My Little Town 20120606: Dad and the Car Doors

(2 pm – promoted by TheMomCat)

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

Please do not get me wrong.  Dad was a sharp guy.  He did not have any college, but that was because of circumstances.  Besides, in 1939, when he was graduated from high school there were lots of really good jobs that could support families well.  He did make it a personal goal to be graduated on time, and he was.

Dad got his higher education from being a keen observer of human nature and also being able to do just about anything.  He was a jeweler, a welder, a gunsmith, an excellent shot with pistols, rifles, and particularly with shotguns, along with many other skills.

His understanding of human nature is what made him such an outstanding salesman.  He knew how to connect with what made people tick, and used those observations to sell things, whether it was selling gum to Sam Walton, working in sales for a major OEM and aftermarket automotive supplier, or buying and selling cars and firearms from and to individuals.

However, one of his faults was that oftentimes he would get absorbed by one task and sort of lose his attention of other things going on around him.  The military term for this is situational awareness, and it bit him more than once not to have it.  It almost cost him a leg once, but that is for another time.

This is going to be rather short, but I think that you find it to be amusing.  Dad ran cattle, mostly for the tax break that comes from farming.  Since the statute of limitations has long run, it is OK to tell this.  It amazing what one can deduct if he or she has the guts.  Dad was a master of leasing out some of the farm for others to use but claim it anyway as his own farmland.

He even tagged his pickup truck in Oklahoma (the farm tag fee was almost zero for a pickup in Oklahoma at the time), claiming some farm property the he owned in Oklahoma as a residence!  He was quite the schemer.

We had cattle, usually, in the field behind the house at Hackett as well.  Those were usually the pregnant or recently calved cows as opposed to the rest of the herd that were on the farm outside town.  He kept them there so my mum and I could keep an eye on them whilst he was on the road, usually from Monday morning to Friday evening.  When I was really little, Friday was always “Daddy Day” for me.

Since I was too little for a long time, my mum was unwilling, and my brother moved away (he is 14 years my elder), Dad had to get associates to feed the cattle during winter when he was on the road.  His cohort was one Virgil Davis, a really nice guy, who leased part of the farm to run his cattle.  Virgil would feed them hay and “cubes”, a fortified foodstuff during the week, and Dad would take over on weekends when he was home.

The farm was a mix of open field and woodland, with a transition zone.  Oftentimes a calf that was not in the pasture behind the house at Hackett would get sort of lost in the transition zone and Dad would have to find it.  Here is where the lack of situational awareness came to play.

Dad was bad about focusing on one thing, like when he was looking for a lost calf.  I remember one day (I was still too little to go with him to look after the cattle) that he came home with the drivers’ side door of his pickup truck folded back towards the front of the vehicle.  He had parked a few yards ahead of a tree on a slight upslope and and had gotten out to look for the calf.

He failed to close his door, and, for some reason that I still do not understand, did not put his truck in “Park”.  He was bad about leaving it in “Drive” and just shutting off the engine.  Well, gravity had its way and the truck rolled down the slope, and the tree caught his open door and just ruined it!

It did a lot of damage (if you have ever seen this happen, you know what I mean), and he took it to a repair shop similar to AG Automotive.  They did good work and fixed it as well as it could be. The door was never quite the same in function, but it looked OK.

Years later he went to the farm to check on something.  I do not know if it were a calf of just to check out the quail population.  In any event, he took Mum’s car to check out whatever it was.  I am sure that you know what is coming next!

Sure enough, he came back home and her drivers’ side door was bent back to the point of not even coming close to be able to close.  I was much older then, maybe 13 or so, and I do not recall why I did not go with him that day.  Anyway, I heard the tone of voice and the words that she always used when Dad screwed up:  “OH, ROY!”

She was really angry at him, and rightly so.  She took pride in her car, as I remember probably around a 1966 Ford Galaxie 500.  As I recall, Tim was back in the pen, so Dad had to take it to a proper body shop to get it fixed.  She had to drive his pickup to work for a week, and she was, as they used to say at home, “mad as a wet hen” the whole time.

Now, those were not the first two times that Dad left a car shut off and not in “Park”.  When I was really little, maybe four years old, he parked a car on a parking lot to go into a store and when he got back it was gone.  Sure enough, it had rolled off of the carpark into the field adjacent to it.  At least he had closed the door!  That one caused no damage.

Now that I think of it, I believe I know why he did that.  All of the vehicles involved with rolling were automatic transmission models, and he grew up with manual transmissions.   It is much harder for a manual transmission vehicle to roll when it is left in gear than for an automatic transmission model.

Anyhow, the lesson to be learnt is to be acutely aware of the situation around you, and do not be distracted from doing basic safety functions.  If Dad had been paying attention, two innocent car doors would have been spared, and at least one “OH, ROY!” would have been avoided!

Well, this it for tonight.  I know that it was short, but it was funny at the times for me.  Please share stories from your own experiences growing up in the comments.  It does not matter if you grew up in a little town, a medium one, or in a large city.  It is the experiences, not the locations, that make good stories.  I know that I enjoy reading your recollections, and from the comments about them, so do many readers.

I typed half of this with no brace!  Essentially all of the nerve function has returned to my right wrist and hand (there are still some sensory aberrations, but clearing) but the muscles the extend my hand are weak from almost three months of disuse.  It gets better every day.  By the way, I am typing with all ten fingers now, and have just about unlearnt the bad habits that came from typing with only my index finger for my right hand.  My little finger now can find the key for the letter “p” by touch again.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

The Stars Hollow Gazette,

Daily Kos, and



  1. remembering distant memories?

    Warmest regards,


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