ensure good growth.
*Someone I will call they said roto-tilling will kill the earth worms. The they also said the safest way to prevent killing the soil blenders is to hand spade. I remember when I didn’t have a toto-tiller and did just that. On my first dig I cut some worms in half. However, my mild trauma ended when I learned that the head half of the worm will likely regenerate a new tail. So, what’s the difference if a worm is cut by a spade or a machine?

Walla Wallas are in the ground and the net frame is nearly complete.

Corn starting update:1Not that I believe anyone really cares.
The crows didn’t get them from the garage window, so these will go into the ground today!

Dogs and Walkers Walking Dogs

As my octogenarianism grows into its fifth year, my mind continues to wonder as I wander.
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Crows have been on my mind but it went elsewhere. Well, not exactly – I did mention my observations of crows while on walks.
On past saunters, 1I could have used ‘walk’ but I remember a teacher saying I should use a variety of words meaning generally the same thing. a dog behind a six-foot cedar fence barked. It did the first week on our route, the two days last week, yesterday and again today. I gave some attention to the reliability of the fasteners securing the wooden boards to something behind. Would or could the dog, or perhaps dogs, behind the fence charge a gap and attempt to have my leg for lunch? Would I have to go on Judge Judy for a settlement? Just a fleeting thought.

Farther along the walk, a dog has barked from inside a house (like the Yorkie in the comic strip “Grand Avenue”). I met that dog at a garage sale last summer. Then it barked while standing inside the garage on a slack leash. No lunging from that one. Just a response to a human in its territory. What would the one behind the fence do with a stranger in its self-assigned territory? I know dogs have the bark response to instill doubt in the mind of any who might cross the imaginary line. So be it! I’m not going to do more than walk by and let the dog bark.

Another dog I saw and have seen before lives behind a chain-link fence. It appears agile enough to jump over but seldom runs toward it while barking. Its companion dog just stands and watches.

I saw five leashed dogs and four walkers walking them. One was probably being trained. It barked back at chain-link dog. Its walker made a motion, it stopped barking, and it went to an observing hunkered down position. At another motion, the canine trainee almost sprang to sitting at attention. There was a second snapping of fingers and the trainee stood. Dog and master walked away even while chain-link dog woofed a few more times. Don’t know if trainee dog looked back – I was going the other direction.

A lady who looked to be dressed more for a dog show than for walking on the street appeared from a side-street with a pair of Greyhounds. They also looked to be dressed for show with matching blankets on their backs. Neither made a sound.

One lady jogged behind a Pitbull. Its guttural sound inspired me to slow my pace until it and human were well ahead of me.

The other person I saw was being pulled by a large mutt. I asked, “Who’s walking whom?”

She said, “This is building up my arms more than my legs.” Then they were gone.
Oh, the crows don’t seem to show fear of the dogs. They just fly up until the dogs pass and settle back to their eating or whatever is on their morning agenda.

Corn starting update:2Not that I really believe anyone really cares.

If the seeds disappear from the garage window, I’ll quit for the year! Not!



Of Crows

Our neighborhood, thus where my wife and I walk, isn’t infested by crows, but there’s enough continuous crow activity to be noticed. I’ve seen Murders of crows, but most of the time I see them in groups of three. [Yes, three crows can be a Murder!]
Crow watching is usually in my back yard, so I don’t concentrate on crow activity while we walk, but what they do isn’t just background either.
Crows seem to be like cats – no one can tell them what to do.
Crows seem to be like dogs – they claim territory and loudly let other beings know when that their claimed territory is being approached.
Crows seem to be like sharks – they’ll eat anything.
Crows seem to be like fraternity brothers or sorority sisters – they stick together.
Crows seem to be quite assertive, even to the level of aggressive bullying – I’ve seen them in groups of three, chasing a lone hawk. Wonder if they’ll chase an owl or eagle? Don’t they know raptors can kill even larger critters with talons and beak.
Crows seem to have military like organization of duties – one appears to stand apart as if on sentry duty while the other two eat – rotation of duty seem almost as if scheduled. Fairly often I see a pair of them chasing a squirrel away from a buried nut or other goody in my back yard while one watches from the fence.
Crows can’t kill a squirrel or other small animal on their own, so they take positions and chase a squirrel into the street as a vehicle approaches. [A Murder of crows murders a squirrel?] I’ve never seen a crow kill anything to eat except a worm or grub from a lawn after rain or a recent watering. This morning I saw six crows (note the second multiple of three) pulling apart the body of a small animal, probably a squirrel, well smashed on the street. Those guys must have been really hungry – there wasn’t a visible lookout.
I didn’t take it personally when they ate my corn seeds. I just consider that’s what they do alone or team up with others in their Murder. Considering my planting, It’s my job to out cleaver them, not theirs to change natural behavior.
I have to admit, however, I have thought about the murder of a Murder.