Learning to drive. My nice, shiny SUV is finally paid for, and now my 15-year son thinks he is going to drive it.
This is the nightmare I have been living with since July. It arrived today – a thick, manila envelop addressed to him from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“Here is the paperwork you need to fill out,” my son said to me with a laugh handing me a mountain of papers. “You might be done with it by the end of the week, maybe!”
It seems the school he is attending doesn’t offer driver’s education. That duty falls into my lap, as if I needed any more to add to my motherly “To Do” list.
However, I really don’t mind.
You see, I came from a very country way of thinking, raised on a farm in North Central Texas. One of my favorite stories is recalling my first experience driving.
I was accompanying my dad, a beef farmer/rancher, as I did often to herd cattle. I was the oldest and pretty much his only helper for many years besides my mom.
We were in his light blue 1986 Ford ton diesel flat bed truck pulling a long goose-neck cattle trailer carrying “Paint,” his horse. My dad drove all the way to the back of pasture across the terraces several miles from the highway and the barns. He made a u-turn pointing the truck back in his desired direction, jumped out and hopped on his horse. Then, he rode up to the window and looked my way.
“Put it in gear and drive it back,” he told me in his gruff voice.
“What?” I replied confused.
There I sat in the driver’s seat – one foot on the clutch, one foot on the gas, a hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the gear shift (yes, folks – it was a standard transmission too.)
I know this story is starting to sound like the typical, “I walked up hill both ways in the snow” story, but this is all true.
The truck died at least seven times before I finally got the hang of it. Luckily, I was as long-legged then as I am now. In hindsight, I’m sure my dad had to immediately replace the truck’s clutch after finishing my initial lesson.
After I got the truck (still pulling the trailer) going, my next fear was the obstacle course of edge rocks lining my path back to the barn. I guess I should consider myself fortunate I wasn’t contending with any “live” targets as my dad had a plentiful head start. While I’m not that old – one must keep in mind – this was back before cellular phones and GPS. I was going to master this or I was walking back home.
I was a bit like my dad – on the stubborn side – so the “Ten Toe Express” was not an option in my mind.
A few miles into my drive I started to get comfortable – avoiding the rocks, fences and cattle. My dad knew what he was doing. I probably would have done fine with him in the passenger seat, but this was a “father knows best” situation.
Surprisingly, my mom never asked how the lesson went. She had her answer when she saw the grin on my dad’s wrinkled, sun weathered face. My parents were both 34 years old before adopting me – every milestone was extra special.
The day they handed me the keys to my first car, a used grey 1979 Ford LTD, might have put fear into most parents but not mine. They had raised me as an independent, strong-will young lady.
I did right by them – the LTD only found itself in the ditch once with me behind the wheel. That curve on Gehrig’s hill was a slippery one when you are late for curfew! I only flatten two tires and had to be pulled out by two trucks. Amazingly, I survived. I also learned a lesson.
I learned how to drive.
The last time we visited my parents I drove my son out to that same pasture, I jumped out and gave him the very same look my dad gave me.