Farming and family were in her DNA

Published 11:28 am Thursday, August 25, 2022

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Wearing an emerald green outfit, she glided across the plowed field alongside the crimson clover like Dolly Parton cruising through “I Will Always Love You.” She was at home on the farm. It was in her DNA.


She was born in 1952, a member of the storied Ford family. Her drivetrain was designed for hard work, so while other members of her family cruised the highways, she lugged the heavy loads. Even if she were taken out on the open road, it wasn’t where she belonged. She got the shakes when she was coaxed to go faster than 45 miles per hour.

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I found her while shopping for an old pickup. It was love at first sight. She reminded me of the truck my parents had on the family farm when I was growing up. Even the color was the same. So I invited her to leave her Illinois farm home and come live with me. She needed a little TLC, but I thought “don’t we all?” Who hasn’t developed some creaky joints and a little wobble in their front end after 50-plus years?


After some cleanup work on her carburetor, fuel pump and ignition, she still seemed to get choked up when urged to go. I found a mechanic on Hugh Champion Road in Tryon who had experience with senior cars and trucks. His diagnosis was that she needed a fuel tank transplant because hers had gotten rusty. So that’s what we gave her, and it worked like a charm.


The new tank gave her new energy, and a new fuel pump made her flathead V8 heart purr like she was ready to prowl.


Prowl we did. Off to local farmers markets we went, her bed loaded with coolers filled with organically grown blueberries, newly harvested honey and homemade soap. While we sold the fruits of our labor, she stood proud and steady for the truck gawkers, never flinching when someone ran a hand along her chrome door handles and asked to take a peek under her hood.


She had a strong maternal sense and smiled when little kids asked, “What’s that?” as they pointed to her spare tire mounted outside next to her door.


When her Grandfather Henry Ford created her, he could never have imagined the happiness and smiles she would bring as she chugged along the parade route every year at the annual Coon Dog Day Festival. She often sported friends and family on bales of hay in her bed. A bona fide Treeing Walker Coonhound named “Hattie Mae” sat up front. In the back were grandchildren tossing treats to admirers, more dogs and even a banjo-picking neighbor.


Then there was that day at the Hilltop Festival in Rutherfordton when an old man ambled up on unsteady legs, braced himself with a hand on her fender and studied her every inch.


Perhaps her finest family hour was the day my parents squeezed onto her narrow seat and went for a ride. Daddy ran his fingers across her faded dash and studied my shifting of her “three-on-the-tree,” and in this moment his Alzheimers-stricken mind traveled back to the days when he had such a fine farm truck just like her.


Today she has retired, serendipitously moving to a new home in South Carolina on a road named the same as the farm she worked on–Hardscrabble. Her new caretaker doesn’t plan to lay a hand on the farm name hand-painted on her doors by a Hendersonville artist. He promised to keep her out of the rain but to give her regular exercise.


Maybe he’ll park her where old-timers can admire her beauty and be transported to another time when life was hard, but simpler. She has earned that.


Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at


The author with granddaughters and “Hattie Mae.”