Sunday, April 05, 2009

Lilly's New Car

My grandparents moved to our ranch in 1931, but my grandmother had lived within a few miles her entire life, except for the years when she was sent to Indian schools in Carlysle, PA and Chemawa, OR. or the mission school near Browning. When she was a girl, it took at least a day to travel to the nearest town in a buckboard wagon. In her seventies she flew to Hawaii in less time.

My great-uncle Bish and his wife Lilly lived a couple miles north of my grandparents. If their children wandered out of the yard they ended up in Canada. Uncle Bish worked hard, often taking on outside jobs to supplement his ranch income. Thus they were able to afford the first car in the community.

The car was undoubtedly a miracle after rumbling around in buggies and wagons. There were, however, some down sides to being a step ahead of your neighbors. The most obvious was the roads--or complete lack thereof. The countryside was criss-crossed with a network of wagon ruts. Forget pavement, there wasn't even any gravel.

Aunt Lilly was bursting to show off their shiny new car. She loaded up a handful of kids and roared over to take her sister-in-law for a spin. Another kid or two were stuffed in the back seat and they were off.

The second, more hazardous down side to being first to own a car was that Lilly had never actually had an opportunity to learn to drive. For reasons known only to herself, she determined that the best method for dealing with bumps was to go faster. Perhaps she figured the harder you hit 'em, the farther you'd fly, skimming over a few rocks in the process. Every time she spotted a hole or a badger mound, she jammed the accelerator to the floor.

They careened across the prairie, women giggling, kids squealing, heads rapping off the roof of the car, having the time of their lives. Then they came to the creek.

The crossing was narrow and deep. Lilly approached it the same way she did most everything else in life--at full speed. The car bucked and jolted and lurched to a stop, buried in mud.

Grandma couldn't recall how they got that car unstuck. After much pushing and praying, rocking and spinning, it finally lumbered onto dry ground.

The bumper, however, remained in the creek.

Grandma stared at the detached bumper in horror. "Oh, Lilly! Bish is going to be so upset. What are we going to do?"

Lilly contemplated for a moment, then marched over, yanked the bumper out of the mud, and tossed it off into a patch of tall weeds.

"No one will even notice," she declared.

And away they went.


Kari Lynn Dell said...

I'm sure some people will want to know what happened when they got home with the bumper-less car. I honestly don't know. My grandma never included Bish's reaction when she told us this story. Maybe because she never used swear words.

Anonymous said...

Your sister here. I seem to recall Grandma saying that the patch of tall grass was in Canada. Clearing an international violation of some kind!

Anonymous said...

Your other sister here. I recall grandma saying as the bumper was tossed into the weeds that it wasn't worth keeping if it was going to fall off so easily.

Anonymous said...

Your only brother here. I can actually see grandma telling the story, flailing her arms about with much gusto.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Looks like the gang's all here. I've always pictured them tossing the bumper into the coulee by the corrals, in the buck brush below the old house.

Being Beth said...

I absolutely love your stories. This one in particular -- especially with all your siblings chiming in with a different version. Sounds like my family. Are you working on a family history? That's one of my projects, and I've enjoyed collecting all the stories of old. These things are priceless.

I was in your neck of the woods in 2007. My husband and I took a 25th wedding anniversary tour up to Seattle, drove across Washington to visit relatives in Spokane, and then went into northern Montana and up into Canada to Creston where we visited our relatives who own a large cherry orchard. It's a rich and lovely area and I long to return.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Come back again. I think we could become penpals. LOL.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Isn't this just the coolest thing about the internet? This is the closest the four of us have come to being in the same room since last August.