A cascade of blackberry vines cleverly hides an old Dodge truck off a country road I’m driving, across the Walla Walla River from Milton-Freewater.
Some Sunday drives target specific roads or destinations. I seek out a waterfall, a historic fort or a loop tour for panoramic views.
Other times, on a themed search, I look for birds, barns and storms. Still other days, I might chase rainbows or sunsets.
This day I am on a themed tour — old rigs — looking for history discarded along the back roads of Walla Walla and Umatilla counties. Some see junk. I see rusted treasures.
One such treasure is an old hay truck near Umapine that raises memories of hauling hay with my cousins, back on the ranch, into the late evening hours trying to beat a rain storm.
The aunts would serve a feast. We’d chow down deviled eggs, fried chicken and lemonade, cake and ice cream, on the back of an empty truck parked along a creek. Hopped up on sugar, we’d continue our mission into the night, with bales stretching across the south 40 caught in the glare of headlights.
Down the road, I spot a Phillips 66 gas pump. The price frozen in time — 29.5 cents a gallon — suggests 1960s. Dating to 1927, Phillips 66 is a trademark of the Phillips Petroleum Company, and the logo links to U.S. Route 66, a magnet for adventurous drivers.
The pump is brand name Bowser. Invented and sold by Sylvanus Bowser in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the 1880s, the pump predated the automobile. The first of its kind was used to pump kerosene for lamps and stoves.
Farther down the road, an International Harvester truck lounges in its final resting place, shaded by a large tree. The company made agricultural equipment and commercial trucks and got its start with the merger of McCormick Harvesting Machine Company and Deering Harvester Company along with several smaller manufacturers in 1902.
My mind drifts to an I-H cattle truck on the family ranch and “rodeos” each summer loading 4-H steers for the county fair.
Later I discover old John Deere farm equipment now used for roadside target practice. I recall a neighbor back in the day whose John Deere tractor started with a series of whop-whops heard for miles.
Down the road, I see an old truck neatly wrapped in thistles. With bloom on, it’s an attractive graveyard for a truck that served its owner for years.
Finally, on a drive through the northeast Oregon hills, south of Wallula Gap on the Columbia River, I spy an old-fashioned windmill. The blades have taken a dive into the ground, overcome by the energy it was designed to harvest.
The fun thing about going on themed drives, like mine in search of old rigs and other relics from the past, is the miles between discoveries, when other surprises await over every hilltop.
You never know where another old rig will jog your memory of days forever in the rear-view mirror.