No. 153: Pump Like An Egyptian

Pause for a moment, fellow traveler, to give a hat-tip to Ctesibius. Or should that be a nemes* tip? Ctesibius was an inventor in Egypt during the second century BCE. (That was the Ptolemaic Dynasty, of course.) He’s credited with creating the first force pump, a machine to move water. Without Ctesibius, our nation’s fireContinue reading “No. 153: Pump Like An Egyptian”

No. 152: Oozin’ and Cruisin’ in My 88

Perhaps you can hear the song through the dusty old windows: “You women have heard of jalopies/You heard the noise they make/Let me introduce you to my Rocket ’88… Oldsmobile introduced the Rocket 88 in 1949. It fit neatly between two brands already on the roadways, the Olds 78 and 98. The Rocket also introducedContinue reading “No. 152: Oozin’ and Cruisin’ in My 88”

No. 151: Stodgy Dodge

How many seasons has it rested here, the prairie wind sharp and whistling because nothing stands in its way except the battered sides of this old Dodge pickup? When did its owner finally walk away without a final glance? What did it haul? Where did it go? What human activities took place in its 6.5-footContinue reading “No. 151: Stodgy Dodge”

No. 150: Intentionally International Tough

International trucks. The words conjure images of large, no-nonsense machines operated by large, no-nonsense guys – the sort of hauler you’d see at the dump, the warehouse, the docks. And those images were accurate: The International was … …well, built to work. It was what the plumber drove; his might have a utility body thatContinue reading “No. 150: Intentionally International Tough”

No. 149: Bonded, Not Bondo’d

They just never stop working. A truck built nearly seven decades ago may have started life carrying produce to the market, cinder blocks to the job, hay to the cattle. But time slows even the best machines. And so this 1951 Chevy 3100 Thriftmaster has taken on an easier life: as a billboard to aContinue reading “No. 149: Bonded, Not Bondo’d”

Agrarian Edition No. 11: A Tough MF

The evidence is right there – there, where the soil is slowly swallowing a flat tire. This machine hasn’t moved in a long time. But when it did, this Massey Ferguson 175 was a workhorse – short on glamor, long on guts. MF rolled out the 175 in 1964; for 11 years, it was theContinue reading “Agrarian Edition No. 11: A Tough MF”

No. 146: Abandoned at the River

The river runs west, then north for a ways, past Stockton. It flows across land flat as a pool table, with mountains in the distance. On clear days, those peaks appear a lot closer than they are. Natives know this. What else they know: The land is filled with old heaps. Did the Okies discardContinue reading “No. 146: Abandoned at the River”

For the Love of Old Cars

Once you start looking, you see them everywhere — in barns, cornfields, alongside mountain roads, in driveways angling off city streets. There’s the faded pickup that delivered prescriptions from a long-closed family pharmacy; the derelict sedan that once hauled scabby-kneed boys to Sunday school; the tattered ragtop that in its prime turned as many headsContinue reading “For the Love of Old Cars”

No. 144: The Loadmaster

It was running when I parked it, No. 144: The Loadmaster. This old hoss carried melons from the farms of south Georgia to the freight yards of Atlanta. It trundled bundles of bright leaf to warehouses in Greenville and Rocky Mount. It carried pumpkins from central Michigan to trucking terminals in Kalamazoo. It took hardhattedContinue reading “No. 144: The Loadmaster”

No. 143: A Fleeting Moment Before the War

The Chevrolet Fleetline bowed in 1941 … just in time for Chevy executives to shelve the automaker’s family-car-for-all and turn their attention to making tanks. Plans for a roomy, inline-6-powered car with three speeds on the column languished until the end of World War II. By 1947, Chevrolet was going full-tilt making an array ofContinue reading “No. 143: A Fleeting Moment Before the War”