Saturday, April 23

Clear the Ditch!

There've been a couple of smart aleck commenters, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, is it? Especially if it reminds me of the story of my first driving lesson.

During my teen years we lived in a small town in northern Minnesota--eight square blocks, maybe, with a house or two per block. My dad was the pastor of a little church there. Almost all the churchgoers were dairy farmers, and during the summer after I finished eighth grade, I worked occasionally turning hay bales for my best friend's dad. They were round bales, about 65 pounds each, lined up in rows, and my friend and I would walk through the fields, grabbing each bale with a big hook and turning it over end to end so the underneath side would be exposed to the sunlight to dry.

A few pennies a bale, my friend's dad paid us, but we were fast--we'd invented aerobic bale turning--so I made a lot more money than I did babysitting, which was the other source of income available for me. We were just a little vain (What 14 year old girl isn't?), so we turned bales in the summer sun in shorts, sleeveless shirts, and sandals, with lots of suntan lotion, in order to avoid the dreaded "farmer's tan". After an hour of bale turning, we had arms and legs full of nasty red scratches, but we were evenly tan, so we were happy.

Sometimes my dad helped my friend's dad with haying, too. He'd grown up on a farm, and he enjoyed using his farming muscles now and then. One afternoon, my dad and I were heading back home after a morning of farm work and a fried chicken lunch. The road the farm was on was a narrow gravel one--more than one lane wide, but less than two--and it was the last farm on the road, so there was never much traffic, maybe only a handful of vehicles over a whole day. It seemed like a good place for my first driving experience, and we stopped on the road to switch places so I could drive.

Everything went fine for the first couple hundred yards. Then the semi came barrelling from the other direction. My dad, who is always calm, told me to pull over to the side and stop. Easy enough, if you know where the brake is, but I didn't. I hadn't had occasion to use it before, and I certainly couldn't find it with that big truck coming straight at me.

So I drove to the side of the road and just kept on going straight into the ditch. And since I still hadn't found the brake, I kept right on going along in the ditch. Once the truck had passed, I drove back up out of the ditch onto the road again and on we went. My dad--I told you he stays calm--thought the whole thing was hilarious, and he spent the rest of my first driving lesson snickering in the passenger seat.

I'm working on teaching my fourth kid to drive. None of them has ever done anything quite like that while I'm supervising. It's a good thing, too, because I wouldn't have been snickering.

And if you think that's bad, guess what? That's not the worst thing I did during driving lessons with my dad. I'll save that for a story called Clear the Snowbank!
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