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THROUGH THE WOODS: Dottie Rip and the ‘Woody’

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By NANCY JANE KERN

1941 Chevy Woody / Photo contributed

THIS WEEKEND MY MIND WANDERED back to a warm 1950s youthful summer and the neighbor’s farm I often bicycled to with my friend Barb. It was her aunt Nat’s farm and there was always something interesting happening. It was about a mile and a half to Barb’s house, then another mile beyond that. The last mile was a dirt road by a stream and on a hot day, we might wade in or take an icy dip and sit on a big rock for a while so our clothes could dry. The water was pure and clear and sometimes trout would shoot upstream, bump our legs, and go to the next pool of water and hide under some tree roots.

At the farm, we enjoyed seeing the beautiful Jersey cows feeding in the pasture plus horses and other animals. It was a hospitable place where all sorts of people gathered. Nat was a good manager and delegated jobs to everyone including us. We were strong and used to working so we handled hay bales, herded the cows, or maybe fed a donkey.

Sometimes we helped in the barn during milking. Nat kept herd records for each cow, and I remember weighing and carrying those heavy pails of milk to the cooling milk tank. My family had the larger black and white Holstein cows that gave more and whiter milk than the Jersey cows. The Jersey milk had a higher butterfat content and looked yellow and rich. Occasionally we had this delicious milk with our lunch.

In the house, there were often others like Gladys, the artist wife of poet Arthur Ficke. One of my favorite visitors was Nat’s old friend Dottie Rip. She came quite a distance and stayed overnight in the old farmhouse. She drove what I believe was a 1941 Chevrolet “Woody” station wagon. It was boxy and very solid like a small tank, and I had never seen one before, a cross between a pickup truck and a car. The metal hood and roof were painted dark green, and the sides were wood panels finished like fine furniture. It was a workhorse of a vehicle and no-nonsense, gray-haired Dottie Rip often brought an animal needing a good home.

One time it was a Shetland pony. It was happy back there in that car, and jumped out when the door was opened and started eating on the grassy lawn by the horse barn. It was a cute brown and white pony and was carefully turned out with the other ponies in the pasture. By evening it was cooler for me to bike home and walk up those two steep hills, and I slept well that night

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