I Will Never Forget My First Time
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I Will Never Forget My First Time

I truly will never ever forget the first time I drove a pickup truck. Okay, so what did you think I was referring to? Well, I will never forget that either, but I am referring to a very hot summer day back in August of 1967.

My grandfather had a farm in upstate New York and I was visiting him for a week. He was a wonderful man full of funny stories but also serious life lessons that he loved telling me. Back then, kids did not dare roll their eyes like they do today, but I was secretly cringing and dreading working with him in the corn fields because I knew it was only a matter of time before he started one of his long drawn out dissertations.

This particular day he started in about safety of equipment and how I should learn how to properly use it. Next thing I knew, he was instructing me to get behind the wheel of his beloved pickup truck. Everyone in the family knew how Grandpa loved his truck. Sometimes my grandmother would accuse him of loving it more than he loved her. He rode it hard and used it in farming, but he spent hours washing & waxing it to a mirror shine.

I was petrified that I would do something wrong to his 1957 Ford pickup truck. It reminded me of a candy apple. Even though I was nervous, I figured how hard could this be, just start the engine and steer. So, I turned the key and the truck started moving by itself. I panicked. Grandpa, cool as a cucumber, just reached over and turned the key off and stared at me. I thought, “here it comes!”

His instruction method was a cross between lessons from the Karate Kid and Back To The Future as he began his “how to” speech. I was to set the parking brake to prevent the truck from rolling, and put the transmission in neutral. Next step was to put my left foot on the clutch, and then start the engine. OK, this felt simple, so once I heard the engine, I stepped on the gas with my right foot and couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t driving yet. Grandpa had a good laugh as he quizzed me about why I thought the truck wasn’t moving forward. My face turned redder than the truck itself as I realized I never put the truck in gear. I shifted it into first and Grandpa said lets go. So I lifted my foot off the clutch and imagine my embarrassment again, when the truck jerked forward and stalled! Grandpa asked me if I thought I should release the parking brake?

I repeated the procedure, started the truck, put the shifter in first gear and released the parking brake, thinking I've got it this time. Nope, the truck started rolling backwards!! Yikes!! By now Grandpa was in tears, laughing his head off. This time I forgot to step on the brake before attempting to move the truck. At the end of the day, after much trial and error, this cocky young boy realized I had lots to learn. Grandpa declared that his student was ready to graduate to an actual country road with a destination…. the ice cream store in town. My grandfather was strict and tough on me, but had the kindest, most gentle heart ever. Life’s lessons can be invaluable and I feel blessed to have shared this with my Granddad.


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