We started driving young on the farm. I can remember driving the pickup while my dad scattered hay, or sacks of cake off the back of the feed wagon long before my feet could reach the pedals. We also all learned to drive standards. My dad was a very patient man.
The first time I drove the tractor all by myself I was probably about 12. My dad drove me to the field, 2 miles from our house, made one circle with me, then said he'd be back to pick me up in time for dinner. Then he left me. With no cell phone. No CB radio. Nada. Alone. Just me and a ginormous tractor and an entire field of dirt that needed turned so we could drill wheat.
I cried. Seriously. I was so scared I was doing it wrong. I was afraid I would mess something up. I hadn't dared to tell my dad I was scared. I didn't want him to think I was a baby or anything. After all, I was 12 years old! Practically an adult! So...I cried....For about 15 minutes. Then, I realized....It was kind of fun! And it's not rocket science! You drive around in circles, one terrace at a time, then finish out your corners, and move to the next terrace. And it's not like I hadn't been raised riding the tractor with my dad while my mom worked. I had really been "driving" the tractor my entire life. Just never alone. And dad thought I was grown up enough to do it all by myself! Imagine that!
Dad came and picked me up in time for dinner. He went on and on about what a great job I did, and how much I got done, and how proud he was. I was so proud I could burst. I loved driving the tractor.
Until I hated it. You see, driving the tractor is just what I said...driving in circles. While trying in vain to pick up a radio station. You quickly learn every single country song they are playing. Then you learn to sing the harmony for every country song they play. Then you start counting how many animals you scare up...rabbits, quail, snakes...whatever. You count the hawks and vultures circling the skies. Then you run out of diversions.... Yep, eventually, I hated driving that tractor. But at 12? I loved it. I thought I was the smartest, best tractor driver in the world.
I also thought I was a great feed wagon driver. This was about the time my oldest sister Dawn had my niece Sarah. Sarah was just about 6 months old. I know her age, because my grandparents were spending their summer in Laughlin, (sp?) Nevada, and it was my job to keep Grandma's plants alive while they were gone. I loved being an aunt. I wanted to spend every spare second with that cute little baby. I hated that I had chores that took me a whole 3 miles away and kept me from being with my precious niece. So, I was in a hurry. At 13 years old. Driving down dirt roads in a feed wagon (this is a pickup, usually 4 wheel drive, with a flat bed put on it, and a feed bin that has a spout on it so you can pour feed out to your cattle. This solves the problem of needing one person to pour cake out of the sack while another drives.)
Did I mention I was in a hurry? Well, I was. I was driving that old pickup as hard as it could go back to my parents. I hit a sandy spot. I slammed on my brakes. I went into a skid, and slid down an embankment, landing the pickup on it's driver's side.
There was a terrible rumbling sound. I shut off the key. The rumbling continued. I panicked. Oh no! It was going to blow! I stood on my door, rolled down the passenger window (by hand of course) clamored out, and took off running. I got a ways away, and realized: Oh no! The rumbling sound was the feed! My knee must have hit the switch on the dash when I wrecked! Dad will kill me if I waste all of the feed! I ran back, climbed in, turned OFF the switch, climbed back out, and took off running again. I cut through a field to shave off some time. Did I mention I was in a panic? Why I felt the need to RUN the entire mile or so home is a mystery. Through uneven fields with shoots of feed coming up. In my cowboy boots I ran. Never pausing. Through the yard. To the front door. I burst through the door where Mom, Dawn, and Les are sitting, having a chat.
"I WRECKED THE PICKUP!" I gasp out with tears on my face, panting and sweating, and....panicking. Dawn is nearest to me. She jumps up to see if I'm okay. Mom stands up and begins to bear down on me. I cringed behind Dawn, sure wrath is about to be poured out on me.....
Mom walks right past me, out the door, gets in the car and drives to check on the pickup!
Apparently, Mom got just out of the driveway, turned to Les (who of course jumped in the car with her) and said "What is wrong with me? I didn't even ask if she was okay! Well, I guess she's fine, she walked home." She proceeded to go see about the pickup.
I was fine. Just some glass in my hair and a small sliver in my hand. Dawn patched me up before she left with them again. They had gotten the tractor to go right the pickup and see if it was drivable.
Guess who called?
I answer the phone. "Hi, Andi! How are you?"
"Fine." It was the truth.
"Is your sister still there?"
"They haven't left for home yet." Still dodging details.
"Can I talk to her? I wanted to know if they would be there when I get home from checking wells."
"They're not here." Give as little information as possible.
"I thought you said they were?"
"They had to go somewhere with Mom." Evade. Evade. Evade.
"Where did they go?"
"THEY WENT TO CHECK ON THE PICKUP BECAUSE I HIT A SANDY SPOT ON MY WAY HOME FROM GRANDMA'S AND I WRECKED THE PICKUP!"
Silence. Just for a moment. Then, "Are you okay?"
I burst into tears. Again. Apparently there were lots of tears in my life at this point. "I'm fine." I stutter out.
"Good. I'm sure it will be okay. I'll see you later!"
And that was that. Not another word was said to me about the wreck. Bless my parents and their self control. No nagging. no lectures.
I used to wonder why I never got in trouble for driving too fast down dirt roads. Not paying attention to my surroundings. Not being more careful.....Then one day I realized something...
Many years later, of course....
I WAS 13 YEARS OLD! What, exactly, do you say to your 13 year old daughter that you let drive all over the county checking cattle, watering her grandma's yard, driving back and forth from the field......What do you say to that? You're not going to take away the keys. Then she couldn't do all of the work that had to be done!
Now, years later, people have attempted to tease me about the wreck. I calmly reply....
"I WAS 13 YEARS OLD! WHAT DID YOU PEOPLE EXPECT?!"
Apparently the penchant for drama is not completely gone. But at least I don't burst into tears! Hey! Progress is progress!