Driving Lessons

Old Land Rover Circa 1950 similar to ours

Old Land Rover Circa 1950 similar to ours

Life on a farm is very different to a non farm life experience. One learns to do so many more things, and have so many experiences that are not available to the average person. You learn so many of life skills that are readily available to you on a farm, due to the environment and activities required.

I am not suggesting that all parents would allow many of the activities that we learnt or acquired, today. But my parents were not aware of half of the things that we got up to on the farm.

For example both my older brothers learnt to drive when they were about ten years old, or so it appeared to me. I believe they were thrown in the deep end purely out of necessity, but they could have a different version of the circumstances.

Feeding the cattle in the paddocks, involved driving an old Jeep around the paddock, while another person stood on the back of the Jeep or in the trailer attached, and throwing sheaves of hay out at regular intervals to the cattle.

I was helping my older brother with this chore one day, he was driving the Jeep, I was out the back throwing the hay. I do not recall if I nagged him to teach me to drive, or if he thought he might just give me a lesson, and or generate some amusement.

He stopped the Jeep and got out, and told me to sit in the driver’s seat. He gave me instructions on how to steer, and which pedal to use to stop the car, and which pedal to make it go. He put the car into gear, slammed the door, and told me to drive around in a large circle, until he would tell me to stop.

That was great, sitting on the seat, barely able to see over the steering wheel, I turned the wheel, took my foot off the brake, and off we went. Whoops, hello, if I sat on the seat I could not reach the pedals, nor could I see out the windscreen, nor where I was going. I had to stand up to steer the car, that was fine. But then my brother yelled to stop the car. Hanging on to the steering wheel to steady myself in the moving vehicle, I pushed my foot to the brake pedal, but the car did not stop.

I started to panick, I could hear my brother yelling, I had forgotten to steer the car, I could not make the brake pedal go to the floor to stop the car. I think we were both very lucky that I had not hit the accelerator pedal. My brother was at the car window, he grabbed the steering wheel to avoid hitting the hay shed and steered the car back into the circle. He yelled at me to brake, I said I could not reach the brakes. Luckily we were not going very fast. My brother yanked open the car door and told me to move. Yeah right. A Jeep does not have bench seats, it had a console in the centre, and the huge gear stick in the  centre, and there I was standing up, clinging to the steering wheel. Somehow my brother got into the Jeep, and slammed on the brakes. He probably sat on me, I cannot remember. Oh, and as for the earlier instructions, to grab the hand brake and hall it upwards if all else failed, was equivalent to watching pigs fly. My brother reminded me of the earlier instruction. So we swapped seats and he showed me how. No, using my left arm to lift the hand brake, produced no result. I could not make the hand brake budge. Standing up using both hands barely moved the hand brake out of position, it did not pull it up.

Reality set in. We both sat there for a few moments, contemplating my driving lesson just completed. My brother decided he would have to reconsider, and have a think about the situation. I was sent back to the back of the Jeep, to throw the hay out.

I assume my brother was putting the Jeep through its paces, and putting himself in my shoes. We took off suddenly very fast, I was almost thrown off the back of the car,by the force. Then he stopped the car suddenly, and I almost went over the roof of the Jeep. I imagine he was testing what may happen to him, if his younger sister was driving the car, and hit the accelerator by mistake, followed by the brake. He took off again and headed directly at the fence, swerving to avoid it at the last minute. It was at this time I decided I had enough. I was now scared out of my wits, I yelled at my brother to stop the car, and let me off. He obviously had not heard me, he turned the car and took off very fast, driving around the paddock, dodging the feeding cattle, whilst I clung to the roof of the Jeep, barely able to hold on.

Eventually my brother stopped the car, and I got off. I ran home as fast as I could.

I could not tell anyone, as I would have got into trouble, we both would have been in trouble with my parents.

Needless to say, I avoided helping my brother to feed the cattle in this method, together with any aspiration to learn to drive in the immediate future.

Later my brother took me aside and suggested I would not be able to drive the Jeep until I grew taller and stronger. In the meantime he promised not to drive fast or erratically again, that he was only testing the possibilities of what I may do, if I were in the driving seat and he was on the back. I accepted his explanation, because I trusted my brother.

I did wonder why he had such a huge grin on his face as he turned away. Needless to say my days of helping my brother with this chore were to end soon after. Another couple of episodes of being driven at furious speeds around the paddock, followed by believable explanations from my brother were wearing thin.

In the end, I asked my parents to give me driving lessons. They taught me how to overcome the problem of standing to watch where I was going, and how to jump on the pedals to stop the car.

New rules were in place. When they were satisfied I could handle the car, I was allowed to drive, while my brother threw the hay out the back. When my brother drove, I would not get onto the Jeep, but walk beside throwing the hay out as required.

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