The Prairie Spy

Alan “Lindy” Linda

I just got a short video from one of my twice removed cousins. This cousin is special because he ended up with Uncle Wilbur’s—that would be my dad’s Uncle Wilbur—1936 Plymouth Business Coupe, with less than 40,000 miles on it. In the video, he has apparently unburied it from way back in his storage shed, waxed it up, and run it down the road a bit.

Uncle Wilbur farmed across the section from the farm where dad was born, and where dad later took over the farming. He often walked across the mile to help Uncle Wilbur with stuff. It was the winter of 1935. Things were recovering a bit from the depression. Dad helped feed and water 100 hogs for his uncle. Remember winter? Before running water? Central heating? Feed grinders operated by horsepower? 

When Wilbur sold them the next spring for $9 each, he had enough money to buy a tractor, a plow, and a brand new 1936 Plymouth, which he chose because it was the only model out there that would carry four cream cans in the trunk.

Dad drove it often, when he was barely 16 years old. On one trip into Riceville, Iowa, to deliver cream to the creamery, the Iowa Highway Patrol had set up a vehicle brake inspection on Highway 9. At that point in time, all cars’ brakes were operated by steel cables that ran from the pedal to the brake shoe, cables that became corroded, causing braking systems to become at best feeble.

The highway patrolman jumped on the running board of the Plymouth, with dad at the wheel, and told him to “runn’er up to 25 miles and hour, and hit the brakes, son.”

Dad tried to tell him that this new car had real brakes. In fact, that particular car was the very first car manufactured in the USA that had hydraulic brakes, and would stop when you hit the pedal.

The cop gave him some attitude, him being a kid, so dad ran’er up as requested, and hit the brakes, at which point the cop tumbled forward over the headlight and slid down the road. Dad said it looked bad for himself. But when the other patroman laughed and said: “Don’t you know that car has brakes,’” dad was off the hook.

Dad retired, the Plymouth at that point gathering dust in the machine shed. I had acquired a pretty little Farmall tractor complete with belly mower. Dad being a bit down in the dumps that winter, I began to badger him about trading the Plymouth for this tractor. As the winter wore on, this discussion—each of us insisting that some cash had to be included in any deal—kind of kept him perked up.

I traded him even up, brought the Plymouth up here. Joe Hayden painted it, and did so beautifully. I fixed the interior, changed the six-volt system up to 12, and toodled around in it for a while.

And then it sat in my shed, until my cousin Nate began to drool over it. I gave him a price he couldn’t resist. He drove it around a bit. Then it sat in his shed.

Old cars do that, you know, sit around in the shed, while good intentions fall by the wayside.

So it was nice that he got it out; to get that video of it. I’m sure my dad and his uncle are watching from Up There. Real sure.