Sepia Saturday – Look for a River

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

The prompt photos have me remembering some trips I made as a child.

When my dad(Jerry) picked me up and returned me for my annual summer visit and every other Christmas visit, he drove a four wheel vehicle – a car or a van. He would have preferred to travel by motorcycle, but I learned several years ago that Mom had forbidden that. She obviously knew we would be on bikes during my visit, but she did not approve of these long trips on two wheels with me as passenger. Truth be told, I always felt safer on a motorcycle with my dad than in a car. He had raced professionally and still raced and competed in hill climbs. He had skills on a bike. Also, Dad was a talker, which is hard to do on a motorcycle, so he was forced to keep his attention on his driving. In a car, he could be easily distracted carrying on a conversation, which meant he wasn’t always the best driver on the road.

To keep me entertained on these long drives, my dad would engage me in travel stories and games of his design.

He pointed out wide white lines painted on the highway lanes and explained that police airplanes could detect speeding vehicles driving over these markers. I wonder if he had first-hand experience with this? He had a stop watch along and would have me time us and see if I could figure out our speed. I don’t remember actually doing the math – just using the stopwatch!

Because we traveled through miles and miles of farmland, we made up stories about who would be eating or having a party at the rectangular hay bales that dotted the landscape. We lamented the demise of the traditionally shaped bales of hay, replaced by large, round bales. Who could have a picnic on one of those? (As I re-read this just now, I thought of Mma Ramotswe, who would consider the round hay bales to be “traditionally built” and feel a fondness for them.)

We may have looked for license plates from different states, or played “I Spy,” but everyone played those games, didn’t they?, so those don’t have a place in this memory.

One summer, I was surprised that my dad was taking me to Iowa, not by car, but by plane. I wonder if Mom had approved of this?

… It wasn’t a motorcycle!

Dad had a good friend, Pat Life, who was a local defense attorney. Pat had a pilot license and a small plane and Dad enlisted his friend to fly him to Joplin, Missouri, pick me up, and fly us back to Iowa.

I had never flown before, yet here we were in this little plane with just enough room for the three of us. Dad tried to put me at ease, looking at the tiny cars, houses, buildings, and the patterns in the land we could see from high above. Some time into the flight our ride got bumpier and darker. I heard mention of a storm ahead. We continued on, and things eventually became smoother again.

Time passed, and Dad engaged me in a new game – one you cannot play in a car, but can play from the air: Look for a River. And so we looked out the window, competing to see who would be first to spot a river. There were no rivers in sight and it was probably cloudy, so it took a while. And it couldn’t be a stream, it had to qualify as a river. I don’t know who won, but there was a minor celebration when a river – perhaps a particular river – was spotted.

A few years passed before I learned why we played a game that involved finding a river – we were lost! When we flew around the storm, Pat Life lost his bearings and the plane did not have a navigation system that would put him back on track.

Our game must have worked, because we made it home. I wonder what river we were looking for?

I found a photo at of Pat Life from the State University of Iowa yearbook for 1958. Pat sits front and center, Treasurer of Delta Theta Phi law fraternity. He indeed looks like a younger version of the man I remember as my dad’s friend.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday this week. Hop on a plane and fly over to visit the other participants. You will arrive at your destination here: Sepia Saturday

10 thoughts on “Sepia Saturday – Look for a River

  1. Find a river, huh? Pretty clever. When did you discover Pat was lost? I think I would have been freaking out a little. I don’t like flying, but I’ll do it if it’s the only practical way to get where I want to go. Luckily my Dr. gives me a small supply of low-dose Valium when I have to fly & it helps. 🙂

  2. What an adventure, and I dare say you never told your mom about getting lost in the plane, though I’m sure she found out about the plane ride itself. Yes navigation by eyesight would definitely be tough in that good old state of Missouri…and I also wonder what river might have helped you all locate your destination.

  3. I’m glad someone sited that river! It sounds like you had exciting times with your father – lost in a plane, small boat through the lockes, eating shrimp tails.

  4. Thanks for sharing a splendid memory of travels with your dad. Though I got the bug for motorcycles by first riding as a passenger, after I bought my first motorcycle I rarely took anyone as a passenger and then only just for a few minutes. One was my grandmother who clung on as we went 35 mph in my neighborhood. Banging on the helmet is a good way to get a driver’s attention when the speed is too fast. Much later I discovered an old photo of her as a young woman seated on a motorcycle. It seems she once had a cousin/boyfriend who rode one, so she knew what fun they could be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *