Retired PO Got Me Thinking

Retired PO mentioned some of how/what he learned to drive down there in the post about my kid’s first driving experience and that made me realize how damned easy the kid has it.

My dad was pretty particular with his driving instruction.  I had to pass several “tests” along the way.

First and foremost, I had to rotate the tires- with a jack- by hand.

I would have had to demonstrate knowledge of where all the fluids went and were to be checked- but I knew that part already.  I was adding power steering fluid when I was 4.

I couldn’t learn to drive a smooth, up-to-date automobile, although we had 4 of them.

Oh no, I had to learn to drive a ’49 Dodge pick-up truck.

3 speed on the column- kicker:  to shift into a lower gear, you had to reach through the hole in the floor board and lift up on the transmission

the key didn’t crank it- cranking had to be done by lifting the left hood.

Power steering, power breaks-  whatever your foot and arms could manage

Clutch- oh hell, I’m not even going there.

Needless to say, the lessons had excessive amounts of cursing involved.  “Dammit Cindy, EASE off the clutch and give it a little gas!”.  We’d lurch forward 3 feet and it would choke down.  He’d slam the door shut, muttering profanities as he went around to crank it up again.  “EASE off the damned clutch and give it a hell of a lot of gas!”.  Lurch.  Cuss.  Slam.  Cuss.  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Cuss.

When I finally was able to keep the thing running and learned to just take my foot off the clutch with it running nearly wide open, he put me on the road.  Straight aways went fine.  But then, there was a curve.  A pretty sharp curve, I should add.

“Turn the wheel & hit the brake.”.

“I am”

“”I am” it more then!”

“I am”


We made it, but cleaned out the ditch in the process.  Addendum:  We were both STANDING upon reaching the far side of the curve.

When I finally mastered the Dodge, I thought I’d arrived and could go back to driving the *good* cars.

Nothing doing.

He went out and found an out of service school bus.  Early sixties model, with a manual transmission of course.

He said if I could learn to drive that, I would be able to drive anything and he’d never have to worry about me.

Thankfully, the key actually cranked this sucker.  I puttered all over the farm (using that term VERY loosely) and he deemed me road worthy.

Oh yeah, I couldn’t just normally change the gears- double clutching was required.  I was a slow double clutcher and would lose speed between depressions of the clutch.  He’d make me stop & start over.  Repeatedly.

I finally got pretty good at all of it and off we went.  Made my turns good, got the hang of the double clutching system, didn’t drag the ass end of the bus through the ditch or over anything.

One particular trip, we headed down one of the local dirt roads.  I was “cruising” along at about 35 mph and we met an old pick-up truck.  I remember the faces of the guys in the truck perfectly.  Their eyes got about as big around as dinner plates and I’m pretty sure you could have shoved one of the said plates into their mouths- as they were hanging open in absolute amazement of my rocking driving skills.  Okay, okay.  It was more like they were hanging open in absolute terror.  Anyway…

they took for the ditch and we met- me in the middle of the dirt road, them straddling the ditch.

Daddy & I had to stop, we were laughing so damned much.

I finally mastered the bus and he was right- I’ve been able to drive anything I have been put in the seat to drive.

The Dodge & the bus are long since dead.  Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure he finally sold the Dodge for scrap.  David won’t have any unique driving lessons like I did.

And really, he’s missing out.

Driving lessons were some of my favorite things.  They gave me a chance to prove my head was just as hard as Daddy’s…and that’s what a lot of it was all about.



6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Crucis
    Feb 07, 2010 @ 16:09:29

    Now that brings memories. Frankly, I can’t remember when I was driving something. First it was the farm tractor. Dad worked in the mines in southern Illinois. I got home from school first. So, if there was any farm work pending—including plowing, discing, weeding or planting, I started and worked until Dad got home some hours later.

    My first road capable vehicle was our Army surplus 1950 GMC 1/4ton pickup. The floorboard had rusted through so you got wet whenever you drove on a wet or muddy road. It was a 4-speed on the floor, hand brake and the starter (when it worked) was by a foot switch.

    I drove that truck until I was in high school when it finally quit. Dad bought a newer one then, a 1953 1/4ton Chevy.

  2. snigsspot
    Feb 07, 2010 @ 17:10:15

    I drove the usual assortment of mowers & tractors too. I was bushhog operator extraordinaire when we moved here. Pulled the trailer out from under the boat (and backed that sucker under it too) every time after Mama got nervous and ran all over an El Camino.

    None of that compares with getting out there in amongst the other folks, driving 55 mph though. It was REAL then.


  3. Old NFO
    Feb 08, 2010 @ 05:56:19

    53 Dodge Power Wagon and 57 Mack Suicide Shift down on the farm… at age 11. Same story, BUT I taught my kids early on the fluids, etc. AND how to drive a stick (old Rambler 3 on the tree)

  4. Rick
    Feb 08, 2010 @ 13:00:54

    Happy Birthday

  5. Assrot
    Feb 08, 2010 @ 18:14:32

    I had a choice between learning in some old Chrysler with a “Fluid Drive” or a 1933 Chevy Panel Truck that was a bucket of bolts. The Chrysler was in good shape but something about that old Chevy just talked to my heart. I’d been driving tractors since I was around 9 or 10.

    I spent 2 years driving that old truck around our property out on highway 81 between Oxford and Walnut grove. I even flopped it over on its side once. Daddy hooked the tractor to it and turned it back upright. Once grandaddy figured out I wasn’t hurt he gave me a good lesson with a hickory switch for driving like a city boy as he called it. When I was 14 my daddy and grandaddy let me drive the Chevy on the road once in awhile until I was old enough to get a license.

    Still love them Chevys today. I’ve had Fords and Dodges but nothing beats a Chevy truck in my book.

    Those were the good old days.


  6. Assrot
    Feb 08, 2010 @ 18:15:00

    Happy Birthday

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