Otto the auto?


Contributing Editor
Walter W. Pickut

Ever since the old gray mare and the horse-drawn buckboard went out of style, cars have taken over the roads.

Old-timers and sentimentalists used to lament the loss of that indefinable but undeniable connection to a warm-blooded, trusty steed waiting out in the barn, sunshine or snow, to serve you. It’s actually sad that most of us today can only relate to that relationship through old movies.

We even named our horses. An old tradition promised naming rights to the first person to break in a horse to bridle and saddle and ride it. But sometimes it was the rider’s imagination in the saddle. In those days we lived closer to the soil and the barn. Consider these imaginative grass-guzzling old friends of the household:

  • Waikikamukau. This one’s from New Zealand. When you sound it out, you’ve got a Kiwi Kowboy’s way of asking a simple question, “Why kick a moo cow?”
  • Odor in the Court. Horses are often named after their parents. The horse “Golden Soul,” for example, was [sired by] “Perfect Soul” out of “Hollywood Gold.” Unfortunately, by that same custom, there was once a horse named “Odor in the Court,” sired by “Judge Smells.”
  • Then there was once a beloved old steed named Hoof Hearted. ‘Nuff said!

Some people reckoned the age of the horse would never end. In 1903, the president of Michigan Savings Bank advised Henry Ford’s lawyer, “The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty — a fad.”

But today, we’ve ridden more than a century down the road into the automotive age. Our cars don’t do what our horses did, and they don’t require quite the same care.

Being the emotional people we are, however, many of us seem to have formed almost the same kind of emotional bond with our horseless carriages as the old-timers did with their horses. We coddle them, we fuss over them, and we still name them—with names that still show we want some kind of relationship with the things. Consider these new-fangled names:

  • In 2013, Nissan released a new model called “Friend-Me.” It was a blatant appeal to drivers in need of a companion.
  • The Studebaker Company (remember them?) once marketed a car called The Dictator and sold it for a full decade. An odd relationship model.
  • Daihatsu once offered a car that critics said had “An engine weaker than some superbikes.” They named it the “Naked.” If that wasn’t an unfortunate translation from a Japanese word that might have meant something more like “Unadorned,” a simple car, then it’s another strange relationship model indeed.

This week, your Jamestown Gazette is here to honor that age-old, emotional bond with our means of transportation, now exemplified in our faithful automotive advertisers who, we believe, sometimes deserve to be celebrated. After all, nobody does more to maintain the undying family bonds we enjoy with our shining, motor-driven steeds.

So, now that spring is here, maybe it’s time to pay your cars some of that warm-hearted attention they deserve. Visit this week’s center spread in your Gazette and find the mechanics, automotive specialists, or, if it’s time to turn the old buggy out to pasture, your favorite new or old car-sale lots.

This is the Car Care time of year. The Car Care Council, a national association of automotive specialists, promotes two months every year to bringing attention to the importance of both safety and economy–car care and preventative maintenance. The two National Car Care Months are April and October.

Whether you’ve named your car Otto the Auto, The Speed Steed, or Soccer Wagon, Happy Car Care Month 2023.

Enjoy the road, and enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut
Contributing Editor

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.