Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Parking For Dummies

See? There's hardly any dent!

Driving is important.
At least when you live on a ranch a million miles from anywhere.
Well, not quite a million, but almost.
Moving on . . .
And it happened early.
Driving, I mean.
As soon as I was able to reach the pedals on the tractor and still hold onto the steering wheel,  I was driving.
Mowing, baling, stacking.
There were lots of reasons to perch me up on 'the beast' and start the engine.
But on a tractor, I had the entire field to turn around in.
And on the Stringam ranch, the fields were . . . large.
Enough background.
At the age of twelve, I graduated to the pickup.
Again, I was limited to travelling in the fields and doing ranch work.
But I was still driving.
And in control.
More or less.
One morning, bright and early, I decided to go for a ride.
I don't know why.
It was spring.
I'm an idiot.
Take your pick.
Anyways . . .
Because I was still a fairly new driver, and driving was still a treat, and because I was basically  lazy, I decided to take the pickup to the far corral where my horse, Peanuts was currently residing.
All went well.
I drove there and parked.
Spent an hour or so with my horse.
Drove back to the ranch house.
And that's where everything went wrong.
I should probably mention that I had gone riding very early. So by the time I returned, everyone was still in dreamland.
I drove carefully up to the carport situated, by the by, directly beneath my parent's bedroom.
And very, very carefully drove into it.
And I do mean 'into'.
Frantically, I backed up.
And clipped the pillar again.
I tried to straighten out and hit it a third time.
And a fourth.
The truck just kept getting more and more . . . crooked.
Stupid machine.
This was going nowhere fast.
By now, my door and the pillar were probably looking like hamburger.
Can wood and/or metal look like hamburger?
And suddenly, there, standing in a shaft of early morning light, was my father.
Now I should explain to you that my Dad always wears pajamas.
Nicely pressed, matching button-up top with trousers (that Mom cuts off just below the knee and neatly hems).
They are quite a sight.
But I digress . . .
At this time, I only vaguely noted his light green PJ's.
Because Dad. Wasn't. Happy.
I let the engine die.
We stared at each other.
"What the hell is going on here?!"
Okay, he's a rancher. Sometimes they say 'hell'.
But only when really perturbed.
Usually when I'm around.
"It's okay. I can fix it!"
"Diane, get out of the truck!"
"I can fix it, Dad!"
He just looked at me.
I know that look. I've seen it before.
A few times.
Ahem . . .
I climbed sheepishly out of the truck and moved towards him.
"What on earth are you doing? You almost shook me right out of my bed!"
"Umm . . . I went for a ride."
"In the truck?"
"Well, Peanuts is clear over . . ."
"I know where Peanuts is."
"Well, I drove over there and went for a ride."
"At five o'clock in the morning?"
"Well, yes."
"Get in the house."
One never moves faster than when avoiding fallout. I knew this from past experience.
I disappeared in a heartbeat.
There were a couple of 'bruises' on the support of the carport.
And a dent in the truck door. (Which popped out when Dad went to get the mail and slammed the door.)
So the damage was relatively minor.
I did learn to drive.
For real.
But I'll always remember that first time.
And my Dad in his PJ's.
Some things you just never forget. 


  1. I wasn't allowed behind the wheel until I was 15 and in Drivers Ed. I can only imagine the look on your dad's face.

  2. Sounds a lot like here! My dad started driving when he was 9. Since we live on a ranch also, my kids drive young as well. We start them on 4-wheelers at 5, the backhoe and tracter at 8 or 9, and the car at 12. I'm not brave enough to let them take my car zipping around the ranch before they are 12. But now my boys have a little ranch pickup so I don't care. If they can reach the pedals and see over the steering will I don't have a problem with it.

    And I think "hell" isn't a cuss word for cowboys. :)

  3. wheel, not will... sorry - I should have proofread before I hit 'post comment'. lol


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