Whenever I can spare an hour or two from life's chores I steal away to explore the seldom traveled lanes and forgotten byways of upstate New York. As I drive at a leisurely pace past frozen fields of corn stubble and fine rural homesteads I scan the far corners for large half hidden immobile mounds.
I'm on the hunt for rusting relics of a bygone era. When I spot my prey my pulse quickens with excitement. I find a safe place to pull off the lane, grab my camera bag and I'm off to track my quarry. They are as large as buffalo but much slower moving. In fact, they never move at all anymore. But once a long time ago they flew down dirt county roads like terrestrial rocket ships.
Vintage tin that was put out to pasture decades ago litters the backwoods landscape of upstate New York. I am not totally sure where my fascination with these long slumbering fossils of the American auto culture comes from. But, it probably has something to do with growing up in America in the 1960's and 70's when car culture was king and the t.v. was filled with images people cruising in gleaming autos or trucks at work and play.
After securing permission to visit the resting piles of rusty tin and chrome from the property owner I gingerly make my way through the frozen snow. I walk slowly around each vehicle and admire the curves and faded paint from every angle. I study the play of light and shadow which forms a collage of color and texture on the cold metal surfaces.
I take a few photo's and move on to the next specimen a few yards away. I come to a cluster of several cars and spend a good long time in their company. Sometimes if I stand perfectly still in their herd I imagine I can hear them reminiscing amongst themselves about their heydays back in the day.
“Marge Simpson had nothing on my first owner's wife.” quips a faded black 1958 Plymouth. That gal had a beehive hairdo that was so high it rubbed a bald spot into the headliner over the front passenger seat! I sure miss those lazy summer days when they piled in with the kids and we all cooled off down by the lake!"
A massive 1957 powder blue Lincoln Continental who wasn't really listening responds, “When I drove the judge and his family to church on Sunday mornings everybody stopped to stare. They had to shade their eyes from my brilliant glare. I was that shiny.”
The rust encrusted 1948 Studebaker pick-up truck nearby chimes in, “Ah you were a bunch of primadona's! If my pals and I hadn't helped keep the Applegate farm going strong for 20 years you'll never could've lived in these parts anyways.”
Okay, I can't stand here daydreaming all day. I have to make hay while the light is good and than meander back home to download my images of these rare endangered creatures. Someday they will be no more. They will return to the earth from whence they came, rust to rust, ashtrays to ashes.