Before There Were Cars

Back in 1991 a friend of mine told me how he had spotted a classic car and tried to chase it down to find out who the owner was.  It was a 1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass in black.  From what he could tell it was in excellent condition and he was anxious to follow it.  He did his best, but the little old lady driving it pulled away and left him in the dust and wondering if he would ever come across the classic again.

I smiled and laughed and told him that I knew who it was. It was my grandmother Jessie.

She, like many of us Leonard’s, felt very comfortable speeding around the roads she had spent decades on.  Behind the wheel of her black Cutlass, with a Quadrajet feeding its V8 engine, she had no problem making time.

She kept her car in the detached two-car garage that she and her husband lived in while their house was being built.  She had her first child in that garage.  It was a large garage with work shop in the back.  When I was still too young to drive I would go visit her so I could go out to the garage and see the 1928 Packard that was also stored there.  My father had gone in with some other investors to purchase the antique car and they hoped that some time in the future it would become more valuable.

A little later in my life I not only obtained a drivers license, I also attended college.  Feeling worldly and well educated I was visiting Jessie and decided to ask her a question that, at the time, I felt was very intellectual.  She had been born at the end of the nineteenth century and had seen her world change greatly.  So I asked her what it was like before there were cars.

My expectation was that she would relate how long it would take to get to various towns and cities, or maybe what it was like the first time she saw an automobile.  I waited as she looked off into the distance for a moment and then she said, “Flies. Flies everywhere.”

I was stunned.  With just three words she had conveyed volumes of information.  Of course there were flies.  Everyone had to have horses to get around and chickens to eat and all kinds of animals to get work done and to provide sustenance.  With all these animals around there were bound to be flies. 

Jessie lived to within three months of becoming a hundred years of age.  She was the recipient of the Blount Cane.  It was given to the oldest resident of the village.  Her grandfather had been the first to get it and his reaction was that, “he’d sooner have his coffin in the house”.  It was made from whale bone.  Jessie was a good sport about it, but I have no doubt that she felt much the same way about it that her grandfather did.

I miss her.  She taught me a lot.

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One Response to Before There Were Cars

  1. Lenna says:

    I couldn’t help picturing Jessie in my mind… I like her answer “Flies. Flies everywhere” 🙂

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