Farm Driving

Bales of hay in a field.

My first experience, at driving a truck, was when I was seven years old. Back then, farmers’ boys learned to drive at a young age simply because there was no one else to do the job.

At seven years old and being short, a trait in my family, I couldn’t press down on the clutch and see over the steering wheel at the same time. So, while driving to the hay bales, I would listen for Dad to holler whoa, and then I would slide under the steering wheel and press down on the clutch. Occasionally I would take the truck out of gear. When Dad hollered go, I would shift it back into granny, let out on the clutch ever so easy and then slide up until I could see to drive — a maneuver I got pretty good at.

Our flatbed truck made it easier to stack a well-balanced load of hay. My father always rode on the truck and stacked the bales of hay. A man on each side of the truck lifted the hay bales up onto the truck bed.

On one particular morning, one of the men made me his target to yell at. His claim was I wasn’t getting close enough to the bales making him have to carry the bale and then lift it to the truck. In fact, if I’d have driven any closer I would have run over the bales.

Again and again, he chose to yell at me. I stopped the truck, leaned out the window and hollered, “I’m doing the best I can. Don’t yell at me!” I may have used a cuss word. Back in those days, a young one never talked back to his elders. The disgruntled man looked to my father to see what he was going to do. My father looked up and calmly said, “Find someone else to yell at.” No one yelled at me from then on.

As the years went by, I was able to reach the clutch and see over the steering wheel at the same time. There were times I would have to drive the truck on a county road to the house where we stacked the hay by the corrals, even into the dark. I didn’t have a driver’s license but it seemed to be a necessity of farm life.

When I was 14, I received my daylight driver’s license. Finally driving legally, at least in the daytime.

One late fall on a Saturday, my cousins and I were duck hunting and stayed out a little too long. I ended up coming home 45 minutes after dark. My mother was angry and made it clear I was breaking the law.

In reality, I was guilty so I took my medicine without any argument. However, it was confusing to me as, at times, I was expected to drive at night yet “illegal” for my own recreation. Soon enough, though, I acquired my nighttime driver’s license which solved the problem. And with time and age, I learned to accept that there are many gray areas in most aspects of life.


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