Boys & Field Cars

2 August 2006



The first time I encountered a field car was when I was 17 years old. My family had recently moved from suburbia to an old farm out in the country. I had never driven a car before and was looking forward to getting my permit. But the 12-year-old kid next door had his own field car. He could barely see over the steering wheel and he was driving his own car!

The vehicle actually belonged to his father. It was a beat-up old station wagon. But the thing ran and the boy had full use of it. He would fire up the beast and barrel out of his back yard into the field behind his house. After hours and days of driving, he had worn a big figure 8 dirt track into the grass. Sometimes his younger brothers and sisters would pile in for a ride.

It was unthinkable that a boy could have and drive such a vehicle in the suburban neighborhood where I had come from. There were no fields—only hundreds of little ranch houses with small yards. I could see that the country life was different. There was more freedom, more opportunity for adventure.

FAST FORWARD THIRTY ONE YEARS....

Our old 1993 Ford Taurus station wagon has been parked in our backyard for a couple years now. Despite the red “check engine” light being on all the time, the motor still sounds pretty good.

We had repair work done on the engine a long time ago by an old “shade tree” mechanic who used to do most of our repairs for us. I say “used to” because he has since died of cancer. I think our car engine work was the last auto repair he did. He died shortly thereafter. Would you have a man who is visibly ill and dying of cancer do engine work on your car?

He told us the fix might only buy us another year (maybe longer) and that’s about when the red light came on. So it was that, and a multitude of other minor ailments that led to the car being parked in our back yard. I didn’t want to sell the piece of junk to anyone, but it still ran so I didn’t want to get rid of it either.

Last winter, I used the car to store 5-gallon gas cans and lumber and tarps in. Earlier this past spring, with snow still on the ground, a man driving a small tow truck pulled into the driveway and wondered if we wanted to get rid of the car. I almost let him have it, but I didn’t want to empty all the stuff out.

Well now I’m glad I didn’t get rid of that car because a few weeks ago I came home from work and it was parked in the driveway. My son Robert was all smiles as he told me how he used his grandmother’s car and some jumper cables to get it going. I guess that was the day Robert assumed ownership of his own field car.

If you’ve read my blog much you know we don’t own a field. But we have a neighbor (his name is Don) who has a field that adjoins our property. Don is a real good neighbor. I say that because he has generously allowed me to plant some of my garden in his field. And he lets me scythe the tall grass and weeds that grow there. And he lets us pasture our poultry there. And he even said we could raise a couple of pigs there this year (but we decided to hold off on that for now). See what I mean about Don being a real good neighbor?

So we treat the lower end of Don’s field like it is our own, which means Robert has a field to drive his field car in.

The car stays parked in our back yard. When the urge to drive hits him, Robert starts the car up, drives it a couple times around the house, then heads up the road, along the shoulder, and into Don’s field. He will circle the field a couple times, then drive home and park it.

One day Robert asked for my 20-gauge shotgun to go woodchuck hunting. I gave my permission and heard the field car start up in the backyard a few minutes later. Sitting at my computer, I watched from the upstairs of my house as he drove up the road into the field. He parked the car about 10 feet from a woodchuck hole, shut the engine off, and stuck the gun out the window. I kind of chuckled to myself about that. What woodchuck in his right mind would come out of his hole with a Ford Taurus parked right next to it? I turned my attention back to the computer and not more than 30 seconds later there was a loud shot. I looked up quick and Robert already had the car door open. He strode over to the hole, grabbed a handful of furry rodent fur and picked the dead critter up. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

If I had driven a car up to that hole and waited for the woodchuck to show, I can guarantee you that it would not happen, ever.

Here are a couple pictures of the field car. The first one shows 11-year-old James driving, with 15-year-old Robert in the passenger seat. You can see my OP field corn (planted in Don’s field) in the background. In the second picture Robert is driving with James in the back.

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Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

11 comments:

Lynn said...

Makes me think of the vehicle we're still driving!

Missouri Rev said...

Good for you!! Buying a modest, used vehicle and entirely paying for it. What a novelty. Don't let the big three US automakers find out, however. You might be brought up on charges that you were committing a hate crime against the debt-based economy. Your son’s “field car” reminds me of a friend’s car from long ago, a 1963 Ford Fairlane two door hardtop, which was nearly indestructible. One day, as an experiment to see what it would take to kill it, he drove over the roughest territory he could find and at some airborne speeds. He could not destroy the old land yacht. They sure made them different back then. Glad to have you back!

Doug said...

Beautiful post! My 15 yr old son drives our Suburban around our little place, often moving the utility trailer.
He is far better manuerving a trailer than I am - last week while camping I had to have him back into a campsite for me - the other campers must have assumed he has a license....

Emily said...

Herrick, your boys are so blessed to have a dad who lets them be boys instead of sissifying them! They're making countless precious memories to look back on when they're grown and share with their own families in generations to come.

Barbara Frank said...

What a great story :)

...though I won't be sharing it with my 15 y/o daughter, who desperately wants her driving permit. I guess that's one of the many disadvantages of living in suburbia: no room for a field car!

Welcome back,
Barb

Herrick Kimball said...

Lynn-
Hopefully it's still dependable.

Missouri Rev-
Now that sounds like a great experiment. It's good to see you're back to blogging too!

Doug-
Cool. I got rid of my pickup a few years ago and bought a pull-behind trailer for hauling. And I've been learning how to back it up. Same situation here. My son Robert is at least as good at as I am and probably better.

emily-
Yes, you're exactly right. We're making what will, I hope and expect, one day be fond memories of our simple agrarian lifestyle. As for sissifying, there certainly isn't any of that and I'll be posting with more testosterone-laden stories here in the near future. :-)

Hey Barb-
Thanks for the welcome back. I have a friend who grew up in an urban area and he told me one day that he had a "lot car." So if you have access to a lot..... :-)

omie1950 said...

Yep, your Ford sounds just like my GMC. Might want to check the O2 sensor (looks like a sparkplug in the exhaust pipe). If it gets too bad it will cause the engine to not run at all.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, more parents need to be like that!

I personally grew up in the country, and am 18 now. I've never had my own field car as we don't really have a field, but other friends who do have had field cars and I like going over there and participating in the destruction, can't think of anything
more fun.

Excessive safety is boring, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I used to have a neighbor that had a 70s era station wagon with the entire roof clipped off so as to be able to haul more and bigger stuff with better visibility.

Anonymous said...

About the hunting, I still remember about 25 years ago, one evening my brothers and I were in a newly cultivated field checking the fresh gopher holes to get rid of gophers, while my dad drove around in the 4x4 GMC truck, the radio tuned to the "Ukranian Hour" radio show with Ukranian music blasting out the windows, and the occasional boom from the 12 guage shotgun out the window. Gophers (and ground hogs I assume) are less likely to run from a vehicle (truck, tractor, or other) that's parked or slowly moving than from a person walking around on foot (unless you manage to sneak up from behind). I think they don't recognize it as a predatory threat the way something with legs, a head, and eyes would appear.

To 18yr old Anonymous (now 20 yr):
"...particiapting in the destruction...and fun" Absolutely! Way too many stories to get started on this. Old Toyota Celicas in the bush... trucks... volkswagon beetles that if they got stuck in the muskeg we'd just pile out, roll it over sideways onto the roof and back on it's wheels away from the ruts and away we go. My beater S-15 is sometimes used by my 11 yr old too. My 6 yr old got to drive the Massey 44 tractor pulling a water tank for the garden while I walked beside. Is there danger in these things? Yes. But boy does it ever make good memories. I'd rather have my boys at age 15-18 doing these dangerous things than sitting in the house playing mindless video games and spending the weekends at beer parties at some other "safe" parent's house. Kimballs and others, way to go! Keep the spirit of the "field car" alive!

Dan

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