Sunday, January 07, 2007

Beedub and His Self-named "Horse Mobile"
I saw something the other day that brought up this old memory. I was driving down a back-road near a farm, and happened upon a pair of men and a draft horse moving an old truck out into a field. I presume the farmer had his own little junkyard way back in the trees somewhere. Farmers tend to be hoarders as you "never know when some old thing will become useful". I suppose this mentality is common to most small farmers as you seldom see a long established small farm without old equipment, vehicles, wood, etc lying about nearby. I know we certainly had our share when I lived on the farm. We had an entire small field way out in the woods behind F's barn that all old, but possibly useful stuff, was relegated to until a need for it might arise.
Just outside the town on the other side from us lived an old retired mill-worker who had a small one bedroom house, a small barn, and even smaller garage. As best I can recall, he never did hook up to the electric power lines even after they were extended several miles beyond his place. He had an indoor and an outdoor hand pump for his well and an outhouse well removed down a heavily trod path. The old guy, by old, I know for sure he was at least ninety-one, as he'd tell everyone who stopped to chat with him how upset he was that the State had refused him a renewal of his driving license on his ninetieth birthday. But, he always added, he had a plan to "screw those damned pencil-pushing bums at the licensing office". He'd never get specific about his plans, just snicker to himself as he'd pedal off on his old three-wheel bicycle, or I should say tricycle I guess. The old bike was darn near ready for retirement as well, being rather worn out.
My curiosity about him was aroused when I noticed that he'd started rushing, as fast as a ninety-some man can rush, to close the doors to his barn when my aunt would stop with his milk delivery and to drop off his mail. Our town didn't have rural free delivery in those days, you either had a box at the town post office or your mail simply went to "general delivery" for pick-up. Being a rather frugal man by reputation, old Beedub always had his mail go to general delivery and would call in to pick it up. As he was getting up in years, at least in our eyes, my aunt would pick up his mail along with that of several others who lived a good distance from town and had no, or poor, transportation available. Every morning, as we pulled into his driveway, we'd see him hurriedly exit his barn and close and bar the doors. I also noticed that his draft horse, which looked as old as Beedub, was now housed in his small garage whenever he wasn't in the pasture in back of the house.
Now, I'd not really known Beedub until I started going with my aunt on the milk route as I was rather young and didn't really notice the doings of old folks. After I first talked to him I loved listening to his amazing, to me anyway, stories of when he was young and worked the old steam ferry to the off-shore islands. He'd tell me how he never found a woman who'd put up with his ways long enough to marry him, so he just lived alone and spent his time working to save enough money to drive to the city a hundred miles away to "cut loose" for a week. This lifestyle wasn't unheard of then, and a good many single men who worked long shifts in the mill or lived in the timber camps working in the woods lived this way. Many of the kids I went to school with rarely saw their fathers, especially those whose dads were woodsmen as they'd stay gone weeks at a time. At any rate, once I'd had my first two or three "chats" with Beedub, which was mostly confined to attentive listening on my part, I started to pay a bit of attention to his ways. I knew he had an old car, but never saw him drive it, as apparently he'd been refused a license prior to my arriving in his life. I say an old car, today it'd be considered fairly new in years, but it had a lot of miles on it from what I could tell. I never got a good look at it as it was always backed into the tiny garage, where the horse had now taken up residence.
After several weeks of this strange behavior on Beedub's part, he appeared at the end of his driveway one morning as excited as a toddler at his first real Christmas. He flagged my aunt down and asked her to park on the road so as to allow us to be the first ones to see his new "Horse Mobile". Although a bit confused, my aunt did as he asked as he hied back up the driveway to the barn. A few minutes later we heard an engine start and rev up a bit, then go quiet. A moment or two later the "Horse Mobile" moved slowly out of the barn, and it was a remarkable bit of ingenuity in the eyes of a young, curious boy. Beedub had removed the bumper from the front of his old Chevrolet and attached a draw-bar from one of his old horse-carts in its place. Ahead of the car, in full draft harness and traces, was his poor old horse, complete with blinders. He'd run the traces through a hole he'd made in the firewall after removing the hood. He'd completely removed the transmission and drive-shaft so the local Constable or the State Troopers couldn't ticket him for operating an unlicensed motor vehicle. The engine was still in and working to provide heat, lights and other accessories like wipers and horn. He was proud as a new father as he rolled to a stop at the end of his drive.
The old horse seemed remarkably lively as it pulled the contraption, with Beedub using the car's steering to follow along and the brakes to control his momentum. Beedub explained that the old nag seemed more energetic now that it once again had a task to give it purpose. My aunt was having all she could do to keep from bursting out in peals of laughter, while I was totally amazed. She didn't fare as well later when describing Beedub's buggy to my uncle R, F, and F's wife through fits of guffaws and watery eyes. It so amazed F that he drove all the way to town, intent on going to Beedub's place to see this rig. I accompanied him along with Mrs F, but we never made it all the way, as we encountered the strange wheeled-wonder as we drove through town. Old Beedub had made his maiden trip, the first of many over the next four or five years until he passed away one night in his sleep, about a month after the old horse had breathed its last labored breath.
As an additional little note, after Beedub had been gone a week or so my aunt came home from the milk deliveries one day with the news that Beedub had left a will in which he'd bequeathed almost a million dollars, a huge sum then, to the local hospital, library, and his church. Seems he'd been frugal in lifestyle but very shrewd in his few business dealings. Who would've ever guessed. Until next time, take care.


mies said...

Mike, this is a great story. Beedub was a funny old eccentric, that is for sure. Extremely amusing about him turning his old chevy into a "horse mobile". I am not so sure I would be as amused being stuck behind him if in a hurry to get to town...ha ha
Beedub found a way to keep his independance and give his old horse a good workout too. He did it his way. Good for him....Thanks again...Keep it up

Mies said...

Mike, also, you made a big improvement in the blog to archive the stories, less scrolling and downloading time...Everything is looking good...

Mike S said...

We try to keep our customers happy:)

Sarah said...

love the story ,Mike. I love it.

lori hahn said...

OMG Mike, when I saw that car I had a major flashback to my dad restoring a 1947 or '49 Plymouth Mayflower! And, funny how you knew such a unique picked nothing up from such acquaintance, did you?

Brett_FLX said...

Once again, I am always happy to have discovered your blog. Having been raised in Philadelphia, rural suburbia is like a myth to me. I enjoy your recollections of simpler times. I also would have liked to share some of your experiences. Truth told, I probably grew up a lot faster then I should have. Thanks for the story.

The Bizarre Jokester (WOW!) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Bizarre Jokester (WOW!) said...

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R2K said...

: )

naive said...

hi ,

i liked your blog especially your horse car brought nostalgia in me.

I have just started to write. I only write on real life incidents which have shaken me from deep inside. To overcome the shock, i write and lighten the burden of my heart.

Hope you too will agree with me on the amt of pain caused to this 5
year old girl. Please do comment. Thanks

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