Sitting in the driver’s seat I could see this country road was either going to be the road of success or the most epic failure of 1979. The determination I felt wrapping my adolescent fingers around the stick shift for the first time had quickly dissipated.
I was 16 years-old with one foot on the gas, the other on the clutch and showing enough spark in my attitude to be dangerous.
And, dangerous is exactly what my dad was thinking while sitting in the passenger seat with butt cheeks clenched and sweat pooling on his forehead imagining what could happen to his precious Jeep CJ 5. He was thinking this gravel road was either going to be the victory lap of the year or a disastrous crash course in driving a stick shift.
The deserted country road was actually a good idea for my first driving lesson. The gravel road running alongside dairy farms and cornfields on a hot summer day was far from unsuspecting pedestrians and capable drivers in town. I had the clutch under foot and was about to shift into an era of navigating independence.
“Okay let’s try this again, but without grinding the gears,” my dad preached.
Slowly letting up on the clutch while giving the right amount of gas from the accelerator, I realized this wasn’t going to be as easy as stirring up a batch of molasses cookies.
My dad was sitting with sediments of gravel in his teeth and the temperament of a sidelines coach on a losing streak. “Give it some gas!” “Let up on the clutch!”
Choreographing the foot pedals was a daunting dance and it proved to look more like leap frog down a country road than a smooth performance of an Argentine Tango.
While white-knuckling the steering wheel, I hopped, jerked and choked until the tires kicked up a cloud of dust and the Jeep came to its resting place where the engine killed along with my driving dreams.
Shift up, shift down, let up on gas, don’t grind the gears and look out for that cow! It was more than a teenager could handle. More than a middle aged father could handle.
Dad exasperated, he firmly remarked, “Alright get out, switch places we’re done for the day.” As the dust settled around us, I slipped into the passenger seat feeling down, but not out. Cautiously I asked, “So, when do you think I could drive solo?”
Looking at me with a sideways eye and road dust crusted to his mustache, he proclaimed, “When I’m buried six feet under this country road.”
– Laurie Oien
Laurie is a blogger, writer and contributing author in the anthology, Feisty After 45, released by Mills Park Publishing. Laurie resides in Minnesota and enjoys finding creative ways to write for her blog about every day experiences with a dash of humor, inspiration and a pinch of dramatics. In addition, she writes short stories in hopes others will enjoy reading. Her writing has been published on Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and Midlife Boulevard. Laurie blogs at A Square of Chocolate.