My daughter, Alicia, is starting to want to drive. As soon as we are headed out of town toward home, she starts asking. “Can I drive?” She is pretty relentless and other than the fact that it’s a little stressful, I cannot think of a reason not let her drive! She is actually a pretty good driver, beings how she is our little dare devil. Faith is not so quick to want to learn, but its coming. It is a rite of passage with all kids, despite their parents’ wishes!
All this got me to thinking about when I started learning to drive. When we lived in Loveland Colorado, my grandpa had a farm. It was a pretty good definition of a family farm, my uncles worked on the farm right along with him (when they finished with any outside job they might have.). When haying time came, a trailer was pulled out to the field and everyone either threw bales on the trailer or stacked. My brother and I’s job was to drive the tractor while the adults stacked/threw hay. We couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old, so we were scrawny little things. My uncle George used to put the tractor in low and put one of us on, and away we would go. Seems simple, doesn’t it?
Add to this story the fact if we wanted to stop, we didn’t have enough weight in our behinds to push the clutch down….or that the first few times we were scared to turn the steering wheel! Oh the fear, that first time! I remember I was excited and scared all at the same time! My goal at the time was to be just like my hero...my Grandpa. I was going to be a farmer when I grew up! So every time I had a chance to get on a tractor, I jumped at it. Of course at that age…opportunities were few and far between! One of my favorite times was always haying time…..
We got to the field and my Uncle George put me on the tractor, put it in low gear and said “don’t run over any bales”. Seems simple doesn’t it? I was so scared that first time (what 5 year old wouldn’t be?), my heart was racing and I couldn’t seem to set still. We started down the first rows of bales and I kept a pretty straight line, one of my uncles jumped up on the tractor and turned it when we got to the end of the row…starting us down a new row. All of this was really exciting to a 5yro…at first.
A tractor in low gear can only be exciting for a little while…after about the third row, I realized that my job had limitations. I could not get off; I wasn’t supposed to watch the hay being stacked…just stare straight ahead…and “don’t run over any bales!” If you’ve ever been around 5yro’s, then you should know what happened next…I stopped paying attention to what I was doing. I didn’t have to turn much, but…..
The next thing I knew we were headed right for a bale…and I panicked! I started hollering and yelling that we were going to run over the bale! Uncle George, he just run ahead grabbed the bale and threw it on the trailer. He was a pretty understanding guy …the first time! This whole incident had spooked me (I did want to do a good job, so they’d bring me back), I was pretty sharp for a few more rows…then boredom set in again. Next thing I knew, we were heading straight at another bale….but this time we kinda hit it….Uncle George was a little less understanding this time. He said, “pay attention, DON’T RUN OVER THE BALES!”
I kinda fell into a pattern that seemed to affect my Uncle George’s blood pressure. I was pretty sharp for 4-5 rows and then my 5yro attention span would kick in (or out, would probably be a better statement), and we would be headed for a bale. Now Uncle George was starting to get a little lit up over having to run ahead of the tractor and pull a bale out of the way and his “don’t run over the bale” statements were starting to have new words added to them. Things like “turn the wheel”, “you can turn the wheel, ya know”, “did you not see that bale?” and other words that I wasn’t supposed to say back then. It all finally came to a head at the end of the day.
I was tired and sleepy and no, I was NOT paying attention. I was probably pretty lucky that I was staying in the seat! But at one point I ran the back tire up on one bale and almost immediately got one stuck between the back tire and the body of the tractor. George was not amused! I can still see him trying to pull that wedged bale out. His face was redder than a fire engine and he was grunting and straining and cussing…all the while trying to talk to me…well talk is a pretty weak word. George was screaming. Screaming like a man who was just short of digging a hole and burying somebody, I figured that somebody was probably me! Now I was a pretty smart kid, so I was just past arms length….I wasn’t that tired! I can still hear that last rant, I’m talking a rant of epic proportions…which was full of words that I’d get in trouble for saying. Words that I really try not to say today! Here is the gist of it…cleaned up…but you get the idea…
“Are you blind or stupid? Don’t talk back to me! How can you run over so many bales? Don’t talk back to me! Did you not see them coming, all you had to do was look? Don’t you dare talk back to me! All you had to do was turn the wheel or hit the brake, is that too hard? Answer me when I’m talking to you!”
As I said, I was a pretty smart kid…I finally figured out that he did not want me to answer him back…but oh…how I tried! I couldn’t get a word in edgewise! But, for a boy of 5 years old…I sure learned a lot of new words!