As a teenager working around my Dad’s service station there was always something going on to make a good story. One has to do with a fellow named Bob, who was known, for a time, as the Broomcorn King of Baca County.
One would never guess that Bob was a prosperous farmer. He raised many acres of broomcorn and employed many men during the Fall harvest. But when he came into Vilas he seldom took time to shave. He dressed like a bum, with dirty, grease-covered overalls, a sloppy looking hat, and calloused hands that revealed hard work.
On this one day I recall, Bob drove into town in a brand new Chrysler. He parked it out of sight behind our station, then came around front to join other men who were often there shooting the breeze. About the same time, a couple drove up to our station for gas. They too had a new car and were dressed, as we would say, “like city folks.”
While I waited on this couple, Bob ambled over to their car and wanted to know if he could catch a ride with them to Springfield. You could tell they were a bit uneasy to let this bum ride in their car, and they began to make many excuses. After a bit, Bob said “That’s alright, I’ll get a ride with someone else.” They went on their way, relieved, I’m sure to not have that man in their car, but Bob returned to his spot with the other men, chuckling all the way. All of them knew that Bob had that brand new Chrysler behind the station and was getting a good laugh over the reaction of that couple.
Bob was just one of many who made life interesting in my growing up days around the service station.
Another was a perky little widow woman who lived North of Vilas. Her pride and joy was her Model T Car. She went by the name of Granny, and I never did know her real name. I’m not sure if it was unique to our community or not, but we had a many people who went by nicknames, and for some I never know their real names. There were such names as Pete, Bud, Chub, Buzzy, and in school there was Jappie, Pee Wee, Squirt, Arkie, and then there were the older people we respectfully addressed as Aunt or Uncle, or Granny and one known as Pop. My parents taught me early in life that I was to address older people as Mr. or Mrs., unless they gave me permission to use a nickname.
Anyway I was always impressed when Granny came to town in her Model T. Such cars were becoming quite rare in the late thirties and early forties. But Granny drove hers with pride, and we gave her the same service as all other customers. She was a very independent little lady and didn’t mind letting you know what she believed and why.
My days of growing up in Baca County were made much richer because of people like Granny and other older citizens,