During the summertime, as we travel the highways and byways of our great nation, we can witness indisputable evidence that Americans are gluttons for punishment. This evidence can be seen in cars loaded with families who are on vacation. All of those traveling parents have one thing in common: Each is wondering whose bright idea it was to let the kids bring along those annoyingly noisy video games.
    It was not long ago when the parents were leading normal and productive lives. These former pillars of their communities are now the sort of people who entertain secret fantasies about leaving their boisterous offspring at the next gas station.
    Why are these folks willingly hurtling down the highway at 75 mph with a vehicle full of screaming kids, hoping to arrive somewhere, anywhere before they succumb to the temptation to call the nearest adoption agency? I believe the cause can be traced to our country’s peripatetic roots.
    America has always been a nation of nomads. How many times was history changed by the innocuous question, “Hey, honey, what say you pack a picnic basket and load the kids into the old Conestoga? We’ll just drive and see where the wagon ruts take us.”
    The next thing they knew, (can you imagine months of kids whining “Are we there yet?”) those hardy souls were discovering such astounding natural wonders as Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Disneyland.
    The Industrial Revolution brought tremendous changes to the American lifestyle. Nothing did more to reshape our lives than that newfangled contraption called the automobile.
    Endless ribbons of concrete and asphalt were placed over the wagon ruts to accommodate the so-called horseless carriages. As a result, cars were able to zip along at incredible speeds, sometimes even exceeding that of a team of horses. Some found these speeds appalling, arguing if God had intended for cars to go that fast, He would have given them windshields.
    In 1909, an inventor named Phineas Smeldon unwittingly came to the aid of the anti-speed movement when he patented the pothole. The pothole proved to be a commercial bust, but anti-speed activists quickly embraced it as their go-to weapon. To this very day, anti-speed guerillas will sneak out under the cover of darkness and randomly scatter potholes on our roadways in their never-ending effort to slow traffic.
    Smeldon made a vast fortune with his next invention. It was a new automotive accessory he called shock absorbers.
    The automobile ushered in a new era of mobile family vacationing. Large families were common at that time, which meant large amounts of shoving, pinching and “He’s looking at me,” were happening inside of cars. From a parent’s point of view, it was the polar opposite of a relaxing vacation.
    A heroic effort to change this was carried out by a farmer/inventor named Floyd Wimbly. Like many parents, Floyd had been frustrated by the constant bickering which inevitably erupted amongst his kids during long automotive journeys. The nonstop squabbling frazzled the very nerves he had hoped to soothe.
    Floyd got an idea one day as he passed an old abandoned chicken coop. After some judicious haggling, Floyd was able to obtain the coop for free by promising its owner he would make the eyesore disappear.
    Floyd loaded the rickety coop onto a hay wagon and chained it down. He did his best to make the interior of the coop habitable by installing carpeting and placing a mattress atop of the roosts. He even converted its built-in chicken feeder into a self-serve M&M dispenser.
    Floyd herded his considerable brood of children into the coop. During family vacations, he was thus able to motor merrily down the highway and be totally isolated from the raucous sibling rivalry taking place back on the flatbed.
    Like many ahead-of-their-times ideas, Floyd’s wondrous invention was destined for an unhappy ending. Floyd was tooling along one summer day with his kid coop in tow when he hit an uncommonly large pothole. Startled, he jumped on the brakes. The coop shot forward and became solidly wedged in the bed of his pickup.
    Nobody was hurt. As Floyd stood at the roadside and muttered imprecations about the hopelessness of the mess, a guy from Iowa stopped and offered Floyd $50 for his rig. Floyd was only too happy to have the heap taken off his hands. The Iowan drove the pickup/coop back to his home in Winnebago County and the rest, as they say, is history.
    Floyd returned to his farm sadder but wiser and wishing he had left his kids at home and had taken his chickens on vacation instead.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.