I giggled when my 14-year-old showed me the new dent in his pickup. His claim that he didn’t know how it got there quickly dissolved and a suitable punishment was decided.

That is the exact reason we bought him the 1980s model Chevrolet pickup, if he hit anything just the pickup would be dinged—not him. We decided not to fix it because, given his newly minted driver status, there’s bound to be more. He is also related to me and my driving exploits are rather well known. My dad will repeat them to anyone willing to listen.

Before they decided I was safer in a pasture full of cows, my dad taught me to drive one of his tractors—a 1971 International Harvester 826 hydrostatic. He’d break out in a cold sweat if I looked at any of his other tractors too long. All I had to do was move a lever and the 826 was on the move. It might have been a bit rough, but I could move round bales off the field as instructed. The word hydrostatic may give the illusion of smooth operation but under my command it was anything but. My dad rode on the fender for a couple bales, said “OK, Whiplash,” a few times and decided he was safer somewhere else.

My first vehicle was a 1987 Chevrolet pickup with a standard transmission. My dad’s theory was that none of my friends would be able to drive it. He was right but that also meant any damage was my fault. What kind of trouble could a 15-year-old girl in a four-wheel drive pickup possibly find? If it was out there, I found it. I also found the bottom of a ditch coming home from volleyball practice one evening. The ditch was deep enough you couldn’t see my pickup from the road.

After an awkward explanation of why the neighbors had to bring me home, my dad towed my pickup out. My mother was in the driver’s seat as he dragged it out and said, “I know what the trip out was like. I can’t imagine how the trip in went.” It went a lot like me closing my eyes and waiting to see the extent of the damage, Mom. Other than some jangled nerves, there was an emblem on the front quarter panel that was slightly skewed. I have some very powerful guardian angels because the pickup landed on all four wheels and stopped about 4 inches from a hedge tree.

There are plenty more to tell but, for the sake of space, I’ll stop there. I attribute my driving style to watching “Dukes of Hazzard,” “Cannonball Run” and “Smokey and the Bandit.” My dad says that isn’t a valid argument. My dear grandpa even accused me of having “a lead foot.” If we judged every driver by how they started out, precious few of us would be licensed drivers.

That would be similar to judging adults by the actions of their younger selves, before they knew better or when they didn’t know how responsive a hydrostatic transmission is.

Jennifer Theurer can be reached at 620-227-1858 or jtheurer@hpj.com.

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