Haybales and Highways
I was fifteen years old and it was a Monday. There was no school that late spring morning as the teachers were at a convention sharpening their education skills and moaning about what pains in the arses their students were.
I had just jumped out of the shower and was turning on my antiquated stereo (you know, the one with the turn table and the eight track cassette player) when my dad barged in to my room with out knocking and told me to get dressed.
Being the belligerent teen I was I resented his bossing me around and was about to sass back about getting dressed on my own timetable when he cut me short and told me if my arse wasn’t in his truck in five minutes he was leaving without me.
Curiosity killed the cat they say and I was hooked. My dad *never* took me anywhere other than to the gas station to pick up an ice cream cone while he pumped gas and even then it was only after I harassed him into submission.
So I grabbed the first clean clothes I could find, ran a pick through my over-processed spiral permed hair and jumped into the truck just as he was putting the key into the ignition.
There was no point asking my dad where we were going. Years of inquiring taught me that I’d get the same response every time. “You’ll see when we get there.” So I just sat back and enjoyed the secondhand smoke swirling around the interior of the truck and listened to the hourly pig farm report on the radio station as the ribbons of road disappeared beneath our wheels.
Before long we arrived at his best friend’s family farm, located in the heartland of rural Alberta. An hour of silent driving was shattered when he slowed the truck down and turned into the long bumpy gravel lane leading to the farm house.
Out of the blue, my father very carefully started to explain to me how to work the clutch, shift into gear, brake without stalling and a myriad of other useful driving tidbits as we bumped along the driveway. Fearing that if I offered any commentary other than driving related questions he'd get annoyed and stop teaching me, I swallowed my excitement and tried to absorb all the information being tossed at me.
What I really wanted to do was whoop and holler with glee. Holy Cannoli! My daddy was teaching me to drive! And I didn’t even have to ask him! We were having one of those mystical father-daughter moments! Hot diggety dog!
We passed the old farm house and dad’s friend (my future father-in law) grinned at us and waved as my dad turned the truck towards the hay field, continuing his lesson on how to properly operate a standard transmission vehicle while tossing in the odd traffic law as we bumped along.
As we reached the middle of the field, Dad downshifted and braked, explaining the process as he did it and then killed the ignition, looked at me and asked “Well? Are you ready?”
Excitement and nervousness ran through my veins as I nodded my head so fast I practically snapped my skull clear off my spine.
Dad opened up the driver side door and lumbered out of the truck as I scooted across the bench seat and adjusted the mirror and the leg distance and did everything I could think of to present myself as a grown-up child ready to take the wheel for the very first time.
I sat there for a second, waiting for the passenger door to open and my father to hop in but it never did. As I was busy preening in the rear view mirror after adjusting it, (I was a vain little teenager after all) I neglected to notice my father walking away. Towards the farm house and far away from his vehicle and me sitting inside of it.
I hastily cranked the window down, rolling as fast as my skinny arm would let me and I called out to my dad, “Hey! Dad! Where are you going?”
My dad turned around, with a big smile on his face and yelled back, “If you weren’t paying attention when I was teaching you, too damn bad. You’ll figure it out or you’ll still be sitting here when I’m done having coffee.”
Then he winked at me and walked away, while whistling a happy tune.
The air in my happy balloon quickly hissed away as I sat there and panicked and tried to recall everything my father had explained just minutes before.
Surely this couldn’t be that difficult, I thought to myself as I turned the key.
Nothing. A few more attempts at cranking the key and it finally dawned on me that he had muttered something about the clutch. It took a few minutes to figure out which one was the clutch (which was opportune since I had flooded the engine at this point) but I finally managed to roar the engine.
Only to stall it.
Meanwhile, my father and his best friend (said future daddy in-law) stood in the big bay window and laughed their arses off at me.
Eventually I managed the right combination of pressing on the clutch, releasing and applying the gas that I actually spun the wheels.
Only to jerk to a sudden stop.
Damn emergency brake.
Sweat was dripping down my face at this point and I was somewhere between a full fledged panic attack and the biggest streak of determination I ever experienced since learning how to ride my bicycle without training wheels.
I bunny hopped. A lot. That poor truck started and stopped so often it was a small miracle I didn’t get whip lash. I’m fairly sure at this point my father and my future daddy in-law had sore abdominal muscles from laughing at me so hard.
Eventually, I got the hang of it. And then I grew a set of brass balls. I gunned that engine like no engine was ever gunned before. I drove around that hay field, dodging trees and cows and bales of tightly rolled hay like a professional NASCAR racer. I wasn’t going any faster than probably 20 km an hour but in my mind, I was flying.
My afternoon of driving sadly came to an unexpected halt as I grew so confident in my driving and shifting skills that I tried to put in a cassette tape to listen to as I burned my father’s gas. It took all of one second, maybe two and suddenly I was careening forward and bashing my head on the roof of the cab.
I hit a hay bale. Hay was everywhere except in a tightly rolled wad like it was supposed to be. Luckily, my father had stopped watching at this point. Even luckier, I really wasn’t going any faster than a turtle can crawl so there was no damage to the truck.
But the knowledge that I had just committed vehicular homicide on an innocent bale of hay stayed with me and prompted me to pay more attention and it wasn’t long after I drove the truck up to the house and handed the keys to my father.
“Learn anything?” He asked as he pocketed the keys and grinned over to my future father in-law.
“Ya. I learned never to take my eyes off the road. And I think I owe you for a bale of hay Uncle,” I glumly fessed up.
Their roar of laughter still echoes in my head. Apparently my accident wasn’t as unseen as I had thought.
I never did have to pay for that bale of hay. At least not in any monetary sense.
But seeing as how I’ve been the butt of driving jokes ever since, I think my pride has seen the price.
My daughter turns 13 this fall and is already pestering her father and I to teach her how to drive.
All I see is hay flying through the air.
I’m hiding the keys.
(This is an original post for Canada Moms Blog by Tanis Miller, otherwise known as the Redneck Mommy, who tends to write epic long but hilarious posts about her life, her kids and her boobs at Attack of the Redneck Mommy while forcing her children to do manual labour in the hopes of distracting them from asking her to teach them to drive.)