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Let’s go for a ride

Those were sorta magic like words back yonder in the 40s and 50s to young ‘uns.and grown ups, too. Daddy, Ma, Billy and I would load up in that coup named the Captain, or after that old vehicle gave up the ghost, then in the Chevy, and off we would put from our little dirt street in Linden. Sometimes the trip would be nowhere special, but on other occasions we’d rush off down to the train depot when we heard the steam engine whistle, just to see who might be getting on or off that choo choo train. Seems like we used to have a heap of fires, and when we heard the siren sound down at the jail, Daddy would ring up Solly, the Central telephone operator, to find out where the fire was, so we could join the spectators at that event.

It was a good thing to ride around on a Sunday afternoon, back when we boys were young, and not embarrassed to be seen riding around with our mama and daddy by the other kids. Specially nice on a hot afternoon with the windows rolled down on account of we didn’t have air conditioners in the car… or the house for that matter.

‘Course, you had to consider the cost of a trip, but at 19 cents a gallon for fuel, we could manage. Hey, never will forget when a new service station with tire changing and everything opened up down the hill and ‘cross the street from the Court House. I’m pretty sure Dewey Cochran had the grand opening right after the war, and I went down there with Daddy in my overalls. I was mighty disappointed when I didn’t get a job changing tires even if I was only six.

I was always, and still am a big radio listener whether at home or in the automobile. There was a certain amount of my country music on those AM stations, and I was country when country wasn’t cool, but I still remember those 30 minute radio shows like Sky King, The Shadow, Sgt Preston of the Yukon, Dragnet, The Life of Riley. Tin Pan Alley, and all such as that, whether riding around or sitting round the radio in the living room. To catch the beginning of a show you had to allow an extra minute or two on account of those radio tubes had to warm up before the first sound was emitted.

We traveled up to Selma to see my grandma and ‘nem a heap. Billy and I had to occupy our time, so we’d do stuff like counting Chevrolets and Fords. He’d take one, and I the other. Never much trouble identifying which was which back in those days. Another traveling game was counting cows on your side of the road. Many times I’d see a whole pasture full of the critters, and I’d holler out to my baby brother, “Let’s count cows! I’ll take this side.” Sometimes you’d just have to guess at the number in a herd. Don’t forget we were zooming down that two lane highway at near ‘bout 50 miles an hour.

If you didn’t feel like working yourself up in a lather with the car or cow game, you could just lean back in the back seat, or even lie down in the luggage place in the back window, and do what you sometimes did in the side yard at home. Figure out the shapes in the clouds. “Hey, you see that cloud that looks like a cow?” There I go again with the cattle thing, but I like those critters. I sat on my tractor in the pasture yesterday, and enjoyed watching my little herd gather up around me just to saw howdy. (Or maybe hoping for a little extra feed).

Fact of the matter is life was slow enough to see a whole heap through the windows of those 1940 and early 50 automobiles. One could do worse than take the time to gaze up from the humming highway, and figure out that a cloud hanging up there looked just like your Great Uncle Cedric.

— Tom Boggs is a columnist for the Demopolis Times and a native of Marengo County. His column,“Days Gone Bye,” appears weekly.

(This column originally appeared in the Wednesday, February 13 issue of the Demopolis Times.)