Driving Lessons

Kids that live on a ranch learn how to drive a stick shift. Driving lessons for ranch kids happen real early. It’s just a tradition, I guess.

Our son was about five when he first learned on an old Dodge pickup. Once they learn, they help drive equipment back and forth or a pickup and trailer when picking up square hay bales. Extra drivers save time when moving the equipment around especially during haying season.
My husband brought up driving lessons last week to our daughter who’s nine, and she got a worried look on her face. She was concerned about wrecking, doing it wrong and getting into trouble for messing up. We assured her everything would be okay because that’s how a person learns, but she still had doubts. She looked at her dad and said, “Okay, but there’s one rule: no yelling,” because she’s seen what an impatient teacher he can be sometimes.
The first lesson was to get her used to steering and using the gas pedal. Since we have lots of old beaters to pick from, the guys wanted her to drive the old ford explorer-turned pickup (you can read the whole story about it in my Archives; Redneck Mother’s Day and Redneck Mother’s Day and Beyond).
Originally an automatic SUV, my husband and son cut off the back of it to look like a pickup and turned it into a four-speed. Rather than mess with arranging a foot petal clutch on the floor, they made a hand clutch out of the four-wheel drive stick shifter.
The whole time she drove, she had this very focused and serious-looking expression on her face. It was the same look I remember seeing on her face when she first learned to ride a bike.
Afterwards, she was all smiles and told relatives and friends she saw about her first driving lesson. The next lesson was to learn how to shift with the Toyota flatbed. She sat on my lap so I could assist her and she got instructions on how to let out the clutch and press on the gas simultaneously. The first time she killed it. The second time she gassed it a little more than necessary but let the clutch out without killing it. Amazingly she successfully made the transition more times than she killed it throughout the second lesson. Whenever she did it right we all cheered and she smiled and giggled with delight over her successes.
Even though she started out nervous and scared, she was excited about getting to learn how to drive. All week she’d ask me if she could tell people she’s been learning to drive a stick shift and would share the news through a big smile—just another highlight in a ranch kid’s life.

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