Driving is important.
At least when you live on a ranch a million miles from anywhere.
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.
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, as I made wide turns about the fields.
On to my story . . .
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 riding in the early morning sunshine, and drove back to the ranch house.
And that's where everything went wrong.
I should probably mention that I had gone riding very early. By the time I returned, everyone was still in dreamland.
And remember where I said that I was only accustomed to maneuvering in large spaces?
Well, that would apply here.
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.
The truck just kept getting more and more . . . crooked.
This was going nowhere fast.
And suddenly, standing there in a shaft of early morning light looking like the avenging God of Sleep, 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. Oddly enough, it's usually when I'm around.
Moving on . . .
"It's okay. I can fix it!"
"Diane, get out of the truck!"
"I can fix it, Dad!"
He just looked at me. I knew that look. I'd seen it before.
A few times.
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?"
"Get in the house."
One never moves faster than when avoiding fallout. I knew this from past experience.
I disappeared in a heartbeat.
Dad surveyed the damage.
There were a couple of 'bruises' on one of the carport supports.
And a dent in the truck door. (Which popped out later when Dad went to get the mail and slammed the door.)
So the damage was relatively minor if you don't count lost sleep.
Which Dad does.
I want you to know that I did learn to drive.
But I'll always remember that first time.
And my Dad in his PJ's.
Some things you just never forget.