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Its Mud Season Once Again in Vermont

Its that time of the year again here in Vermont where The Old Motor is located to enjoy “Vermont’s Fifth Season” unofficially named “Mud Season” by the State’s residents, when all of the many well cared for “dirt roads” can turn into a sea of gumbo. It is that part of the year when all of us that that live and work out in the country on our normally excellent dirt roads begin to enjoy these early spring days.

At times things can get just as bad or worse here in Vermont than what can be seen in this set of post-war photos, and in this early image where you will not be going anywhere until you can get help. But at least when it is all over you can just go into town and wash it off.

Share with us what you find of interest in this set of photographs and tell us about your own experiences getting stuck in mud.

  • The lead image and this photo were taken in Washington State near Seattle – The picture below via This Was Americar was taken in an unknown location.

 

32 responses to “Its Mud Season Once Again in Vermont

  1. We’re just a few dozen miles south of you in Massachusetts. Last week, the road crew dumped two truckloads of gravel on our road and ran over it with the grader, then just gave up and closed the road. We’ve been driving the long way around into town since then to get the mail.

    Happy mud season!

  2. In the lead photograph, stopped on the left [appears driver doesn’t want to get stuck in the mud], is a 1941 PLYMOUTH.

  3. In the Lead photo it looks to me like a ’41 Plymouth and a ’41/ ’42 or ‘46 Nash 600 (vertical taillights)

    In Item 1 of 2, a ‘’46-’48 Senior Buick sedan and a ’36 Ford 5-window coupe. I recall how awkward those Buicks looked when the fender skirt was removed in winter.

    In Item 2 of 2, probably a ’40 Mercury convertible based on the simpler hoodside trim and more visible headlight bezel due to the sealed beams.

  4. Oh yes, the joy of dirt roads! There are many here in rural Michigan and they are a mess this time of year. Thank goodness the road crews have graders and plow trucks at their disposal today. For the most part the roads are for the most part passable. Seasonal roads, not maintained by the county, not so much. Great pictures. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  5. The car license plates begin with the letter A, which would be King County (Seattle), state of Washington, where rain has been known to fall occasionally. The last picture is a 1940 Mercury convertible which has seen better days, and a new hood. ( ’39 Mercurys lacked wing windows.) The other cars are ’41 Plymouth, c. 1946 -48 Nash, “46-48 Buick, and a ’36 Ford five window coupe.

  6. It never ceases to amaze me, what roads drivers had to deal with, with 2 wheel rear drive cars, and today, some whisk along paved 6 lane interstates in vehicles that could tackle the LaBrea Tar Pits, themselves, even though, many never use them for rough going. Don’t deal much with mud these days. From what I experienced with off road dump trucks, mud is the worst. I just don’t know how these people dealt with this, probably because they didn’t know any different.

    • Oops, one more thing, the car in the bottom pic looks pretty rough. What is that, a ’39 Ford? Bald tires, rusty bottom ( painted with some kind of primer, and re-rusted) tail light gone, trunk sprung, no hub cap, but a surprisingly nice top. It’s no wonder these types of cars are so rare today, back then, they were just somebody’s beater.

      • I think the Model “A ” in the background or a Model “T” would be better suited to dealing with the thick gumbo in these shots than those “modern” cars.

    • I’ve only lived in New England for 27 years — making me a newcomer by local standards — but people still deal with roads like this here. The usual approach was four-wheel drive. When I first got here, there were still a lot of late-seventies/early-eighties Subarus floating around, and more Jeep Eagles than most places would see. Subarus still dominate the parking lots.

      In the days of rear-wheel drive, I suspect it was all done with chains and momentum. If you hit a muddy patch going fast enough, you could get through it.

      And there have always been roads you just avoid for a few weeks every spring.

  7. My folks built our house in `54; back then apparently we were just outside the Omaha city limits, and our neighborhood was so new, we didn’t have paved streets until `63. Even though the county would put down pea gravel, it wasn’t enough when we got a gully-washer of a rainstorm. Mom said in those years, the few new homeowners we had on our ‘street’ ALL got mired in the muck! She said dad would leave the car down at the bottom of the hill overnight, and walk people lawns up the hill to our house. It was the only way both he and Mom could be certain they would make it to work on time in the morning!
    I was little when our street finally got paved. My initials are in the concrete footing of our driveway by the street.

  8. I recently saw reported that approximately 33% of roads in the U.S. are not paved. Unless and until that improves radically autonomous vehicles will be in for quite a ride!

  9. As it happens, Tuesday was the birthday of one of Vermont’s (and America’s) great poets, Robert Frost. In his poem “Two Tramps in Mud-Time” he has a stanza with some of the best description of a spring day you’re likely to find:

    The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
    You know how it is with an April day
    When the sun is out and the wind is still,
    You’re one month on in the middle of May.
    But if you so much as dare to speak,
    A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
    A wind comes off a frozen peak,
    And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

    That’s pretty much how it feels here in the Northwest right now — shirt-sleeves one minute, a sweater the next.

  10. Looks pretty miserable but I don’t think you would want to trade that for Florida from June to November,where you baste in your own sweat like a human Thanksgiving turkey.

  11. “Back in the day” the streets in our development were not paved. Mud, dust and dirt got into our homes. The home owners demanded black top. We got “blacktop” – they sprayed a thick layer of black waste oil on it. Then we had black oil based mud and dirt! Yep, it was so slippery when it rained – much like driving on ice. I remember one car struggling to make it up a hill, finally gave up and went the long way round. Yuck!

    • Hi Mr. P, when I was a kid in Milwaukee, ( late 50’s) my folks bought property on what was then rural Wauwatosa. Before it was annexed into the city of Milwaukee, I remember the streets were all gravel. Occasionally, a tanker truck sprayed fuel oil on the roads to keep the dust down. Remember, at that time, fuel oil was pennies per gallon and seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe that’s why I became a truck driver, had fuel oil in my system at an early age. I believe a different type of sprayer truck also blew fuel oil smoke in the air to keep the bugs down. Can you imagine the uproar of today doing that?

  12. Reminds me of the old saying that the four seasons in Maine (or just about anywhere in the Great Northeast) are Winter, Still Winter, Mud and Construction.

  13. Thank you David for the memories from the past. Having lived the biggest part of my life in the Ozarks of Missouri getting stuck on a muddy road has never been much of a problem. We have such rocky soil most dirt roads are hard as paved ones, just more bumpy. Even the winters are so mild that I have not had my four wheel drive engaged for road travel in years. But I lived in Kansas for several years and learned quickly about muddy roads The first springtime I spent there I became stuck so deep I had to have a tractor pull me out, twice. After those experiences I kept away from dirt roads in the spring during my stay in Kansas.

  14. As a former Berserkshire resident, I thought there were SIX seasons, the extra one being Mud Season No. 2, lodged between Autumn and Winter. You could even add Mayfly season as a sub-season,; you end up ingesting so many, you could think of them as a seasoning…

  15. Substitute some Kubelwagens and Opel Blitz trucks in these pictures and it would be reminiscent of the eastern front.

  16. I spent 10 years in the Army National Guard; I was in one of the tank companies of an armor battalion. You would think that a tracked vehicle with a huge V12 diesel engine could go anywhere, but you would be wrong. I saw numerous tanks get stuck in the mud and needing to be towed out; if the mud was deep enough the tracks would just churn and eventually the tank would end up high centered. I can remember one tank (fortunately not from our company) that was buried in mud nearly to the fenders, that would be roughly shoulder high on a normal sized person. It took three tanks hooked together to extricate that one.

    • Hi Joseph, tank retrievers are even more stout than the tanks themselves. Being in road construction for many years, mud is the bane of the equipment operator. Once, an operator had a D8 Cat stuck in the mud over the tracks. It was a particularly rough predicament, as there were few machines bigger ( at the time) that could pull a D8 out. I believe an earth mover was used as the last resort.

  17. Drivers 100 years ago had to be resourceful. If you got mired in the gumbo you hiked to the nearest farmhouse and asked the farmer to bring his mule team, draft horse or ox to pull you out. Now you call road service , if your phone can get a signal and you try to describe just exactly how you became lost on a nameless fire trail somewhere the other side of the main road. And then you wait.

  18. A great by-product so far unmentioned is that the mud season is also ‘sugaring’ time. The maple sap flows and the sugar shanties are making syrup.

    • My neighbor’s farm has a nice sugar house and as I look out the window steam can be seen rising from it, they believe today will be the last day the sap runs and it gets shut down for the season.

  19. When we see old footage of Model Ts bouncing along muddy country roads with their axles skewed at crazy angles we smile, but then realize they were built for it. Those tall, skinny tires could bite down and find traction if any was to be had, and by judicious use of the planetary transmission’s three pedals, an experienced driver could get a T through just about anything. It’s no accident they were so popular among farmers, who lived with roads that often were impassible for a horse and wagon, but a Model T usually made it. Ol’ Henry had his faults, but he knew what kind of car America needed at the time.

  20. Nearby Northfield Mount Hermon School used to have their Easter vacation whenever mud season was over.

    Here in Brattleboro, Gibson road is currently closed and I like to jog up there with my dog and let him off the leash in the muddy part.

    I run studded snows on my FWD car and a few weeks ago almost got stuck in the dirt alley behind the post office. I backed out of it.

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