Published: December 9, 2012
A gathering cloud of dust on our unpaved farm road triggered great interest, during the crop-growing seasons of youth.
So few vehicles traveled our 2-mile long dusty farm lane, a new-looking vehicle really stirred our curiosity.
Two debates were about to commence: First, what kind of vehicle was coming down our gravel road? Second, which family was in the vehicle in question? In that era, one could tell for a country mile what make of car was approaching.
Because we could view a mile or more up and down our road in flat-land farming country, drama built as the transport in question came closer.
As the car, tractor or farm truck got within eye-balling view, it gave cause to pause and lean on our cotton-chopping hoe handle without field bosses complaining.
“It’s a Plymouth,” older brother Van might guess.
“Nope, it’s the Pontiac delivery wagon from Bestway Cleaners, driven by (brothers) Arlie or Alvie Jones,” speculated sister Mary June.
“Can’t be,” contended first cousin Robert Terry “Good Boy” Reed. “It’s a Packard,”
Canalou hometown grocery/whiskey store merchant Tootie Ralph’s uniquely-shaped black “Henry J” was the only one of its brand in our neck of the woods.
Another area farmer’s Kaiser was highly recognizable too, since it stayed broken down most of the time in that neighbor’s front yard.
Another instantly-recognizable neighborhood car, was a vintage black 1949 Ford coupe, powered by one of those powerful new-fangled V-8 engines.
All farmers knew to pull their farm equipment off to the side of the road, when they saw neighbor Bruce Gene Bryant headed their direction in a cloud of dust while floor-boarding his souped-up coupe.
How fast did Bruce Gene drive? So fast, it caused some folks to lose their cotton patch religion.
“Here comes that Bryant boy, who drives like a bat out of hell,” I heard my church-going, hard-working farm mother describe more than once.
Sometimes, when one of my fellow cotton field hoe’rs wanted to strut a little, he’d try to guess the model year of the approaching vehicle in question.
Since fancy new vehicles were few and far between up and down our remote rural artery to the outside world, those debates helped pass the tortuously slow doldrums of time in the cotton fields of our youth in the 1950s.
We always knew when farmer A.J. Neel was coming down the lane, for he was the only neighbor who drove a faded red, turned-orange- colored slow-moving Dodge truck.
I also kept a keen boyhood eye peeled on the lookout for any white GMC farm pickup. For I had a crush on A.J.’s niece, a 9-year-old foxy little brunette named Jackie Marion. Her family was one of only two families who owned a white pickup in our community.
Personal cars could be status symbols in our farming community.
For example, when my sister broke up with one of her high school sweethearts, he brought a sleek new Plymouth Fury out to the farm house, with those hot-looking sweeping biggo fins, in trying to woo sister back into his courting web.
Another of sister’s suitors drove a sleek-looking needle-nosed Studebaker, a car that looked like a space ship, designed too far ahead of its time to be successful in the market place. Cousin Robert Terry and I wanted her to keep him as a beau, so we could ride in his sleek-looking car.
Our old Studebaker farm truck was so durable, we named it Elvis, for it continued to shake, rattle and roll despite its years and mileage.
I taught myself to drive in that old Studebaker and a model A John Deere tractor that cranked with a fly wheel.
My late great friend, Middle Tennessee’s weather prognosticating/garden-growing genius C.L. Vickers, loved owning and restoring vintage farm pickup trucks.
Give C.L. an old truck to restore, and he was destined to soon be seen in Woodbury, Auburntown, Murfreesboro and Milton parades.
He shared a love for vintage vehicles with one of his neighbors in the rural Burt community.
Wife Patricia and I were recently stopped at one of Murfreesboro’s trained stop lights that issues costly traffic tickets, when we agreed: If not for emblems or trade names on today’s vehicles, you’d never be able to name them by sight.
When field workers tired of talking vehicles, we’d argue whether the Brooklyn Dodgers or St. Louis Cardinals had the best National League baseball team – anything to take our minds off the field labor at hand.