Thursday, July 1, 2010

How I Learned to Drive

Yesterday, I sold my little Ford ZX2. It got good gas mileage and was gray and I just sold it because I want something else. I learned to drive when I was 14, I think. I had a step-dad named Gene and he was a pretty cool dude. Long tall Texan in Washington state. Real easy personality. Not much bothered him. Red/orange hair, short beard, freckles and a roadrunner tattoo. Buck teeth. Nice man. Family man. Treated us well. He and my mom bought a little 50 acre place way up the North Touchet, past Baileysburg, Crall hollow, Hatley gulch (really washboard, that road was), and past Wolf fork. You go left at Eaton's old place which is the property just north of Don Beaver's cabin with the carved beaver statute in the front.
Half mile driveway, all gravel~nobody else lived in that particular gulch. Had a little spring crick (that's slang for creek) running through it and seven acres of hay. Little barn half way up. Wild fruit trees, roses, bull snakes and some rattlers. Deer elk, occasional bears, lots of coyotes and sheep. Our sheep. Rogers gulch. If you get to Cahill or Bill Stearn's place, you've gone too far. Bill had a big dog too. Remember Bobby, that Great Pyrenees that would lay in the road? Yeah, cars would pull around him. Too much damage if you ran him over. He'd come over and beat up on our dog. Poor Corky-snorky-muppet-butt. It was probably because of his name.
Our house was really two trailers pushed together. One was a two bedroom double-wide with an extended out living room. The second was more of a camp trailer with two rooms and a kitchen/bath in between. Gene insulated them from the cold Washington winters with hay bales and we built a huge deck with a pantry and a roof that spanned both trailers. It was cozy, if ugly. Gene also built several outbuildings and a shop for himself and later an air compressor. And he trapped coyotes and foxes for their hides. I could go hunt or skin and dress an animal, but just couldn't bring myself to learn how to stretch a hide.
Gene taught my sister Patti how to change the oil and a flat tire. He taught me how to drive. In our one-ton Dodge pickup with lockboxes and manual transmission. It was the Blue Turkey. It looked a little like this. He parked it on the the lower driveway and I climbed in the cab. Gene explained about the clutch/gas exchange and how I'd need to practice that transition or none of it would work. I killed it. I killed it again. And again and again. I wanted to stop, quit and not learn how to drive a clutch. Nope, nothing doing. We still had the 1973 Toyota Corona Deluxe that Patti let me drive when I was 8. Why couldn't I learn on that? Because this was a valuable lesson. I got frustrated and had to calm down, but Gene didn't let me get out of the cab. He wouldn't let me give up. So I didn't. Finally, the truck went forward. Then backwards. Then forwards again. I realized I was shaking and that I had a death grip on the steering wheel.
Over the course of six months, I got better at it and used the truck to haul hay from the barn to the animals. Corky would jump in the back for a short ride. Once, I backed it into the broad side of the barn. Didn't even phase that truck.
I've had other cars over the years. I drove the Corona a lot, and our little blue Datsun truck through the rest of high school. No tape deck, only a radio that worked some of the time. If you pressed the gas too quickly, some thingamajigger would come undone. It would accelerate out of control until you turned it off, pulled over and popped the hood, reconnected the accelerator and went on your way. No real big deal. No air conditioning on any of our cars anyway. We had 2/80 a/c. Roll down two windows and drive 80 miles per hour the way nature intended. With our mom in her Bronco, it was 4/60. Not as good. Yvette and I would be late for school (as usual) and we'd go as fast as we could, honking past Uncle Vernon's house and performing a little low altitude flying. That's about as much fun as I ever had, and I didn't even realize it.
Over the years I've had a few different vehicles. Most were crappy but some were fun. I bought a 1977 Firebird that I taught myself to powerslide in. When I lived in Las Vegas, my car was rear-ended and my ex-husband let me drive his non-air conditioned, two-toned (primer black and brown) Toyota. Yes, no air conditioning in Vegas. I almost died on a daily basis. No wonder I hated it there.
I'm not sure what I'm going to get next. I have a little time, what with my scooter and bicycle and only needing to get to the city to teach twice a week. I sort of want an old reliable truck so I can haul stuff. The kind like the Blue Turkey, where if I wanted to I could put a camper on the back or some stock railings and haul around a couple of sheep. I guess it doesn't make a huge difference though, since I don't have a camper or a bunch of livestock.
What I really want is what I already have: someone to believe in me.

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