Driving Lessons

Most people, I’m sure, remember their first experience behind the wheel — the trepidation of being in control of something much larger than you, mixed with the exhilaration of knowing freedom would one day be yours.

Nothing beats the satisfaction of earning a driver’s license, filling up the tank with ethanol-blended gasoline and hitting the open road.

I long to travel; and the farm where I grew up is to thank —or blame — for my love of the open road.

I remember my first time behind the wheel. It was on Dad’s old M Farmall tractor. I was sitting on his lap when he told me to grab hold of the rubberized steering wheel and get us from Point A — the northwest corner of the grove — to Point B, the farm yard.

 The route was right in front of my eyes, but try as I might the vehicle had a mind of its own. I would have steered us right into a tree if Dad hadn’t grabbed the wheel and steered us back on path.

The farm field, which I fondly refer to as “The Back 40”, was a driver’s training ground for me and all three of my brothers, and seven of my 10 nieces and nephews thus far. One day, I imagine the great-niece and great-nephew will also be tearing around back there. That will be several years in the future, considering they don’t yet have legs long enough to master the pedal tractor.

Recently, the neighbor kids brought their parents to our farm to show them the “prairie playground” that is so full of fun. Pedro and Beatrice were given four-wheeler rides through the back pasture by their son; and when I told Pedro about the many driving lessons that have taken place on the Back 40, he grinned and handed his son the car keys.

Both Andy and his younger sister made Figure 8’s in the alfalfa patch —both under close supervision of Pedro, of course.

They did much better behind the wheel than I ever did at that age — at least they didn’t steer toward the grove, and managed to stay out of the ditch.

I still cringe when I recall the time I tried to teach a niece how to drive and thought I wouldn’t make it back on the farm yard alive. One lesson I learned from that experience was that I am not cut out to be a driver’s education instructor. The second lesson I learned is that no matter how hard I pressed my feet to the floorboard, that imaginary passenger side braking system did absolutely no good!