Famous Cars of the North Country

Photo: Marion Doss, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Anyone who started their driving career in the North Country herded a lot of junk from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Unless they had family money or a clandestine pharmaceutical business, rusted-out death traps were the only wheels on offer for the semi-employed.

Famous Cars of the North Country

I learned to drive standard by buying a 3-on-the-tree
junker from a grinning North Country villain who’d
laughed a hundred newbie college boy off his lot
over the years. Grinding gears, lurching, stalling out
at stop lights, ignoring horns, I somehow got it home.

I chose the already rusted-out ’65 Chevy laundry van
to support my job efforts, delivering franchise pizza
and playing roadie for a nine-piece funk band.
At seven hundred and fifty bucks, it was my costliest
(and ugliest) possession, the first of a fleet of them.

In the ‘70s we couldn’t afford more than a grand
for any car, couldn’t afford village rents, couldn’t
afford to run a big old farmhouse on our own.
Necessity not socialism dictated a communal life.
Which led to at least four junkers out by the barn.

None of them had batteries built for cold weather.
A tray of woodstove coals slid under the oil pan
might coax one to life, then jumpers and ether could
fire up the rest. One needed a screwdriver to short
across the solenoid. One just needed the crusher.

My parents gave us a clapped-out V-8 Ford wagon.
We ran it near to death, then passed it on to Paul.
When its gas tank fell out on the Parishville Road
he chained it back up to the frame and kept driving.
Nobody would park next to him in the lot at work.

One harsh winter we burned 40 face cords of maple
by the end of February. More wood could not be had
for cash, love or barter. We borrowed a snowmobile
to scout out dry deadfall, but in the end we settled
on tamarack, which burned green if you would risk it.

We dropped and limbed them back in the swamp,
then figured on using the snowmobile for a skidder.
But the ends of the logs augured in and it was no go,
until we wrestled the hood off of John’s old Chevy Nova
wagon and slid it under the end of the log. Voila.

In time we got straight jobs and bought our own homes,
started buying newer cars with good rubber that didn’t
need a box of sand in the trunk to make it out the drive.
They had front-wheel drive and power steering, boring
automatic gearboxes. Every one of them just like the last.

Note: unpublished draft

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2 Responses to Famous Cars of the North Country

  1. Ronald Hagelund says:

    Flasback …but since i escaped North Country winters it was only intermittent for me when visiting …until i (un)-wisely?… relocated back here …now my family is all gone but i remain in ADK …crashed last car all-wheel drive x-c volvo 2002 good car
    w/no collison you know how it goes? thanks for memories near & far cheers

    • Dale Hobson says:

      Thanks Ronald. My ‘65 Chevy van could be worked on from inside, bonus if you didn’t have a garage. It had a straight six with no bells and whistles. Even an English major like me could find my way around in it. I look under the hood of my 2014 Toyota and say “wtf is that?!”

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