Alvin Straight

| September 13, 2023 did a column on one of the more fun vet stories of our time this week. Alvin Straight, a veteran of WWII and Korea, heard that his estranged brother Henry had had a stroke in 1994 and decided to visit – but there was a catch.

The problem was, Alvin Straight suffered from diabetes, emphysema and poor eyesight. His vision was so poor, in fact, that he could no longer hold a driver’s license. He didn’t trust anyone he knew to drive him to see his brother, so he took a page from fellow veteran and country singer George Jones’ playbook: He grabbed the keys to his riding lawn mower and headed out.

Alvin’s first attempt ended after only 25 miles (the author thinks that is only three hours – I suspect he knows nothing of old lawn tractors.) So he got another, a 1966 John Deere, and set out again, camping along the way.

This time, he made it 34 miles to West Bend before breaking down.

Undaunted, he paid for the parts he needed to fix the old Deere and camped out on a well-wisher’s lawn. When it was ready to hit the road, the repaired mower worked like a charm. For hours a day, Straight drove his mower on the shoulder of the Iowa highway. At night, he set up camp on the shoulder. He cooked, ate and slept in the trailer before picking up for the next day’s journey.

But the new parts weren’t the only hiccup in his plan. By the time he arrived in Charles City, Iowa, some 133 miles from Laurens, Straight ran out of money. Still undaunted, he just camped out until his next Social Security check came in. He also got to drop in on one of his seven children, who happened to live in Charles City. It was about halfway to his destination.

Straight continued on his journey from there, continuing on Iowa’s highway 18 and crossing into Wisconsin over the Mississippi River at Marquette. On Aug. 15, 1994, the John Deere broke down once more, when Alvin was just two miles from Henry’s house. It was only then that Straight would accept help when a local farmer helped him push the mower the rest of the way.

Took six weeks to make the trip. If you had an eye for odd news in 1994, you could even find updates and articles on Alvin’s progress.

Alvin stayed with Henry and his fifth wife for a few weeks as Henry slowly recovered from his stroke. The brothers reconciled in that time and were even seen driving to the local bars — on a riding mower.

Alvin Straight died on Nov. 9, 1996, at the age of 76. Following the hearse in his funeral procession was a trailer carrying his newest lawn mower.

A great movie about this called “The Straight Story” starring the late, great character actor Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek as his daughter, and Harry Dean Stanton in yet another great supporting role, was released  in 1999. Well worth the watch. You’ll thank me.

Category: Veterans in the news, We Remember

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Nothing runs like a deere, but they’re proud of that green and yellow paint.

Cool story though, will look for the movie.


Watching it now on Amazon


I also highly recommend the film. I saw the it years ago. Farnsworth himself was dying of cancer at the time it was made and died within a year. He brings a particular poignancy and authenticity to the role. It’s quite an understated gem and good family entertainment full of lessons that you simply don’t see much of anymore.

Maine Highlander

I agree. Farnsworth was a great actor. I especially enjoyed him in the baseball film The Natural starring Robert Redford. And Farnsworth was outstanding in the lead role in the western The Grey Fox.

IIRC Farnsworth committed suicide as he was dying from cancer.


+1 re “The Grey Fox.”


That is correct. He was in a lot of pain and It likely would have killed him eventually, probably after taking some body parts and so he opted out. I can’t properly judge an older man who makes that kind of choice under those circumstances. I do believe that people should have that kind of choice without much judgement.

He never told anyone he was dying while the movie was being made.


Big fan of The Natural, I was stationed in Buffalo in the 80s and attended a few Bisons games at War Memorial Stadium.


Just watched the trailer for the movie on youtube. Can’t believe the guy that brought us the first Dune movie and the Twin Peaks tv show directed this.


Farnsworth was nominated for an Academy Award that ended up going to rapist/ pedophile Kevin Spacey for his rather unironic portrayal of a pedophile in American Beauty. Unfunny how Hollywood voted there.


So a taxi was a no go?


Yes, you have to see it to understand.

Slow Joe

Excellent story. New generations don’t even know how to camp or cook on an open fire. The microwave generation, I like to call them.
However, he had seven children and no one could drive him? What about grandchildren?Unless they offered and Alvin Straight refused, that was bad.


A number of people offered to help but he mostly refused. He belonged to a generation where it was shameful to not be able to do everything for yourself and to rely on the charity of others and government largesse.

Hack Stone

Hack Stone had a similar predicament. He wanted to visit his brother Rollin Stone, so he set out from Bethesda Maryland in a 1980’s vintage Jaguar. The piece of shit broke down on Wilson Lane before even reaching River Road.




Sounds like Lucas, the prince of darkness struck your plans.


“A proper gentleman does not motor about after dark” – Joseph Lucas


Lucas, we dim the world.

Why do the Brits drink warm beer?

Lucas makes refrigerators, too.


(Heavy Metal bass riffs)

“Smoke …. on the wires….. see the fire under hood…”


When the EMP gets popped and all of the computer controlled vehicles go tits up, my prime mover will be a Chubby Kay-dette XT1. SFC D (and others here) have the right idea by having an old school CJ3. Looking around for something similar, but, now-a-days, those things are as spendy as that Green & Yellow paint that JD uses. Wonder how long it would take to cover the pert near 2K miles to my Brother’s place in Western SD?

Army-Air Force Guy

When we were kids, we got an old IHC Cub Cadet 123 running, and drove it everywhere around Grandpa’s farm. It was probably the most fun we had the summer I was 12 in ’82.


Check out older ATVs, motorcycles and other off road vehicles. Completely EMP proof, good gas mileage and easy to work on. Much faster than a mower. Around here a good running low slung dune buggy will set you back $3-4k. Stay away from the new Chinese junk. They fall apart quick.

A Proud Infidel®™

I have a 1947 CJ2A that’s nearly indestructible off road!


Covet Covet Covet. If Claw Daddy really loved me, he’d find me a new in crate M151a that had been buried in a warehouse somewhere that had been marked “surplus to the needs…”

Looking around for something like 5Guy mentioned, but around here they are either slap worn out or “not for sale, I’m gonna fix it up one day.” status. The hunt continues.


About 20 or so minutes east of st louis off I- 64


Sorry, link is to a 1948 CJ 2A


Cute little Parade Float puller/show car. Wonder if I could put a Faraday Cage around the Electronic Ignition module? Or convert it back? Roughly 650 miles from here, but I do have a Compatriot between O’Fallon and Collinsville, so there is that. And I wouldn’t mind another visit to Cahokia. Again, a might spendy, but looks like a fair deal. ‘Preciate the linky, not on FakeBook but I do look at Marketplace now and again, when I can access it.


I’m up near edwardsville where the chickens and the hoot owls have relations.


Bet it’s a hoot when the owls choke the chicken. And you’re within a short hop up the road to OAM’s AO. Be still my beating heart.


Plus, you can do a complete overhaul on a Go-Devil or Hurricane with a screwdriver, crescent wrench, and a pair of vise-grips!


Richard Farnsworth. The only man to ever talk to Artesians.

Green Thumb

Cool post.

jeff LPH 3 63-66

great post on a straight and narrow Vet. Passed away at 76??
2 months I’ll be 78 with type two D Got to be on the straight and narrow path through the rest of my life.


Nothing more sobering than realizing you’ve become one of those old vets you remember from your childhood. I still can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I took part in the invasion of Iraq and I was already out of my 20s when we crossed the border.


I was 24 when we crossed into Iraq. All of the PSGs and some of the Squad Leaders sported their second award CIBs after they returned from Afghanistan in 2002. Some had jumped into Panama, and the rest were Desert Storm Vets. Eleven-and-a-half years prior, they’d been over in the Middle East. In 2014, I came to the realization that my own combat experience was as dated as theirs was back then. They’d been the old guys, having fought a war while I was still in middle school. Suddenly, in my mid-30s, I was the “old guy”, leading Soldiers who’d been in elementary school when I was at FARP Shell. Now it seems like ancient history, given the evolution of the war in Iraq and dismal failure in Afghanistan. In my mid-40s, I’m the same age that the Vietnam Vets were when I was growing up.

We get older but there’s nothing that says we can’t have fun doing so.


A very wise man once said “I’m growing older, but not up”.


Mild Bill

Made it to 79 yesterday, don’t feel much different, still hurts when I get out of bed, but i did get out of bed today, always a plus. It seems that I am going up to Tahoma National Cemetery way too much in recent years. None of the guys I hunted with are all gone. at least I don’t go hunting anymore, reading a map and compass gets harder now and I was never a 2nd LT.

jeff LPH 3 63-66

And where did the time go?? Right now the time is passing before me faster than a mail bag at a train station whistle stop. Everytime I turn around, it’s Saturday.

Mild Bill

6 years in the Army right out of high school, 30 years in the fire department, made it to CPT snd found out I couldn’t keep up with the new firefighters, time to pull plug. I have been enjoying retirement other than 2 MI’s. Only travel is up into the mountains to let the dogs run or doen to the cadin we have near the Pacific ocean.


Refuse to grow up, and you cannot die of old age.


Heck yeah– adapt, improvise, overcome!


Alaska Bob would have come and took him… for a fee.


PFC Alvin Ray Straight served in the US Army from 28 July 1942 to 3 December 1945.

His second Enlistment was from 16 January 1951 to 10 June 1951.

You can find information about his family, to include his Brother, Henry Franklin Straight, at this site:

Alvin made E3/PFC in 1943 while he was stationed at Casper Army Airfield in Casper, Wyoming.

In April 1951, during his 2nd Enlistment with the US Army, Alvin and his wife, Frances, were living at Ozark, Alabama. Frances had just given birth to twin boys.

Ozark, Alabama is the home of Fort Rucker.

Rest In Peace, Sir.


David, thank You for sharing his story with us.