The question was innocent enough. “Daddy? How old were you when you started driving?”
The answer was anything but.
Innocent, that is.
Let’s leave Dad there for a moment while I explain something . . .
Okay, I know that, for most people, learning to drive begins at the ripe old age of 14.
In the farming and ranching community, however, it’s a tad different.
Farm and ranch kids start driving as soon as they can see over the dashboard.
Oh, never on real roads.
But in the fields, especially during seeding and harvest, they are needed.
Back to my question . . .
“I was ten,” he told me. “I learned how to drive when I was ten. And then I stole a car.”
Now there’s something you don’t hear every day. I stared at him. “Ummm . . . okay . . . details, please?”
He sighed and smiled. “My buddies, Bernard and DeVere, and I were walking home from school. Grade five.”
“I’m with you so far.” He had my total attention.
“And we were walking past DeVere’s house. And there, parked in the driveway, was DeVere’s dad’s car. A Model A Ford."
"With the keys inside.”
I should explain that people did that back in the thirties. Crime hadn’t been invented yet. Moving on . . .
“Bernard said, ‘Let’s take your dad’s car for a ride!’” Dad said. “At first, there was a bit of discussion.” He smiled. “DeVere didn’t think it was such a good idea.”
“Understandable.” I shook my head.
“But we talked him into it with: ‘we’ll only be a few minutes’ and ‘just around the block’. Things like that. Then we all piled in and I started the engine.”
“So you were the actual thief.”
“That’s what I said.” Dad grinned at me.
“ ‘Let’s take turns!’ Bernard said. When he took over, DeVere suddenly sat up and said he’d forgotten something. We looked at him. Bernard said, ‘What did you forget?’ And DeVere said, ‘I forgot to stay home!’”
“We drove past my house and into the country and things went well for a few minutes. Then suddenly, DeVere pointed at a car coming toward us and shouted, ‘THAT’S UNCLE ALVIN!’ Sure enough, it was. His uncle stared at us as we drove past. ‘STOP!’ he bellowed. I guess this family always talks in exclamations. ‘WE HAVE TO GET HOME!’ DeVere hollered. “WE HAVE TO GET THERE BEFORE HE DOES!’ We did a quick turn and headed back to town, certain that Uncle Alvin was hot on our heels. But he wasn’t. We pulled into the drive, parked and got out. And never saw any sign of Uncle Alvin. Then or later.”
I stared at my Dad. “That’s it? That’s the whole story?”
“Oh.” I hate to say I was disappointed, but I was. Somehow, I was picturing sirens and heart-stopping chase-scenes and dust flying as cars made nearly impossible turns on sketchy country roads.
Then I thought of those three ten-year-old boys.
I guess this is better.