First time behind the wheel revisited



January 29, 2016 - 12:00 AM

Granddaughter Alayna, 14, successfully completed requirements for a driver’s license this week.
She was happy as a lark. She used our mid-sized car for the test, it being a little more manageable than her parents’ full-size pickup and what might be described as an urban assault vehicle.
After the test, Alayna bounded into the house to give full details of the experience.
Though Alayna does have restrictions on where, when and with whom she may drive, it puts her on the cusp of great adventure.
As it is with many kids in rural areas, Alayna has “practiced” driving on farm ground the past few months.
My enthusiasm for my driver’s license was as intense as Alayna’s. I also had economic motive. Larry Clements, who grew up across my family on Mulberry Street in Humboldt, was taking a two-week vacation in summer 1959 at Clark Lumber, a yard on Eighth Street. I was asked to fill in, at the princely sum of $1 an hour.
One catch. I had to have a driver’s license. The job started about the same time as my 16th birthday, on which I would have all rights and privileges behind the wheel. I sweated bullets waiting for the mail each day. When the license arrived a couple of days before I was to start work, I was elated.
I had driven my folks’ old gray ghost, a 1949 Ford, as well as granddad’s hulking 1951 Plymouth, and figured I was all set. A day or two into the job, I was told to deliver several sticks of wood and other things for a job in the north part of Humboldt. Just back into the drive and leave everything in front of the garage, were my instructions — but they didn’t say anything about backing into a narrow driveway.
Easier said than done. The two-ton truck proved a challenge to maneuver. On the third attempt, certain I had all lined up, I slowly started backing into the drive — until I heard a noise that dashed my spirits. I had clipped the edge of the stucco-covered house. Fortunately, none of the plastered mortar broke loose, and as far as I know no one ever noticed. (Not that I pursued the case.)
I’m still not the best at backing, but I’ve learned with age that it doesn’t hurt to take your time and have a measured approach. You’re much less likely to make a mistake, in driving or anything else.

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