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Old Betsy
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New-Gen    Posted 12-02-2004 at 15:10:53       [Reply]  [No Email]
Old Betsy has been a term of endearment for everything from lawnmowers to bulldozers, bicycles to guns to firetrucks, and everything in between for many years. If one were to research the term I suppose they would find that it could in some way be traced back to that noted seamstress from the past, Betsy Ross.

The Old Betsy of my childhood was my fathers dark blue 1949 Chevrolet 1/2 ton pickup truck. As is the case with anything qualifying for the honor of being christened "Old Betsy", there was nothing special about that old truck to anyone who didn't "know" her. I don't know of any written in stone rules dictating what can or can't be an Old Betsy, it's just a given. The main qualifications are basically that there need to be enough idiosyncrocys,(which can be compensated for by reliability}, memories and or local legend attached to give the truck {or whatever else} a personality all it's own. And that old Chevy definatly had an abundance of all.

I remember climbing in the passenger side, carefully negotiating the bent running board and watching as my father expertly worked the starter and accelerator pedals with the toe and heel of his right foot. He depressed the clutch pedal with his left foot as his right hand skillfully worked the choke knob in and out. His left hand got to rest, but it would soon pressed into service too when we got underway. Old Betsy required two hands and two feet to drive: One hand on the wheel, the other on the gearshift, one foot operating the clutch, the other alternating between the accelerator and brake, all coordinated to safely drive down the road. I always thought it was neat to get to see the road passing by under my feet through the hole in the floorboard. I also made a game of trying to see how much junk I could catch from the glove compartment when we went over a big bump and the door flopped open in my lap. My dad liked it when I got good at it, as it minimized the amount of stuff that fell through the floorboard observation port.

One of my favorite regular trips was to the livestock sale barn 15 miles away. Sometimes we went to buy, sometimes to sell, but that made no difference to me, as long as I got to go! I can still remember the smell, a combination of hog, cattle and sheep manure mixed with sawdust. And the sound of the auctioneer as he coaxed bids from the crowd in the bleachers still rings in my ears. Much to my mothers exasperation I soon noticed the similarity between the auctioneer's microphone and the end of her vacuum cleaner hose, and consequently the cool sound it made when I chanted into it....."Imbid30willyagimme35now35now40now5now50dolla50dollanow5now5now5now60dollagonnabuyem..........." On the way home we always stopped at a little store {actually it was a house, the proprietors lived in the back and ran the store in the front}, and got icecream sandwiches. They're still my favorite frozen treat, probably because of the memories they evoke!

Of course Dad never had to ask me twice if I wanted to ride along to the implement dealer either. I knew every dealership we frequented, which ones had the toys out on display, which ones had tractors inside the showroom, I even did my best to keep track of their used machinery inventory. My favorite dealership was run by an older gentleman who would take toys in on trade. One day when we were in there he had just traded for a used combine that was in better condition than the one I had. A deal was quickly struck and the "new" combine went home with me. As I recall the trade difference was $1.00, with the trade-in{and the $1.00} to be delivered the next time we were in town. I'n fact, a good part of my sandbox machinery inventory was transported home in Betsy.

Old Betsy hauled home many a Christmas tree from the tree farm 15 miles in the opposite direction of the salebarn. On these trips the whole family went along, and being the smallest, I was always stuck in the middle, which curtailed my catch-the-stuff-from-the glove-compartment game. There was an upside to this seating arrangement though, as I was the one who got the direct blast from the heater, as well as being the farthest away from the floorboard inspection port. {Well O.K., it wasn't really a blast, more of a "steady poof"} We usually made fairly quick work of the actually tree choosing and cutting, then headed home. Since there were no little stores along the way, we had to tough it out until we got home, where, after the cool ride we had, hot chocolate was the refreshment of choice rather than icecream sandwiches.

As much as we all loved Old Betsy, all good things must end. Years of hard use eventually took their toll, and she got to the point where it just wasn't economical or safe to drive her.She was eventually traded in for a newer IH pickup, which was a good truck, but it just didn't have the charisma of it's predesessor. We never could come up with a proper name for that one!

I currently am the proud owner of a 17 year old truck which is developing quite the....uh.....personality {not all personalities are pleasant} Maybe it's time I have my own Old Betsy. It does have that glove compartment issue.......

screaminghollow    Posted 12-03-2004 at 06:38:57       [Reply]  [No Email]
Wasn't Old Betsy, the name of Davey Crockett's rifle, the fancy presentation gun given to him by a group of business men in Phila??? He retired "tick licker", his earlier rifle then.

And Black Bess was the name of Dick Turpin's horse. He was a famous highwayman in England. Supposedly killed his partner. He committed a crime and then rode like "ell to a town quite some distance away, where he had dinner with the Sheriff to give himself an alibi. This I believe was in the early 1700's and for a fella to be 120 miles away by 6:00 pm was thought impossible. Hence, Black Bess gained legend status in Merry Old England.

DD    Posted 12-02-2004 at 20:06:12       [Reply]  [No Email]
Another good one New-Gen : ) Keep em coming!

Chas in Me    Posted 12-02-2004 at 16:54:59       [Reply]  [No Email]
Good story. You seem to be able to take the ordinary, find some magic in it and turn it into a place and time I would liked to have been in.
Thank you.
Chas, envying your talent, up here in Maine.

Alias    Posted 12-02-2004 at 15:46:58       [Reply]  [No Email]
New-Gen, reading about old Betsy reminded me of the Christmas of 73 when my boys were small. I had been working part time on weekends driving a milk tanker from the farms to the processing plant in Baltimore. Now, one of the farms where I made a pick-up also doubled as a Christmas Tree Farm. And, the owner told me when I got ready for a tree to come and get one at no charge.

Well sir, it was Saturday of the week following Thanksgiving that I went for the tree. I had finished my milk run and arrived back at my house about 3 pm. So, I loaded my sons into the truck and we set out for the farm. Along the way it started snowing and by the time we got there the ground was white.

I pulled my old Betsy, a 72 Chevy 3/4 ton pickup down behind the barn by the gate to the tree grove. We got out and began the painstaking task of selecting just the right tree to stand in front of our large bay window. Well, we must have looked at a hundred or more and each time we'd settle on one, one or the other of the boys would gleefully scream out, "Oh Dad, Look at this one". and then the process would start all over again. Until finally, we had narrowed our selection down to about an even dozen. In the meantime, the snow kept on afalling.

When we finally laid the saw to our final choice, I noticed that the snow was beginning to accumulate and when we walked, our toes kicked up a spray in front of our feet. Moreover, it appeared to be very granular and slippery. Not like the wet heavy snow we normally get around here. So, I told the boys we needed to hurry and get back to the truck before we got snowed in.

we didn't waste any more time in getting up the slope to the gate and loading the tree and climbing into the cab. I started the engine and the wipers and pulled on the headlight for by now it was fast getting dark. Then I engaged the transmissins and started spinning all over the side of the hill. Even without touching the gas pedal, the tires began to spin. I held the brake and set it in netural until the motor slowed down and then I again put her in gear.

Well, the snow was so slick, my Michelin X Radials didn't do anything for me. I kept spinning and sliding. Well, after colliding with the fence and scaring Betsy's right rear fender we managed to get back up the hill. All the while, James age 8 and Dan age 5 kept telling me You can do it dad. And when I had done it, they laughted about sliding around in that old truck all the way home.

The moral is: I saved ten dollars for a tree. I spent 50 dollars (deductable) for my fender. A fun outing with my two sons, Priceless.

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