Granddad versus the automobile
Date posted: July 5, 2013
Granddad was past 35 before he learned to drive a car. He thought a car should go anywhere a team and wagon would go. As a result, he needed a new car often. No one wanted his trade-ins. His cars were well used and abused. Henry Ford was selling new model T cars for less than $400 back then.
One time dad was behind granddad and found him in the ditch. Granddad was upset. He told my dad that he wanted to turn gee (the teamster’s command to go right) and the damned car went haw (the teamster’s command to go left). If he wanted to look at a cow or horse regardless of the terrain he attempted to drive there.
In 1921 my grandparents, dad and Mr. and Mrs. Bill Meeks took a trip from northeast Wyoming to Yellowstone Park. Granddad was driving a new Buick and Bill was driving a new Hupmobile. They were gone a month and did a lot of fishing. They stayed in tents and cooked over campfires. They opened and closed a lot of gates en route and in the park. They both had two mounted spare tires because they had a lot of flat tires.
Neither one of the cars had a lot of power, but granddad and Bill were proud of their cars. When going up a steep hill, everyone had to get out and push. They threw a rock behind the rear wheel when the car powered out. After getting the lead car to the crest of the hill, they all had to do the same with the other car. Although both cars had to be pushed up the hills, Granddad and Bill had some heated arguments at night about who had the best car.
Granddad took the train to Billings to pick up a new 1926 International truck. A truck in those days could haul about the same load that a pickup could today. The steering and the suspension were poor and those old trucks were rough and a job to drive. A day and a half after leaving Billings, granddad made it to Gillette. He was only 48 miles from home, but he had enough of that truck. He parked the truck by the Gillette depot and bought a train ticket home. After getting home, he bought a ticket for my dad and sent him to Gillette to get the truck. Dad was 14 years old. There was no driver’s license law in Wyoming then.
When dad graduated from high school in 1931, granddad gave him a 1930 Chevy sedan for graduation. The car did not have a radio or heater. When dad got enough money to buy one or the other, naturally he chose the radio. Later on a very cold morning, granddad asked dad to take him to the county seat 28 miles away to do some business. Granddad was bundled up and had blankets to keep him warm. The radio was blaring away. Granddad said to dad, “David the radio sure keeps it nice, warm and cozy in here.” Granddad had a lot of those fitting remarks.
Although their businesses were sometimes in competition with each other, Claude Wilkerson and granddad were absolutely the best of friends. They enjoyed going to Sand Creek near Beulah, Wyo., to camp and fish together. Claude had a Durant car and granddad had a Buick. The only road that had a hard surface on the way was between Sundance and Beulah. Claude and granddad liked to speed on that road. Dad told me that they could get their cars up to 55 or 60 miles an hour maximum on that stretch of road. Granddad was really proud of that.
Guest columnist Bob Huff grew up in Upton, Wyo. He is a driver for the mini-bus managed by the Senior Center. “Center Stage is written by friends of the Senior Center for the Sheridan Community. It is a collection of insights and stories related to living well at every age.”