Valiant – a prairie tale

We were feeling a little despondent after saying good bye to our UK bound friends last weekend, so decided to take a road trip. Inspired after reading “Great Plains” by Ian Frazier, we opted for a short road trip, and to go in a different direction. Usually, we head west, or southwest, but instead pointed east, on the prowl for prairie possibilities…

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East, for a change

What a delightful trip it was! We saw so much, and really appreciated the change, but I won’t cover it all here. I have been stretched for time this week, so this post will be brief, and focus on an automotive encounter we had in a ghost town. As Frazier notes:

“You can find all kinds of ruins on the Great Plains; in dry regions, things last a long time. When an enterprise fails on the plains, people usually just walk away and leave it.”

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Prairie possibilities

We rolled into the tiny ghost town of Dorothy, located along the banks of the Red Deer River, brightly lit in the spring sunshine, and under huge prairie skies. We wandered between the ramshackle buildings, admiring the gravity defying lean of walls and buckling roof lines. My inner child was almost overwhelmed with excitement when we turned a corner and saw an old Plymouth (Chrysler in Canada) Valiant lurking in the grass.

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Valiant!

When I was a little boy, a favourite car was the Plymouth Duster. I also quite liked Dodge Chargers, wanted Steve McQueen’s Ford Mustang in Bullitt, and thought I’d be Steve McQueen when I grew up.

DSCF2233It turned out I wasn’t going to be Steve McQueen, I’ve never owned a muscle car (or had that many muscles), but finding the Valiant transported me back to those childhood days. So it wasn’t a Duster, but seeing it there, it was still pretty cool, I think.

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Pretty cool

Valiant! Brave and determined! Enduring decades of high summer sun and bitter winter cold and snow. Still there, perhaps a little diminished, but still there, year after year. How could the owner walk away and leave it? Is that what happened?

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Not so diminished, PlaidCamper!

I was excited and sad all in one go. Should anything be done? One view might be that the car is a large piece of metal trash, a discarded item of rusting garbage in need of recycling. No special favours just because it is old. (Not a huge fan of that view, given I’m about the same vintage…) Another view is that it is full of character, photogenically mouldering away beside an equally decrepit farm building – and maybe it is providing a home for a family of nesting creatures? Or should it be rescued and restored by an enthusiastic car nerd? So many possibilities!

DSCF2234This car must have a fine history, a backstory of reckless adventure and high times on dusty prairie range roads, at least to the inner PlaidCamper child. To end up abandoned and unloved (not any more – I’ll love it, even if I can’t keep it) surely speaks to a sad story? Maybe the story that has the car abandoned and forgotten ends something like:

“They left the car where he last parked it, in the shade of the small barn, and continued to work the farm. Waiting for him to return, to take up his inheritance and take on his responsibilities. To see his familiar routine one more time; slide behind the wheel, fire up the Valiant, and gun the engine twice before heading out in a cloud of dust. Passing seasons turned into passing years – they never stopped hoping with all their hearts – but they never saw their boy again.”

DSCF2228To borrow from and paraphrase Frazier, it is wonderful how large prairie spaces have plenty of room for the past. I’ll return to our prairie explorations in future posts, but will stop now, happy to have seen the Valiant, visited with ghosts, and shared it with you. Thanks for reading, please feel free to comment, share a story – or help to improve the above ending! – and have a great weekend!DSCF2230

Published by

plaidcamper

I am a would be outdoorsman - that is if I had more time, skills and knowledge. When I can, I love being outdoors, just camping, hiking, snowboarding, xc skiing, snowshoeing, paddling a canoe or trying something new. What I lack in ability, I make up for in enthusiasm and having a go. I'd never really survive for long out there in the wild, but I enjoy pretending I could if I had to...

25 thoughts on “Valiant – a prairie tale”

  1. I absolutely love looking at abandoned things, cars, and houses alike. Imagining their story is something I can catch myself doing long after I’ve seen them. My mind often takes me back to some back roads in New Mexico that I explored on a road trip 3 years ago! There was tons of abandoned houses, and houses that should of been abandoned, but still had people living in them. I admit that I was a little scared, unusual for me, this is one of the few places where I experienced reversed racism. People really didn’t like this white girl around. That made me not take as many pictures as i would of liked. I often look at the pictures inside my head, and fantasize about the extraordinary, (strange) life the people here must live. LOL

    Great post!

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    1. The roads less travelled certainly bring us to interesting people, places and objects – and you’re right, it isn’t always a comfortable experience. I always enjoy the trips, though, probably because there are so many wonderful stories, both true and ready to be made up!
      Thanks, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds so much like my kind of place. I like the ending you placed. I pictured this kind of ending.

    A young man off to war and he parked his car one last time. His father promised him it would be safe, as long as he promised to return. The years passed and his father would look upon the car. He could often see his son standing by it on the sunniest of days, but as tears filled his eyes…he knew it was nothing more than memories past. Though, he should, he could not part with the only thing his son left behind. His son had returned as promised, but the flag on the mantle reminded him that they never agreed upon how.

    I hope you have an amazing weekend.

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  3. Fun post, plaid camper. My two older sisters co-owned a red Valiant and used to take me to band practice in high school in it. They loved their Valiant, too. There’s something about the blissful open skies of prairies, they open our hearts and minds. Wonderful~~

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    1. That sounds like a great way to travel across wide open spaces – in a red Valiant driven by your sisters!
      You’re so right about the open prairie skies, at least if you’re in right spirits – they are quite magical!
      Thanks, Jet, and I hope your weekend is going well!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, PC! From once living on the prairies of South Dakota, I know that those open spaces have a lot of charm and history and a track of difficult human life. Their reality for me, as a youth, made me scramble for escape, though now an aspect of romance can call me back for an extended visit. It’s as if I owned a Valiant way back then, but couldn’t drive away fast enough.
    In reality, when we were young and poor, someone gave us a Plymouth Duster, and man, that car was “dusted” from the start– without shocks it rocked like a prairie schooner; we held the front passenger door closed with a rope! But the local kids from the village drooled over that thing; we could have got some money for it, but we drove it into the ground. We could have left it to the elements like the prairie Valiant but I think it got recycled. Anyway, thanks for another very enjoyable read!

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    1. Wouldn’t you want to make one more ride across the prairies in a beat up Duster?! So happy you shared your Duster story – what a ride, rope and all!
      Yeah, I can understand the mixed emotions prairie life can muster, and how it is easy for a visitor like me passing through can conjure up a little romance. Elemental places do that, I think.
      Thanks, Walt, and here’s hoping your trail has been a smooth enough ride this weekend!
      PS Earthstars arrived yesterday, so looking forward to digging in.

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  5. The arrival of good weather around here meant that the classic cars have been making their first appearances of the year the last few days. In about a month the weekly classic car shows will begin and last until October. While my husband loves the 1960s muscle cars, for some reason my favorite has become the 1941 Willys with the huge blower sticking out of the hood. Each year it seems we have a new story of the latest barn find being restored, so maybe the Valiant will still find a new home one day. Enjoyed your story this week and definitely could not improve on the Valiant ending provided by you and Montana Rose.

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    1. Each to their own on the classic car front! There is an allure to old automobiles…
      I think Montana Rose came up with a wonderful Valiant tale, suitably sad.
      Happy to hear you’re having fine weather, and I hope it lasts through the weekend and beyond!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I guess Calgary is the same as Denver in certain ways. To the west – mountains. To the east – the endless plains. I’ve only now started to appreciate the beauty of the prairie here and all the ghost towns.

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    1. Sounds very similar – and it is easy to be drawn to the mountains and love them, but there is something haunting about the wide open plains, with the ghost towns and pieces of wreckage from earlier inhabitants. We’re lucky to be able to experience both!
      Hope you’ve had a great weekend!

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    1. Thank you, I appreciate the thought! I won’t be jumping in – it’s enough of a kick to write each week and receive a little feedback when a reader or two feels motivated to share a comment or a story, but thanks again!

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      1. Yeah, I totally understand that! It felt a bit like a chain mail, but not too much and it came from one of my favorite bloggers, otherwise I would have probably declined too.

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  7. I really enjoyed this. Like you I like getting off the beaten track and exploring new and different places. And I’m a sucker for a ghost town, very moody and fascinating to visit.

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