Welcome to the ‘great state of Pennsylvania!’

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A wealthy senior citizen spent a good bit of time showing me photographs of his collector cars. I was impressed by the scope of his stellar collection, but a part of me was drifting off long before the photo parade came to an end. 

Collecting perfect antique sports cars, only to lock them inside a garage, security cameras strategically in place overhead is about as foreign to me as caviar prepared by a servant. On the farm, the pick-up truck was the workhorse, and I could easily name off, in order, each truck that my dad ever owned. 

He kept them forever, driving them until they deserved a decent burial. He kept a square wooden box, covered with padding and upholstery, in the middle of the bench seat so the littlest kid could sit up higher and see out. I felt so important sitting on the “boch” as Dad drove from one farm to another, often just to check the fields and the barns. 

New car

The very first brand new car I recall was a 1963 Ford Galaxy, bright red, with a cream white top and interior. Dad was mighty proud of that car, which replaced a Chevy that I only remember was so big and so old that we girls would burst rusty paint bubbles on the aqua-colored body of the thing just for something to do.

I remember that big old backseat was like riding a full-size sofa to town. If we bounced on the sturdy seat, dust would fly. We could stand up, stretch out, dance to the radio. I remember lying up on the shelf in the back window, feeling the sun beat down on me. It was large enough to little old me, that the back window felt like my own little bedroom.

To Pennsylvania

One trip we took in the old car, just before trading up to the Ford, was to a farm in Pennsylvania to buy a young boar pig. I feel like I am talking about ancient history as I describe this story, but I swear it is all true. Dad wanted all of us to be able to go, so we couldn’t take the pick-up truck.

With Dad in the driver’s seat and Mom as his co-pilot, four little girls lined up in the back seat for a long trip — our first time ever to cross a state line. I remember arguing who was to get the window seats and who was to be stuck with the “hump” in the middle of the floor in the back seat.

I was willing, as ever, to ride in the back window, but for some reason, it was important that we all start out the trip on the seat. We didn’t get on the road until all the morning chores were done, so Mom passed peanut butter sandwiches and a half of a banana over the seat to us.

Long trip

We hadn’t yet passed out of our county, heck, maybe not even our township, when my sister got car sick all over me. It was going to be a long, long ride. The only exciting part was watching for the state line signs, welcoming us to the “great state of Pennsylvania!” I felt all worldly and new — I was no longer an Ohio kid, but a big-time traveler with stories to tell. 

Mom read the driving directions, and like some incredible magic trick played to perfection, we found our way to a hog farm in a foreign land. We all stayed in the car except for Dad, which seemed like punishment to me. I wanted to explore Pennsylvania!

The young boar piglet, from incredible bloodlines, got to ride first class to Ohio. By that I mean he was in a box at our feet in the back seat on that chilly winter day. It was a first, so it was, therefore, a thrill, to four little girls who talked to him and scratched his ears.

About halfway home, though, we learned that it made no difference just how great his pedigree was — he still smelled like a pig. We couldn’t get home fast enough. 

Memory

Many years later, I brought up this story, wondering if I had merely dreamed it all up, because I would have only been about 4. 

“No, no, you remember it all correctly,” Dad said. “The part of the story you never knew was this: I saved up and paid pretty big money for that boar, and he never bred a single sow for us. He was a lazy dud.”

This is the part of family farming that few outside of it fully understand. Maybe riding in the back seat of a car, four little girls cooing over him, made him a bit uppity.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

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