Basically, this post was supposed to be about how much I’ve been wanting a haircut.

By a professional barber, I mean.

I now have an electric clipper thing, a rechargeable beard trimmer, given to me as a present, and hint, by my folks.  But I’d already shaved off my beard and mustache, as the weather got warmer, and anyways it really did seem like airborne germs might hide out there, muggers in the shrubbery, snakes in the grass.

I watched a couple of YouTube haircut videos.  The NYTimes how-to had a guy with the identical clipper and similar hair, but I’m not ready for the Paris Island look.  I’m not vain about my appearance, it’s just, I might need to wear glasses someday, and I just like my ears where they are, attached to my head.

This old truck prompted this thought, about a haircut, and also, Grace Bedell.



Grace Bedell, from Westfield, NY.

Recognize the name?

Maybe not, but if you went to grade school in the U.S., you’ll probably remember the story.

She was the 11-year-old girl, who wrote to a presidential candidate before the ’60 election, and recommended that he grow a beard.

That was John F. Kennedy, of course, and he opted for Ray-Ban Wayfarers instead, and was elected President.




Actually that’s wrong.

Kennedy didn’t wear Ray-Bans, they were American Optical’s Saratoga sunglasses, still, very cool-looking.





And the little girl actually wrote in 1860, to Abe Lincoln.

“I have yet got four brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you.  You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin.  All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.”

Come to think of it, I received similar advice, about growing a beard and wearing some Ray-Bans, I think from a former roommate, who also recommended a haircut and dim lighting, and all that was just to get a date, not the Presidency.

Lincoln, by then fully-bearded, made a point of meeting Grace, on his way to the inauguration.  It was February, temperature was just above freezing, so he was probably glad of the beard, and anything else to cut the wind off Lake Erie.  His train stopped in Westfield, and he sat down on the edge of the railway platform, chatted a few minutes, gave her a kiss, and continued down the tracks to Buffalo, Albany, and eventually, Washington, D.C.

It’s a charming story, but as happens so often, one with a sad ending, as Grace eventually moved, and lived many years in Kansas.

It’s hard to imagine him without the beard, isn’t it.  We’d have a time changing all those statues, pennies, and postage stamps.

So anyway, as regular readers are aware, I don’t go off on tangents anymore, and to return to the central point of this post, I was thinking about a line from the Beatle’s “Come Together





Got to be good-lookin’ ’cause he’s so hard to see

Even if you’re a song-writer, and taking a lot of hallucinogens, I think we all know that’s just not so.  It just doesn’t always work that way.

Under all those vines, that is one homely automobile. I never knew Chevrolet made anything half that snub-nosed ugly.

I saw it last week, while driving to a park with my parents.  I guessed it was maybe a 1957 model, since that’s when my dad was born, and when they were standing side-by-side, they had a very similar state of decrepitude.  But he believes it was 1950 or even earlier.



I’ve tried to avoid that stretch of 14A, until the vines have leafed out, and covered this thing better.

But you know, I’ve been by it a few times since then, and that truck is starting to be like the hideous old bulldog that lives next-door – – without any conscious thought, or effort, you develop a feeling of affection, over time.

It just grows on you.

The bulldog snuffles and gasps and rattles, sounds like a dishwasher on its last legs, but he’s a very sweet-natured old boy, I’m always glad when he waddles up to say hello, and I swear this truck is growing on me too!  I’ll look forward to seeing it’s Green Man look in a couple weeks.

So, let’s not call it weedy and overgrown, we’ll say, “a luxuriant growth of native grapevine.”  And to hell with the haircut, too.


Rip Van Winkle awakens.  N.C. Wyeth









1950's, Automobiles, Finger Lakes, FLX, History, NY, Upstate New York

Old tow truck


51 thoughts on “Old tow truck

  1. pinklightsabre says:

    Ha! What a brilliant pairing with that old car covered in vines and wanting a hair cut. I just got my neck trimmed today (by my wife) and man it feels good…sigh….these 1st world worries.

    • Thanks, Bill, I haven’t worked up the nerve to try the clipper yet, I’ve visiting my family, and my sister has offered, but she has an unreliable sense of humor, I may just let it go another month.

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Unreliable sense of humor. That sounds like you! Actually not at all. You are 100% reliable. Sounds like she’s just prone to taking unexpected left-hand turns, ha…

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Could be. Gosh I haven’t lived in Philly since 96! But you’ve inspired me to sniff around some more with his prints, thanks for that…

  2. Well this was an entertaining ramble for a Saturday afternoon. I feel sorry for that snub nosed Chevy. At one time it was the prized possession of someone. It was new, shiny and an outlandish color ( In those days so many autos were black). Now is it just covered in vines. I bet if some antique car enthusiast saw this truck they would cut it out of the vines and fix it up and it would be in some vintage car show worth a lot of money.

  3. We certainly couldn’t have any muggery in the shrubbery.

    You’re onto something with that vine-covered wreck of a truck. It’s impressive photographically, and it really does look like it has a beard and wild hair. Foliage would obscure too much of the truck, don’t you think? It won’t be so good-lookin’ when it’s too hard to see.

    Your reminiscence about being told to hang out in dim light reminds me of these lines from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury:

    At Westminister Hall I danc’d a dance
    Like a semi-despondent fury,
    For I tho’t I never should hit on a chance
    Of addressing a British jury.
    But I soon got tired of third-class journeys
    And dinners of bread and water,
    So I fell in love with a rich attorney’s
    Elderly, ugly daughter…

    The rich attorney, he jump’d with joy
    And replied to my fond professions
    “You shall reap the reward of your pluck, my boy
    At the Bailey and Middlesex Sessions.

    “You’ll soon get used to her looks,” said he,
    “And a very nice girl you will find her.
    She may very well pass for forty-three
    In the dusk, with a light behind her.”

    • Ha! 🙂 Thanks, Denzil, but my skull has sustained quite a few dents, as you can probably tell from my writing, not sure it would be such a treat to see it! And after some summer weather this weekend, there’s still a possibility of snow around here, so I need the insulation.

  4. A lovely and entertaining post Robert … I love the old truck with the familiar old-fashioned gracious curves under a covering of vines. Very nostalgic. My dad and a brother way back in the day had Bedford trucks and I vaguely remember a similar form. Your story about the 11yro girl was so interesting, I’d never heard that one before! Thank you.

  5. Glad you don’t have anything to catch those germs anymore and glad your ears are still attached. You look much better with them. I don’t think the truck is so homely. You could call it Willis. Ask your dad. He will understand

  6. melissabluefineart says:

    Love how the truck just keeps appearing throughout the post, in obvious need of a haircut. It’s actually kind of hilarious, this particular effect the virus is having on our society.

  7. George says:

    I love seeing nature reclaim the remains of something man-made. Great photos. They look as though they should grace the cover of an early REM album. I think we deserve one of the current state of your hair by way of contrast!

    • Thanks, George, yes, it’s reassuring when you see nature reasserting itself, a lot of NY woods are reclaimed farmland. I’ve mentioned sev’l times in these posts, that there’s a huge abandoned army depot/airfield, and former naval training base, in my county, and in a lot of places, the roads there, where I practiced driving in high school, are now mostly broken up, overgrown, and pretty impassable.
      BTW, I loved your Fell King article & photos very much!! I tried sev’l times to comment, I’m very sorry to lack competence to figure out the problem, I wondered if it’s the security crap on the VPN this computer is set up on, somehow triggers the spam-blockers on the UK’s WP site or something. But you wrote a wonderful story, fascinating to have a stonemason/schoolmaster/poet, and your own writing is just terrific. And I enjoyed trying to recite the dialect poem out loud,

      Yes, REM would have loved this truck for Murmur, the kudzu vine invasion hasn’t reached this far north yet, but the native grapevines, and something called oriental bittersweet, can produce similar scenes. I’m looking more like the ’80’s Michael Stipe than the way he looks now, don’t think I’ll post any shots of nature’s reclamation of my head!

      • George says:

        Haha. Spoilsport!

        I remember you mentioning the abandoned airfield before. My dad was in the army, and when I was 11, we lived in army quarters right on the edge of a camp. Outside our garden was a large formal lawn in front officers’ mess, not a blade of grass out of place, ever. It’s all gone now. I’ve not been back, but I’ve looked on Google Earth and it’s just a wilderness of scrub, thistle, rosebay willow herb, hawthorn. I imagine a lot is people would think that a shame, but it made me smile.

        Thanks for your kind words about the Fell King. I’m sorry you couldn’t comment. I have a similar thing with some other blogs, which I’ve never been able to fathom.

        Trying to make sense of dialect rhymes is a lot of fun, but well worth persisting in John Richardson’s case as his rhymes are so rewarding. Helvellyn is the third highest mountain in England while Skiddaw is the fourth. I love the bit where Helvellyn calls Skiddaw a “broon hill thrown up by mowdiwarps”. It means a brown hill thrown up by moles. My friend, Tim, says his grandad used to call moles, mowdiwarps. What a fantastic word.

        I think your audience still deserves the young Michael Stipe photo!

  8. Your multi-layered post impressed me and made me think of a haircut that I badly need at this time. But to delegate this job to my wife gives me the shivers. Great photos, Robert!

  9. I hope your hair is quite as wild as this car’s “hairdo”. But I love you associations coming from the car and your hair. I stopped long time ago to worry about my hair, these days I just trim it down myself. 🙂

    • Thank you, Otto. I started thinking about all the historical figures, like Lincoln, who seem inseparable from the images of their hair or beards – – Einstein, Karl & Groucho Marx, Che Guevara, Louis XVI, etc. so perhaps I’ll visit an old junkyard and see what iconic types are hanging around there.
      I admire your coordination, I really do think it might be drawing blood, trying this myself.

  10. Darts and Letters says:

    Personally, I’ve always found Lincoln to be pecuilarly handsome so the common descriptions of him as a homely man never resonated for me. But that said, the beard was important. That’s a classic story. Good luck on the haircut. Maybe you can track down a Flowbee system from Ebay? I let my hair grow out for 4-5 years then cleaned up last fall because I was becoming the butt of frequent jokes by friends and family but now I guess I’ll just let it go, again. Haven’t shaved since December, the boys are just used to me that way all their life. when I shave they tell me I look like a wierdo, every time 🙂 Neat shots of the truck. It’s too bad those vines are so overgrown. This is like the old silo in my sister’s yard. I used to take pictures of it all the time, I loved the way the Boston ivy was grown up on it. But now you can’t see the silo at all, it’s one overgrown mass, not really photogenic as it used to be. Maybe you can come along with some pruners and make a clearing for the windshield and headlights.

    • I actually tried to look up one of those FloBees, it looked like that guy might have stopped making them, it sounds like a pretty smart idea really.
      I think the old repair garage, the truck is near, may still be open, it was hard to tell. For a while, when scrap metal prices were up, there were some rustlers in the area, who’d steal old farm machinery to haul to the scrapyards, they were even caught cutting up a disused bridge with torches. but that seems to have stopped, and this truck has got houses right across the street
      It seems like I saw pictures of that silo, when you were posting under T-Fir?

  11. Wonderful images of the old truck. We see a lot of old vehicles and farm equipment rusting away here in the hill Country and try to get photos of them when we can. And don’t worry about the risks of cutting your own hair or having a beard. Let’s just say my beard has been filtering the air I breathe for a long, long time and I’ve been to a barber only once in all those years. I’m still here and have both my ears.

    • Thank you, Charles. Every once in a while, I’ll see a picture of those old cars in Amarillo they call Cadillac Ranch, the oldest models must be about the same age as this truck. I suspect the old cars, tractors, etc. survive a lot longer in the Texas climate! I’ve been kind of surprised the owner didn’t restore this thing, they have a car show in my village, every Memorial Day, and recently there’s more rusty rat rods every year, along with the shiny restorations.

  12. Interesting the truck has a scruffy haircut and beard too. Maybe it was the Einstein of trucks back in its day. I know what you mean about decrepitude, I’m your Dad’s age…

  13. Not sure about “to hell with the haircut”…I know I need one! But oh, that Chevy, what an amazing sight she is, with vines adoring her every nook and cranny, twining around and around…what a bright idea, to tie those crazy photos into your need for a haircut. So will you just get a new pair of RayBans to last you until you can get a haircut?

    • Have you priced Ray-Bans lately? I’ll have to settle for a ball cap and some knockoff shades, until Eddie re-opens his barber shop. I noticed Joe Biden is always wearing them. I’m always a booster for NY, so…invented in Rochester, NY by Bausch & Lomb. But they sold the brand to an Italian company twenty years ago. Yeah, I’m ok with some drugstore sunglasses, bright sunlight isn’t much of an issue in upstate NY too often! 🙂

  14. While were were “courting”, Mary Beth lived southwesterly of Philly and we went to the Brandywine a few times. Yes, it does have paintings by all three and some other no name artists like Maxfield Parrish and Howard Pyle. Of course I say this about 30+ years since last visiting there but I am sure it still holds true.
    That truck really does look like it needs a cut and trim…a lube job, some body work, and a new set of plugs. Same as me. I am now on my second set of clippers. I am also not vain so just pick a size, usually 3/8″ or 1/2″ and zip away. But now with the virus going around the beard is history so the mask fits better and helps keep the little buggers from getting too close.
    I really enjoy the lack of tangents in your writing. Something nice and to the point. Awesome. 🙂

    • Thanks, Steve. I went right by the museum, a few years ago, coming back from Winterthur or Longwood, but it was having a major renovation, and was pretty much closed. I love all those artists, gotta get there.

  15. My favorite photo is the third. Clearly, the truck is smiling, pleased to have so much attention after such a long time. There is something compelling about vine-covered artifacts: cars, barns, people who’ve been waiting in line too long…

    As for haircuts, I’ve been doing my own for nearly thirty years. After my last salon cut, and despite some pretty firm suggestions for what I wanted done, I came out into the world looking like Sinead O’Connor. I cried for two or three days, then bought a pair of hair shears and never looked back. But, I wouldn’t cut the hair on that truck. I like it just the way it is.

    • Ha! I really like the image of a line of waiting people being covered up with vines. It does not surprise me one bit, that you must be way more coordinated than I am, “fine motor skills” have never been my strong suit. And doing stuff in a mirror is a real challenge for some of us! Do you remember a battery-powered game called “Operation”? If you ever run across some kids who have one, try playing it in a mirror, a whole lot more difficult.
      I think the truck is safe from a haircut, anyway, I couldn’t tell if the old repair shop next to it is still in business or not, someone is obviously cutting the grass, but being careful not to disturb their truck-trellis.

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