Jeep Nostalgia: Dixon Family Memories
The image of a particular automobile can produce the same rush of nostalgia that a certain smell or song can induce. It can transform us back to a place and time of childhood memories, romantic adventure, or entering a new stage in life.
The Jeeps at Dixon’s Apple Orchards hold special meaning to Becky Dixon Mullane’s past.
Known fondly in the family as the Colorado Jeep and the ’61 Jeep, the vintage vehicles have known apple orchards for their entire existence—first in New Mexico and now in Wisconsin. Their appearance reminds the Dixon family of their roots. Here’s their story as told by Becky’s father, Rich, her Uncle Dan, and Becky herself.
Mom and Dad bought that Jeep brand new in ’61. Dan and I were going to school at McCurdy when they came to pick us up for lunch. They did this quite a bit during our junior and senior years at school. We had no idea they had purchased the Jeep and were shocked, surprised, and elated with it. We went to a restaurant in Santa Fe that had an all-you-can-eat food bar, much to the delight of a teenage boy! On top of that, we were so excited and happy about that Jeep.
The next summer, Dan and I worked for a wealthy man who lived in Santa Fe. He had come to see our Dad inquiring about apple trees. This guy had already planted his trees but they weren’t producing apples. Dad advised him that his problem was that he had planted one block of trees that required cross-pollination. The man wanted Dad to take over managing the orchard and get it to production. Dad had more than a full plate of work at the ranch, so he offered Dan and me the work for the summer.
So that’s where we spent our summer. We drove the ’61 Jeep back and forth to this orchard, which was located just south of Santa Fe; that area is solid houses now. Our mom would pack us awesome lunches. She had wide-mouth thermoses packed with hot food in them, along with sandwiches, drinks, etc. We had a lot of fun with that Jeep that summer.
I’ll never forget the dog that chased the Jeep each morning down in La Siennega. We figured out a way to squirt the dog in the face with a certain dish-cleaning solution and the dog never chased us again after we got him. Instead, he would sit on the side of the road and watch us go by.
We were off to college shortly after that; I started college in ‘62 and Dan in ‘63. We did not have a whole lot of time to spend with that Jeep after the first summer. Dad used it a lot as a work vehicle and for patrolling the land, checking on the cows and the fences. I think Mom would go with him most of the time when he did that, as she loved going in the Jeep too.
The Colorado Jeep came onto the scene after both Dan and I had gone away to college. Dad acquired that Jeep from his dad (Guy Dixon, my granddad). He bought that Jeep new and I do remember him driving it on several occasions around Austin, Colorado, where he lived. I vividly remember him smoking a pipe as he drove it down the road. It had a hitch on it that he used to pull a trailer that he filled with stones from the Gunnison River. He would get the stone and then make beautiful walls out of them. He lived on a hill and he would fill dirt behind the walls and plant so he had terraced lawns around his home that were held up by these flagstone walls. He did all the lifting and placing of the stones by hand. All of if began thanks to the help of the Colorado Jeep.
Uncle Dan’s Perspective
The green Jeep was bought new for Rich and me to use to commute to the Kauffman orchard west of Santa Fe. Rich and I took it every day over the summer to take care of the orchard. However, my memories with that Jeep went beyond the Santa Fe orchard job.
I remember one time we took it to Antonio to elk hunt. There is a picture somewhere of three or four elk loaded on it. The snow was so deep. We chained it on all four tires and Dad drove it out. One elk was across the hood. How Dad saw out the windows, I will never know, because we had another quartered in the back and another across the back. As a side note, when we got home we jerked all of those elk. Took string around the poles in the cold storage room about a foot or so apart and hung the meat on the string to dry. There was a lot of it.
I remember Granddad (Guy Dixon) bought the Colorado Jeep brand new. It had a cloth top and I can still see him driving it, peddle to the metal. He would fly up and down the dirt road on the hill to his house, dust flying up everywhere. After Granddad died, Dad took the jeep to New Mexico. I think Dad and Mom put the white top on it that it has now. I believe Dad used it in the winter time to carry his pruning things in. Later he would add a generator to run an electric saw.
Some of my memories with the Jeeps began when I was a child and we would visit my grandmother and granddad at the ranch. I always looked forward to banging around in both Jeeps with my granddad or dad all over the ranch property.
Granddad taught me how to drive at about age 10 in what we call the Green Jeep, the ’61 Jeep. When I went down to the ranch at age 18 to work with Granddad, we used the Green Jeep for our ranch vehicle. Whether we were irrigating, pruning, or you name it, it was our “go-to” vehicle. Later on, pick-ups were bought to replace the use of the Jeeps as the ranch vehicles.
When Jim and I were first married, we had a lot of elk problems on the orchard. One time, my granddad took Jim, myself, and a man from the game department all over the place in the Jeep. Granddad took us places that I never dreamed of going in that Jeep, through arroyos, over brush, through creeks and streams crossings, you name it, it went everywhere! I always loved going with my granddad in the jeep, laughing, and having fun. He was not afraid to go anywhere with it. One time we went down in a blizzard—the snow drifted as high as the jeep in places— looking for the cattle to feed them hay. I could not believe Granddad would just keep going when we couldn’t even see anything. Once again, laughing and having fun while working.
Later on, our kids loved the Jeep rides. I remember popping popcorn and just going for a ride in the Jeep with all three kids when they were little, just driving around the ranch. We would pile in their pet goats and sleds and take them to the mountains to go sledding. That green Jeep has seen it all. Those Jeeps have tackled many mountains and rough terrain in so many different ways. Whether it was work or for fun, the Jeeps always took us back in time to a simpler life and they still do. We feel fortunate to still have them and enjoy them in a different way here in Wisconsin. Many visitors to our orchard will enjoy a picture next to one of these relics. We are so thankful for the memories shared in these Jeeps.