Vintage is in…totally. There are etsy shops,
Facebook pages, storefronts, museums, ..all dedicated to
vintage wares and lifestyles. You can hardly turn around
without bumping into an instagram photo of a toddler in a
wading pool taken yesterday but looking for all the world like
circa 1974. I get it – because I love the kitschy,
whimsical, and fun bits and pieces of a life gone by! But
while it takes us back to a simpler time, remember there was no
etsy, Facebook or instagram then! Those orange floral dresses
and bouffant hairdo’s were real life! We lived it and wore it
and worse yet, thought it was hip and tasteful!
On the farm we have lots of vintage stuff as well – the 1930s
vintage Allis Chalmers tractor that belonged to my father-in-law,
the 1960s vintage International B-414 tractor that belonged to my
dad …. and the 1980s vintage Isuzu pickup with more than 300,000
miles on it that my husband loves and refuses to part with.
Now, the tractors have both been rebuilt and run well.
As for the Isuzu, well it runs, but not well. The seat
is sagging, the floorboards are leaky and when you turn on the
heater/defroster the cab fills with an obnoxious blass of
antifreezy air that promptly fogs up all the windows (which rather
defeats the whole “defrost” function!) I think that there
must be a hole in the heater core. All this makes rather
entertaining driving during the winter.
Old stuff on farms is nothing new. Years ago when we were
making hay down in Lewis County at my mother’s farm my son had a
friend come and spend a couple of days. James and Trent were
about 10 or 11 and thought they were in heaven. Haymaking
took several weeks so we moved the entire family down to the farm
and the kids enjoyed long summer days playing while the men made
hay and I
cooked and drove tractor! My mom still owned my
father’s old pick up truck and we used it for pulling wagons and
short trips into town for tractor parts and the like. It was
the quintessential farm truck – dented, smelly, even more beat up
than the Isuzu. Someone had removed the bench seat and replace it
with bucket seats – that were sort of attached to the frame of the
truck but came adrift occasionally – just often enough to make
turning corners a bit interesting! The person sitting in the
middle perched on a block of firewood with an old pillow on it.
In defense of the mechanic who made the change – he did leave
the seatbelts in it!
James and Trent (who was probably sitting in the middle at the
time!) and I made a run into town one day and as we were sitting at
the stop sign (Toledo doesn’t have a stop light!) waiting to turn
and head home Trent said, “Mrs. Fish, why does everyone here drive
junky trucks?” I looked around town and sure enough, there
were more than a couple farm trucks parked along the street!
I explained that farm trucks work hard and don’t always get
taken care of the best but they run just fine. The contrast
between vehicles on the farm and in the ‘burbs was pretty
noticeable – even for a 10 year old – but because of the need to be
thrifty every bit of use and life was squeezed out of vehicles and
machinery! And, when it didn’t run anymore chances were it
got parked out back where it became part of the “strategic reserve”
and stripped for parts.
This spring my mother had a stroke and had to leave the farm
where she has lived since 1978. We stopped making hay on the
place about 10 years ago when it was divided up into five-acre
parcels and sold for building lots. Now, the neighbors still
mow the old hay field with John Deere tractors – only they are lawn
tractors instead. Cleaning out Mom’s house was a bitter sweet
experience. So many lovely memories of summers in the shade
of the huge oak trees, long hours spent exploring the woods and
swimming in the river, the sweet smell of hay as you entered the
barn to feed the cattle during the winter. It was sort of
like a bit of July during the cold, wet months of winter. My
middle son was especially sad about her leaving the farm and the
apple trees that he loved to climb in and so we are going to get
scion wood from them in the spring and visit the
Peninsula Fruit Club‘s spring grafting show! We will
plant the new apple trees in our orchard and perhaps our grandkids
will get as much pleasure from them!
As I was packing up the bits and pieces of her life I thought a
great deal about the current fascination with vintage items.
Since my mother embodied the adage “Use it up, wear it out,
make do or do without!” her entire life was vintage! However,
rather than being displayed on a shelf or being a “decorator
accent” these items were used every day! All her pyrex dishes
and bowls were chipped and stained – not museum pieces but kitchen
workhorses that served thousands of meals for her family.
There was precious little to send to thrift stores or garage sale.
It was all worn out! I packed up a few boxes of
keepsakes and precious mementos, but there was very little worth
saving. I kept her recipe books, a few dishes and heirlooms,
and some linens. In the bottom of the kitchen towel drawer I
came across a few worn but serviceable items. One homemade
muslin dishtowel had a bric-a-brac trim sewed on by Mom years ago.
I brought it home along with a couple of others – and put
them in my towel drawer – because these things were made to be
used, not just displayed on a shelf.