A number of years ago I wrote little anecdotal stories for a local newspaper. I thought I’d share one of them with you.
LEARNING TO DRIVE
The best place to learn to drive is on the farm. I’ve heard it dozens of times so I know it must be true. I heard it lots about the time the men were making silage and there was a shortage of operators. Or right around harvest time when just one more truck would make it so the combine wouldn’t have to wait.
I’ve heard all the arguments. After all, they said, it’s perfectly safe. You can drive for days and never leave our property or see another vehicle. Most of the time. Yeah, right!
I’ve also seen how the kids were taught to drive.
It goes something like this: Open the truck door. Boost said child to the seat. Point out the pedals, the gearshift and the field. After that, it’s literally learn by the seat of the pants.
I’ll admit, it usually worked. The kid learned to drive simply because there wasn’t a choice. But it’s not without surprises as they learned the rules. ..sometimes with hair-raising results.
Take the time one of the boys parked the truck on a hill and walked down to the house. Part way down, he turned around to see the truck likewise headed down the hill, in a slightly different direction. He raced after it and caught up just as the truck nosedived into the side of the steel Quonset. Crunch. Rule number one: always put the truck in low gear and use the emergency brake. Especially when parked on a hill.
Or the time father and son were out moving a grain auger and looked up in time to se the fully loaded grain truck bearing down on them. The boy was able to leap into the truck and stomp down on the brakes hard enough to stop just before his father was pinned between two vehicles. Rule number two: See rule number one which applies double when applied to a loaded truck.
Farm trucks are a little different than your ordinary family vehicle. For instance, their weight, the amount of room it takes to maneuver, and the amount of time it takes to stop. Some things that a novice driver doesn’t always realize.
The men had just brought home a spanking new Mack truck. All shiny and clean. No dents. No missing pieces. Nothing the matter with it. They took it out to the field to do what farmers do best with their trucks. I think they stand around and brag about them especially when they are shiny and new with no dents. One of the boys drove the old, decrepit, banged up truck out to the same field, drove around the tractor, applied the brakes and came to a stop when he crashed into the side of the shiny new truck. There was much wailing and moaning as the men examined the truck.
Rule number three: Remember it takes twice as much space to stop a big truck as it does a half ton truck.
But I think if I had to choose the all-time winner of hard lessons it would be the time one of the boys parked a silage truck in front of the shop and sauntered to the house where the men were washing up after a hard day.
“Seems to be something wrong with the truck,” he mentioned. “Doesn’t turn too good.” And off he went to bed.
The next morning it rained. The men were busy packing the pit and looking after other things most of the day. It was late before they got around to checking on the truck and when they did, you could hear them yowl in the next township.
Something wrong turned out to be a bent wheel with a fender crushed into the tire. How it even moved was a mystery. As was the cause.
“I think I hit a rock,” was the explanation.
Upon checking the field, the ‘little rock’ turned out to be the size of a Volkswagen and it had been turned over and moved several feet from its original place.
I figured the boy deserved a medal for the biggest rock run over by a truck. Rule number four: avoid big rocks.
What better way to learn the rules of driving and what safer place than on a farm?