My First Car
by Betty Ann Damms
edited: Friday, January 19, 2001
Posted: Wednesday, January 17, 2001
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My husband's unusual "first car". Published in 6/2000 Hudson Valley Mature Life magazine.
MY FIRST CAR
My first car was a little unusual, or should I say, largely unusual.
I was raised on a farm in Charlestown, Rhode Island, and you could say my interests were quite different from the typical fifteen-year old boy who lived in town.
Once a week, on the way to Westerly for supplies, I would eyeball my “dream machine”, hoping it would not be sold by the time I managed to save enough money. It had sat in a farmer’s yard for ages, and I paid scrap price for it. But fifty dollars was still a lot of money, and I mowed lawns and scrimped to save it up.
When I handed over my hard-earned bills, I was delighted to be the proud owner of a 1943, six-wheeled, GMC small dump truck. My first attempts to start it proved fruitless, so I got it home in an unusual way. My father towed it – behind his Nash Rambler American, and almost burned out his clutch, to boot!
Of course, I wanted it to look its best, so I brushed on new coats of Rustoleum – painted it red and black. It was never inspected. Wasn’t needed. It was registered with farm plates. I hauled manure and hay, and put a spreader on the back, to put lime on the fields. And I’d drive it down the dirt road to the fishing pond. Never caught anything, and maybe that’s why I don’t fish today.
I was real proud that the dump always worked. But the regular brakes, well, it was hard to keep them working. So between the emergency brake, which worked real well, and downshifting, I managed to avoid things.
One day, jockeying a full load of manure down Burdickville Road to the farm, I came upon a group of kids standing in the road, loaded with fishing gear. Of course, my truck decided at that moment to have the brakes go, but between my famous emergency brakes and my skill in white-knuckled downshifting, we all survived. Needless to say, my father forbade me to drive it on the road again.
No farming is done anymore on the patch of land we worked so hard on, so long ago. Scrub pines and brush have reclaimed most of the acreage. But to my knowledge, that old truck still rests under the pine tree behind the farmhouse.