On the way to work this morning the country song "When Daddy Let Me Drive" came on the radio and memories of Dad came flooding back.
I grew up on an 80 acre cattle farm, the oldest of 5 girls. As far back as I can remember I was Dad's shadow. Mom used to tell stories about me, barely old enough to walk, sitting at the local service station with Dad and the "Dead Pecker Bench" crowd. How all his hard-ankle buddies plied me with banana kisses while they swapped hunting stories and other manly lies.
I remember standing in the truck seat (back then NO ONE even knew about infant car seats) cruising the gravel roads with a dog box in the back as Dad made the rounds of his dog-trading friends. These good-ole-boys bragged about their hunting dogs (coon, rabbit or deer, if it ran they chased it with dogs) the way men now-a-days rave about their cars and power tools and traded dogs like a kid trades baseball cards
Back to the song. When I was around 11, Dad had me get in the truck with him and go to the back field to check on some hay he had cut several days earlier. When we got ready to return to the house, he told me to get in the truck and take it home while he drove the tractor. Whoa, I was supposed to drive! ALONE!
The truck was an old Ford with a three speed on the column. Having never had any driving lessons, I guess Dad thought that I had learned to shift gears by osmosis. I climbed in the cab and sat for a minute trying to remember which gear was where and which pedal was the brake and which the clutch. Speaking of pedals, by stretching my legs as far as I possible I could just barely reach them with my toe.
Dad perched on the tractor behind the truck and started yelling, "Go on to the house, I'm right behind you". I wasn't tall enough to see him in the rearview mirror but I imagine he had a smirky smile on his face.
I muttered under my breath about him being a coward for not riding with me on my maiden voyage as I jammed the clutch down and turned the key. After much grinding of gears and lots of jerky starts that resulted in killing the engine I managed to get the wheels rolling and started down the rutted lane to the house.
I bet I drove all of 5 mph as I dodged cows, potholes and trees on the way to the house. I almost tore the side mirror off when I nearly sideswiped a pine tree but I made it to the yard in one piece, killed the engine and got out. I actually felt proud of myself, but Dad acted like I had been driving for years.
Mom flew out of the house with "that look" on her face. It turned out that she knew nothing about my solo driving until she looked out and saw me in the truck alone. She stood in front of Dad with her arms crossed and demanded "What would you have done if she had hit that tree!!"
All Dad did was calmly reply "I'd have told her to back up and start again".
Mom passed last year and Dad joined her this past spring. Christmas Day will be their 51st anniversary. I miss them both.