How Country Kids Learn to Drive

It was only after I moved to the city that I heard about driving schools. I thought it was absurd that you had to pay someone to teach you how to drive. Actually, I still can’t fathom it, I guess because none of us (my family) ever had to dig into our pockets for such expenses.

Well, then, just how did we learn to drive? Before we could see over the dashboard and my daddy would be nearing home, one of my brothers would say, “Dada, can I drive on home?” He’d giggle and say, “yeah, come on.” That party would climb up into Daddy’s lap while Dad kept his foot free to operate the brakes or the accelerator and the child would do the steering. I don’t want to hear it. It wasn’t against the law … at least not for us country folks.

When the child got old enough to see to the top of the dashboard, Daddy would put a pillow under him and if his feet could reach the gas pedal, he was good to go. When he got a little older, Daddy would sit in the passenger seat and my brother would “take it on home.” Of course, my Dad instructed and prodded until the day came when my brother would take the car (no driver’s license yet) and go down in the country selling his newspapers.

Then, for us girls, we didn’t learn to drive until we were old enough to sit in the seat by ourselves and see over the dashboard. At that time, most cars were “stick shift.” I hated those things, but that’s the kind of car I started learning to drive in.

My dad sat beside me and said, “Now, grab the shift, pull it to the right, now, let it down, now pull it back up,” or whatever it was he said. It was so funny, because if you didn’t take your foot off the clutch in sync with shifting the gears, the gears would get stuck and you would hear this grinding, straining sound like uhhhhhhhhhh. My daddy would always shout, “Take you foot off the clutch.”

That’s was the part I didn’t like, because the driver in training had to learn the art of holding the clutch down while shifting the gears simultaneously then knowing exactly when to take the foot off the clutch and press the gas pedal. To put it mildly, it was both fun and frustrating, but eventually, I did get the hang of it, but even still, I was glad that about a year or so later, my daddy bought a brand new, 1967 Monterey Mercury (that we called the “Big Monkey”). And that’s when my driving skills “took off.” For me, we had moved into a new automobile century, and driving became a breeze – just put the shift in “D” or “R” or “N” and you’re all set. Let’s go for a little ride.

Published on Oct 30, 2013

Grit Magazine

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