I was fifteen years old when I learned to drive. Moma said I needed to learn to drive a stick shift before I learned to drive an automatic so she taught me how to drive her car. She had a 1959 Impala. When I got my learner's license she would let me drive on straight-aways so that I could get the feel of the car. Moma chided me for being a lead foot and tried to get me to keep it between the lines. We had a few close calls. When I had to stop for red lights on hills she jumped over next to me to keep the car from rolling back more than once. She accused me of making her hair turn grey.
What can I say? I was a wild child. I was driving a float! The Impala had wings and it was white. It was huge. I couldn't see well when I backed up and driving forward wasn't much better. But I loved driving. I would beg people to let me drive but nobody ever trusted me. I can't say I blame them.
I remember my cousins, Randy and Debbie, were at my house once and Moma said I could drive the Impala out to my grandmother's house which was two houses down. Randy lived in the house between my grandparents and me. We were all very close when we were young. I don't remember if we were supposed to bring a bowl or something to Beulah's house for Moma or why Moma agreed to let me take the car. I just remember that she told me to go out there and come right back. Debbie and Randy were going to ride to Beulah's with me.
We pulled out of the driveway and started to my grandmother Beulah's house. By the time we got to the drive way someone said something about taking the car down the road. Somebody else agreed with the idea. As the driver I made a split second decision to drive on down the road a piece. We were only going to go a little further and turn around. The trouble was, I began to be scared that I'd pull into somebody's driveway and not be able to back out fast enough and someone might hit us on one of the hills. Dug Gap is a very hilly road with lots of dips and curves. Some people use the road like a drag strip.
I kept driving further and further trying to find some place to turn around. I was sweating it because I knew we were going to be in trouble. Instead of a five minute trip I was headed to the end of Dug Gap. I got about two miles down the road before I finally turned around in somebody's drive way. Mailboxes were across the road from the drive way. I backed so close to the mailboxes that the slanted antenna bent straight up and snapped. Ah, busted. I was in deep crap now.
Any joy I may have felt in our little joyride was gone. Poof! I didn't know what was going to happen to Debbie and Randy but I had a pretty good idea what was going to happen to me. It wasn't a pretty picture. We headed towards home and drove to our grandmother's house. Maybe she could protect us.
I had to go home and tell Moma that I broke the antenna when I took the car. She was very mad at me for taking the car down the road without permission. She knew how mad Daddy would get. I don't know if he was more upset because I took the car or because I broke the antenna but Moma took the blame for me and told him she had let me take the car. She just didn't tell him she only meant to Beulah's house. I always hated putting Moma in that position.
My mother earned every one of those grey hairs. She earned half of them the day she tried to teach me how to pass. I had been riding a cars bumper when she told me that I should pass them. We were going north on Highway 41 up the steep grade near the Carmichael's.
I got up even with an old truck and started up that grade. I kept trying to get around them but couldn't get up enough speed. I was focused on passing the truck so hard that I didn't let up on the gas. Moma started getting so excited that she started yelling Go Pam Go, over and over again. I thought she was cheering me on. Moma was frantically banging on the dash yelling Go Pam Go when I realized she wasn't yelling Go Pam Go. She was yelling No! Pam! No!
I looked up and a semi truck had crested the hill and was barreling down directly towards us. The driver in the old truck wasn't giving an inch and I was about to kill us. My God! I let off the gas and fell in behind the vehicle. After Moma collected her nerves and new grey hairs she gave me a good lecture and told me she'd let my daddy teach me how to drive from now on.
Daddy drove a big green boxy Ford truck with a green plywood homemade camper on back. He decided to teach me the right way to pass somebody when we were going camping one time. We were on windy curvy roads and I didn't really want to practice there. He kept insisting until I pulled up alongside a vehicle. Daddy told me to speed up and pass them, then pull in front of them.
I did exactly what Daddy said but I didn't check my mirrors to be sure I was far enough ahead of them. I cut into their lane and nearly ran over them. Daddy got mad and started yelling at me about cutting people off. I had no idea about watching my mirrors and I couldn't even see out of those big ass truck mirrors. That's the day I decided I'd never pass anything unless they were really, really slow. Better that than me plowing into somebody.