My grandfather Owens lived beside County Road 8, miles north of Spring Valley in southeastern Minnesota. During the first year of the 20th century the road was not much more than a wide trail. Very few travelled the trail; most walked, a few rode horses and fewer still rode in buggies.

So imagine my grandfather and father's surprise when something chugged down the road with no horse. It looked like two bicycles side by side with a seat and some machinery between. They, of course, had heard that back east, some guy had invented such a contraption and they had hoped they could see one before the fad faded away.

They were excited when it turned into their driveway. My grandfather and father were looking it over, marveling that such a thing could be, when the driver answered one of their questions. He had stopped to get water.

After he had filled the radiator, and answered innumerable questions, he asked my father if he would like to ride to Spring Valley. I don't know if my father planned to go to town, or if he wanted to go to town. But to get a chance to ride in an automobile, may be his only chance, that was something every farm boy dreamed of. He accepted at once. Of course, the owner added, almost as an afterthought, you will have to walk up the hills. My father had not even thought of it. He knew there were no steep hills on the way, but agreed quickly as though he knew it all the time. So with the radiator full of water, the driver thanked grandfather, then cranked the engine to life. They climbed aboard and off they went.

At the bottom of the first hill, the driver stopped and my father climbed down. The driver rode up the hill while my father walked. But because the auto could not go up the hill faster than my father walked, my father walked beside the auto and talked to the driver all the way up the hill. At the top he stopped and my father climbed aboard and off they went all the way to town, my father walking up the hills and riding the rest of the time. I think they only had to stop twice more for water.

When they arrived in Spring Valley, the dogs chased them, horses reared and tried to run away and a crowd of curious onlookers gathered around. My father was an instant celebrity. How many men could say they came to town by auto? I'm sure for some time my father had to tell and re-tell what it was like to ride in a horseless carriage. And no doubt his stories earned him many free ones at the local saloon.

Mickey Owens

Stewartville Care Center

Editor's Note: Mickey Owens' grandfather, Robert T. Owens, lived on a 20-acre farm about 10 miles north of Spring Valley and 3.5 miles south of Pleasant Grove where his father, Roy T. Owens, grew up.