From The Wakulla Neighbor July 2018: Rust in peace

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The Harvey cars have become a local landmark

Staff Writer


They have been endlessly photographed – artistic symbols of the passage of time. Or used as a photographic backdrop for high school kids dressed up for prom.
The rusting hulks of old trucks parked in a semi-circle in a field just south of Crawfordville have appeared in music videos, album covers, paintings.
Passing by the field, there is almost always a car pulled over the side of the road as people are out taking photographs – or just inspecting the old vehicles.
Brad Harvey, the owner of the antique automobiles on a farm his family has owned for generations, says the vehicles represent his family history – and the agricultural history of Wakulla County.
Harvey, who is Wakulla County’s property appraiser, grew up with the trucks as his playground.
“Since my father Pat Harvey put those there in ‘97, throughout the years, people have stopped and taken pictures from all over the world. We have had pictures sent to us from Germany, France Australia, and Canada. They became a landmark for the county, and it has become one of the most photographed spots in Wakulla. Several artists have made paintings of those trucks, and several of them have sold for hundreds to $6,000. A fellow in the mall had a panoramic view of them selling for $750 per piece. The trucks are a hot spot for models, hot rod magazines, and country music videos that have used the trucks for album covers. Come to think of it, every prom, homecoming, and family gathering has been taken there.”
Harvey’s great-grandfather, Riley Americus Harvey, and his grandfather, Homer Riley Harvey, had a farm at the site that began where the public library is and it ran all the way up to where the River of Life church is on both sides of the highway, which includes the area that is now the TCC Wakulla Environmental Institute. The trucks were all used on the family farm there.
So, how did these automobiles end up there?
“For over 60 years, the trucks and cars have collected out behind the shelter and what we call the ‘gum ramp,’ which is where my family hauled turpentine gum,” Harvey says. “In 1997, my father retired from the school system and he decided to clear off the field there beside it, and he wanted to haul all the trucks off for scrap metal. He pulled each one out, one by one, and some had trees as big as 15 inches in diameter growing through the frames of them. He cut the frames out around the trees and he lined them up around the field out there where they are now. Once he looked at them, he decided he couldn’t move or scrap those trucks. My father liked the way they looked in that spot.”
The reason why these automobiles rest in this field is of agricultural significance, according to Harvey.
“As my grandfather would get a new truck, most were Ford or Dodge trucks. All of the parts are interchangeable from one truck to another. So if another truck ages or he needs to fix one, he would find another truck, park that one and either use it for a different vehicle or park it for future parts. He never sold one of them he would keep all of them for future use.”
Harvey says there  is a pattern to the trucks placement in the field.
“From left to right, they are lined up from oldest to newest. They are also lined up by make. The one in the center, though, that is what they call a REO Speed Wagon, just like the rock group REO Speed Wagon. That is the only vehicle out there that is not a Ford or Dodge and my dad would haul the pulpwood and logs in that one.”
Several years ago, the county labeled the trucks as junk and ordered them removed. “In 2001, the county sent a letter (that) said he had 21 days to show they were completely road-ready vehicles and had up-to-date tags, or they will have to be disposed of in a junkyard. Now, the reason for the letter is because we have a junk ordinance that says you can’t have a junk car in your yard.” Harvey went to county commissioners and made his case and the county stopped the case.
Another time, in 2010, a  man had an issue with code enforcement with a junk car on his property and brought up the Harvey trucks in his defense. At that point, the board declared the trucks a historical site and exempted them from the junk ordinance.
Harvey’s family still completes many different types of agricultural projects, including growing their own food and sugar cane.
“My grandfather who had the trucks was a cracker cattleman. He had a meat market and was the first Farm Bureau insurance agent in Wakulla County. He was also the building inspector for the county, a general contractor, and even built the farm we were raised on. We also hauled pulpwood and collected turpentine. Often, they would haul those materials for the use of paper products and would run it to the mill.”
The cattle truck was very much needed in all of Wakulla.
“One of the two Dodges that has a cattle body on it and that it was used to transport the cattle throughout the county to each family farm.  So, all these families had these cattle there, and as a cracker cattleman my grandfather and great grandfather would go in the fall and spring and gather up the cattle.”
What is now the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, from St. Marks and the lighthouse all the way down to Ochlocknee Bay, at Angelo’s up into Sopchoppy, was used for free range cattle.
“If Riley or Homer saw that in the area there was a calf of theirs, and it was their brand, they would gather them and brand the other cattle as needed. They fished, hunted, and ran the farm. They had to do whatever you had to do to make a living. Many of the families who lived here, the Green family, anyone that lived in the south of Crawfordville here down to where the trucks are and the many families that worked with my grandfather benefited from this farm.
“One of the things we still do, since back when these trucks were being used, is grow sugar cane.
Years ago, all of the families here used cane syrup as their sweetener – no one used sugar. Not everything was available at a store like Winn Dixie or Walmart back then, the farmers and our family would have to grow the majority of our food. So, every farm had to make sugar cane. My grandfather had the only sugar cane evaporator in the county; it was built in that shed next to where the cars are now.
“Our family and the Carter family would get together and strip all the cane. We had to cut it, cook it, and we had six to eight cooks of it a year, all with a wood fire under it. We usually make 80 gallons of syrup a year out of. We bottle all of it and sell it or give it as gifts. My dad would tell stories about how my grandmother every morning would make them biscuits and when my father and his siblings came home from school they would go do their chores and then get a biscuit. They would cut a hole in the biscuit and fill it with syrup. That was their afternoon snack.”
Along with his family stories of sugar cane, Harvey himself has his own fond memories of the site.
“In 2013, my family did our first family photo there. We finally did that after my sister-in-law passed in 2012. It was a decision for my mother as her Mother’s Day gift. That following March she passed on. So it was well worth it.  Now when I was growing up that was my playground. I grew up in that red brick house on the curve and me and my brothers played on those trucks in the woods. The trucks were scattered throughout the woods and we would play like it was any other regular playground. We would have adventures of driving around the world in those trucks. I remember that there was one car in particular with a big water tank on it we would play on it and pretend it was an Army truck. You name it, we played on them and let our imaginations run wild.”
Harvey’s father drove and used all the vehicles at the site.
“Some of the cars have been used on vacations. There is a station wagon back there, that he remembers driving over the Skyway Bridge. The cattle truck was used for leisure activities. My granddad would take the big sawmill board and lay them down one side to the other to make a bench on the body and all the kids would sit on the body of that cattle truck and watch the movies at the drive-in movie theater in Medart. There is an old pickup truck out there my dad and his friend went on one of their first dates in to a sock-hop in Sopchoppy at the Sopchoppy gym.”
Harvey recalls his father even creating a vehicle from spare parts to drive around the farm in.
“One car out there is just a front end of a car and windshield. It was a ‘34 Ford coupe – the car had rusted out. My dad when he was younger had cut the heel end of the car on the running board where it had rusted. When he knew how to drive, he cut the car part off and put one of the other truck frames on it, making it a dual truck-car. They would sit on a milk crate and drive it around the farm. It is actually one of the cars at the south end.”
“They are not just rural trucks, nor just the history of my family. They are a history of the entire county. These vehicles were used for different uses to help each other out as a community. It was not just used by one person. Over the years some families have told me how they were running out of food, and how they wouldn’t have survived if it hadn’t been for my grandfather. It’s that idea of helping one another out that in today’s society we just don’t have anymore,” says Harvey.
Unfortunately, the automobile graveyard has been victim to vandalism.
 “Over the years, people have visited the cars to strip them of their radiators for copper and people will take their chrome emblems.”
Despite the vandalism and the calls to remove the vehicles as “junk,” the historical skeletons are here to stay.
“I inherited that land from my father in 2014. I have 40 acres of that property where the trucks are and my dad still has 20 acres of that land to the south where the house is. Eventually my son and daughter will get that 40 acres and as long as they are here they don’t have any intent on changing the location of those trucks. They will stay here for people to love and enjoy. “