As a farm kid, I spent lots of time hanging around wrench men and weekend mechanics in the middle of blazing cornfields and behind frozen cedar groves. Wherever big machinery broke down, that’s the spot where we fixed them. Rare was the occasion my dad or grandpa would creep into town to the implement dealer’s garage, but when they did, it was a treat.
Ice cold pop from purring Vendo machines and the heady sense of being part of the local farming community; the reassuring smell of motor oil and diesel, and confidence that the men we worked with could fix, well, just about anything. Long before MacGuyver, the guys at the shop were keeping the wheels on the rails with duct tape and baling wire.
Earning a driver’s license meant long anticipated freedom, but it also meant new responsibilities. Who knows how many times I drove to town to pick up a part of drop off something that needed a fix. One shop in town was especially fun to visit because of the back wall near the rest station. There, stained with flyspecks and wrinkled from the steam of a million pots of coffee, were about three hundred cartoon postcards tacked up in an alluring grid, a men’s cultural history of the mid-20th century.
Crudely drawn, offered up for cheap laughs, I’m guessing none of the cards would pass today’s politically correct censure. That said, I don’t remember any of them being mean or abusive in spirit. Most of the jokes were based on bad puns or typical male-female situations. A lot of them were blatently sexual, but in a playful way that reflected the times. I loved them, and tried to read as many as I could between trips to the Coke machine and the front desk.
As we get older, we’re able to look back and let the bad times fade away—if we let them, and focus on recalling the good stuff, the fun stuff—the stuff that made us laugh, and the small things that brought us joy.
Finding these postcards in a local antique shop reminded me of a happy time