Mary K. Hamner
Piney Woods Journal Correspondent
The four children were scrubbed and combed and cajoled into their Sunday best. Ranging in age from the terrible twos to twelve, they presented quite a challenge for a young couple on their way to church. While one gets dressed, the others get dirty but a determined Mother met the challenge.
They were marched single file out to the 1934 Dodge pick-up truck where their Daddy had already begun grinding the starter. He had bought the ’34 second hand and it had ‘suicide’ doors opening to the front. It had a goat head hood ornament that vibrated to the side when the pick-up rattled down the road.
Most of the family crowded into the cab but the two older boys stood outside to see what would happen. They all watched their Dad’s temperature rise as the energy of the starter ground lower and lower. What had begun as a high pitched whine groaned down into a low grunt until finally there was nothing but a click when the battery’s juice was all used up.
He was not a mild mannered man, their Daddy, to begin with. They knew that things were getting tenser when he slammed out the door and reached in the back of the pick-up bed for the crank. The front seat occupants sat dutifully in the cab, just in case. If the motor turned over and fired into action, they needed to be ready to go before it died. Big eyes watched and hope rose in every heart as their Dad engaged the crank in the front groove.
Fuuuuu Wump! Went the listless motor as the tall slender man pumped the crank turning loose each go round so as not to break his wrist if the motor engaged. Fuuu Wump! Fuuu Wump! Fuuu Wump! His hat was thrown aside in anger, Sunday tie was awry, and sweat was pouring from every pore.
It was plain to see that the man was being tested in his resolve to take his family to church. The ’34 Dodge was the temptation that was beaten about the hood several times before the otherwise useless crank was slammed into the back of the pick-up bed.
That was the signal, and everybody piled out and joined together to push. The truck was always parked crosswise an incline as contingency planning. So it was backwards and around first with Dad straining and pushing, while guiding with the steering wheel through the open door.
The chickens in the yard craned their necks and cackled in excitement as they sensed the family’s agitation. The old dog had slunk up under the front porch steps while the crank was being flung about. The family’s starched, combed, and scrubbed look turned into dusty shoes and socks, undone hair ribbons, and sweat stained shirts.
“Hold it right there!” the Daddy commanded as he got into position to quickly jump in when the pick-up was going fast enough when it was pushed down hill. There was a moment of quiet anticipation while he checked the levers and wiped the sweat from his brow. “Ready, NOW PUSH,” he said, and the muscles stood out under his thin white shirt as he and the family pushed the recalcitrant truck.
It wasn’t a long hill and at the bottom were the barn on one side and the creek on the other. Timing was important if the Dodge stayed out of both and the youngest knew to stand out of the way when the truck started moving.
There had to be an athletic jump at just the right moment, then a skillful shifting of gears, while letting off on the clutch, jerking the engine into action. Automobile engines didn’t hum back in the 1930-1940 period. It was a kind of thawackety-clack sound they made and that motor noise was calming as the family went on their way to church.
After a time, the head of the household became reflective and offered this bit of advice to his family. “When you grow up,” he said, “remember these three things. Don’t never go on anybody’s note, don’t ever vote for no Democrat, and don’t ever ever buy no Dodge automobile!”