Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, September 12, 2014

Royal Winter Ballet

Okay. Picture it in orange . . .
If one was raised on a ranch in Southern Alberta, one was driving by the time one could clearly see above the dashboard.
This involved getting physically taller.
Because Dad wouldn’t allow one to use the Sears catalogue for added height.
By the time I was 12, I was there. Dad handed me the keys, took me through car control basics in a nearby empty field, and set me loose.
Oh, I wasn’t allowed on any roads.
And my driving was strictly limited to running errands to and from said fields.
But I was driving!
Oddly enough, in those early days, I never had any accidents.
Not one.
Those were reserved for after I received my driver’s license and had discovered the joys of driving on real roads.
Case in point:
I was driving a friend’s cool, orange, 1974 Ford truck.
Four-on-the-floor with a smooth clutch.
The steering was a bit dodgy. Armstrong, as we were fond of calling it.
But it was a sweet truck to drive.
We were heading to the track.
I should mention, here, that I used to help my friend with his uncle’s racehorses at the track.
It was . . . fun.
But that is another blog post.
Moving on . . .
It was time to feed and start the day’s training.
And, as is usually the custom in Alberta in February, the roads were icy.
Icy=slick.
We were coming to a curve.
Slowing was indicated.
Now I had been well-instructed by my brothers on the best way to begin.
By down-shifting.
I pressed the clutch.
Expertly shoved the gearshift into the next lower gear.
And let out the clutch.
All while driving over a sheet of black ice.
Oops.
The next few moments are a blur.
I do remember the sensation of spinning.
Because we were.
That old truck performed maneuvers that could have put it on center stage during a performance by the Royal Alberta Ballet.
Did you know a truck can pirouette?
Arabesque?
Sauté?
Well, it can.
And very gracefully, too.
Eons and multiple circles later, we finally came to a rest, parked neatly on the median.
Facing the wrong way.
We had, somehow, managed to miss three traffic signs, two trees and one astonished pedestrian.
With dog.
For a moment, we caught our breath and counted limbs.
Then I put the truck into gear and started forward.
Down off the median and onto the street.
The wrong way.
“In Canada, we drive on the right side,” my friend pointed out shakily.
Oh. Right.
I drove back onto the median and crossed over it to the other side of the street.
We made it to the track safely.
But, for some reason, my friend would never let me drive his truck again.
Even though I pointed out, rather intelligently I believe, that there couldn’t possibly be ice on the streets in the middle of July.
Even in Alberta.
Some people simply don’t forgive and forget.
Emphasis on forget.

15 comments:

  1. There is nothing more frightening than that feeling of complete lack of control in a vehicle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh! The joys of driving a curling rock . . .

      Delete
  2. You are so lucky nothing bad came of that. Well, nothing bad except not being allowed to drive your friend's truck, that is! In all my winters of driving, I've only hit black ice once, and that was at a crawl, because someone ahead of me had hit it at normal speed and caused an accident, and the traffic was backed up. That was scary enough for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just remembered hitting black ice while driving another friend's car. Back-ended the car in front of me at a stop light. Low speed. Low impact. But LOUD! No damage again. Except that I never drove that friend's car again either. Hmmm. I think I'm seeing a pattern . . .

      Delete
  3. Good ol' black ice. I remember one time on our way to ski at Choteau, MT when we ran into black ice just south of Conrad. It was truly like trying to control a block of wood on a bed of marbles. I almost locked it in 4x4 mode and drove down the ditch. It was one of the few times I was actually scared of the road conditions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You probably would have been safer in that ditch . . .

      Delete
  4. Alberta and Montana are challenging places to drive in winter. I have 4 wheel drive and studded tires in winter - and still hate winter roads!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The powers-that-be took away our studded tires. I miss them!

      Delete
  5. Sooo lucky. I wish videos had been taken.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me, too! It probably was a lot more graceful in my head . . . I can hear the Skater's Waltz whenever I replay it in my mind! :)

      Delete
  6. Replies
    1. I hate being out of control. And I definitely was out of control! :)

      Delete
  7. While I'm very glad you were both safe and unhurt, I really wish I could have seen a truck ice-dancing like that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amazing what a big hunk of metal and rubber can accomplish when given the right stage! :)

      Delete
  8. Delivering the mail used to be a mess when the ice came. There were only 2 times we couldn't make it out and that was 2 days in a row!

    ReplyDelete

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