Every woman can relate to being taken for a ride by a mechanic who took advantage of her lack of knowledge about the automobile, but most of us would hope that the mechanic that took advantage wasn’t related, and certainly wouldn’t expect that it would be their brother. Nevertheless, when that brother is of the type to take great pleasure in teasing his sisters, everything is fair game…and there are no rules. It is every sibling for themselves. Over the course of the years when my husband, Bob’s brother, Ron was too young to help out with the cars, Bob was the family mechanic, and he enjoyed it very much.
He was also a big clown, and he thoroughly enjoyed picking on his sisters. One time his sister, Brenda wanted him to fix her turn signal. She wasn’t sure what was wrong with it, and so she asked her mechanic for his opinion. He told her that it could be low on blinker fluid, and made arrangements to have her come to our house so he could check it for her. She was happy with that, but when she told someone else that she had to get her blinker fluid checked…well, let the laughter begin. Brenda didn’t live that one down for quite a while, and in fact, it was a standing joke for years. Of course, Brenda was a good sport about it, even making the joke herself on many occasions. So now you know that if your turn signal doesn’t work, forget fuses, it is most likely the blinker fluid.
Of course, Bob just wanted to see if he could pull one over on his sister, and unlike scamming mechanics, he would never have charged her for checking the blinker fluid, but there are many women that haven’t had such an honest, though quite bratty mechanic. I have to wonder how many women have actually paid someone to check their blinker fluid…or is my husband the only brat who would prey on his gullible sister with such a crazy repair idea. I’m sure that here are a number of scamming mechanic stories out there, and that is a sad thing, but my mechanic might tease his women clients, but would never rip them off.
Bob always was and always will be a great kidder, and his favorite targets are his family members. No one is immune…they are all fair game. He has even done it to me, although I had been married to him for a few years by then, so I was a little more wise to his tricks, when he tried to convince me that the kick in the seat of the pants feeling my car was giving me was all in my head and not the U-Joint that it really was. I got even though, we were going out with some friends, and we went in our car, and the car did the same thing, and I said, “There!! Did you guys feel that?” Well, Bob was stuck, and sheepishly admitted that it was the U-Joint, and he was going to fix it, but I wasn’t going to let it go at that. I told our friends that he had been trying to convince me for a couple of weeks, that there was nothing wrong, and it was all in my head. As Bob, looking like the cat that ate the canary, grinned at us, we all got a laugh at his expense for once.
When the automobile first came out, very few people had one. Like most things when they first come out, they were first thought of as frivolous. If people could have seen the world as we see it today, they would not only have been shocked, but they would have understood the need to have one of those new fangled contraptions. Nevertheless, like any new invention, they soon caught on, and more people traded off their wagon for the automobile. It was a slow process, however, and many people thought the ones who had the first automobiles were a bit snooty, or that they were using the automobile as a status symbol…and maybe to a degree they were. It’s like that today too. First it was the computer, then the laptop, then the cell phone, then the smart phone, then the iPad…and the list goes on, depending on what you are into.
When the automobile came out, they scared the horses, who had to use the same roads, and they scared the people too, because the seemed to have no controls. They weren’t sure the machine could be stopped. They thought it might be a death trap. And it can be, if it is misused, but as we all know, it can also be a very useful tool in our everyday lives. The problem the people of those early years had was that it was an unknown. That made it much more scary. They also felt that what they had was good enough, which is the same as many people today think too.
As the years went by though, the car became a common thing. Everyone has one these days…or almost. We are so used to cars that we think nothing of our 16 year old children driving them. We know how they work…in fact, most 15 year olds know how they work. As commonplace as they are, I think most people still feel like they are a status symbol, and we try to have one that reflects who we are. Nevertheless, when you look at the old pictures of people with those older cars, you could see that they really knew the value of that machine, and they didn’t take it for granted like we do today. Status symbol…yes, then and now, but maybe it meant a little more to them then.
During the early years of my grandparents marriage, they lived in several places, as many people do. They spent time in Lisbon, North Dakota, and several areas of Minnesota, including Loman, Minnesota, where they had a homestead. My Aunt Laura was born in International Falls, Minnesota, which is 21 miles from Loman. These days, that is a 24 minute drive, but back then it was quite a bit more, especially since not everyone owned a car in those days. In 1918, 1 in 13 families owned a car. Then by 1929, 4 out of 5 families owned a car. A lot has changed in the years since then. Most families have at least 2 vehicles. Nevertheless, at the time my Aunt Laura was born in 1912, cars, or motor buggies as they were called, were a novelty item owned by the wealthy. That said, I would expect that my grandparents were living in International Falls at the time of my aunt’s birth, and then moved to Loman, Minnesota after that time.
At some point in the year 1918, my grandfather and grandmother decided to leave the life they had built in Minnesota, spread their wings, and head south to look for greener pastures, so to speak. They had gone as far as Kansas City, presumably by train, where they bought what I’m sure was their first automobile, and headed off to Mena, Arkansas. I’m not sure how long they were in Mena, Arkansas, but eventually they ended up in Ranger, Texas, where it would appear that he might have worked in the oil fields for a time.
I can imagine how exciting this trip must have been for my Aunt Laura, who was 7 years old at the time. Not only was she going on a whole new adventure, to a whole new place, but she was going the family’s first automobile. When you are used to going places in a horse drawn buggy this new mode of travel must have been very exciting. It had speed without the horses, and better control. She could feel the wind in her hair as they flew down the road. It was a huge new adventure, a fast paced adventure, for a girl who was used to life in a slow paced world.
I’m not sure just how long they lived in Texas, but I do know that by the time my Uncle Bill was born in 1922, the family was back in the north, living in Superior, Wisconsin. Maybe they didn’t like the heat or maybe they missed the Great Lakes region in general. I don’t know why for sure, but I do know that except for a few short years, my grandparents would live out their lives in Superior, Wisconsin. Aunt Laura, who didn’t like the cold much would spread her wings again later in her life and head out west, finally settling in Oregon, where she felt most at home.
As we go through this journey we call life, this world we live in will go through many changes. As I was looking at old family pictures, and it got me thinking about what a change it must have been to go from the horse and buggy days to the automobile. My grandfather and my Uncle Ted (back seat right two people) I’m quite sure grew up with the idea that cars were going to be around, but my great grandfather (back left) must have been quite in awe over the changes going on in his life. I remember the first time I drove a car, but I had ridden in a car many times by that time, and they were commonplace items. I just can’t imagine seeing a car for the first time as an adult, but that is what so many of our ancestors did. Bob’s grandmother talked often of the changes from a horse and buggy to the car.
When I was a kid, a computer took up an entire room, and nobody had one in their home. Then came the PC, and people started buying them. Pretty soon everyone had one in their house. Now there are laptops, netbooks, tablets, and even smart phones. I remember too, when the only phones that existed where in a building or the occasional telephone booth…remember those. Telephone booths almost don’t exist anymore, because we all have a phone in our purse or pocket, and most of them are smart phones now, so we can even access the internet with them.
So many changes have taken place in in the past 200 years alone, that our ancestors would not even know this place if they could see it. I have to wonder how much of it would absolutely terrify them, if they could step into our time. And what would our thoughts be if we could step back into the old West? Back to the days when the harvesting was done with a horse and wagon, and it took a large group of people to get the job done. Hay was cut down using scythes and loaded in the wagon using rakes and a pitchfork. That was a much harder time in our history, and the harvest wasn’t taken so much for granted. School was planned around it, because the kids were needed to help with the harvest too.
Sometimes, I think we all need to look back in time once in a while, and really see how very blessed we are to be living in a time where much of our work is easy, food is abundant, travel is quick, and staying in touch with people all over the world is a normal, everyday event.