Many South Dakotans Learned to Drive at an Early Age
It turns out I wasn't the only one whose first driving experience was guiding an old pickup as Dad threw out hay for the cows; Denise Peterson said; I was about five. Dad would put the 1950's International pickup in gear and stand in back to throw hay off the back while I drove around the pasture. Then at 9 I would sit on his lap and drive the 1960 Ambassador Rambler with the push-button transmission. By 12 I was driving the truck and tractors all over in the country. I did not get my license until I was 16.
Growing up in rural America has its advantages. One of those plusses was learning to drive at an early age. Starting driving at an early age wasn't just for plains people either. Diane Kutz said, I was probably 12 when I started driving on old logging trails in the Black Hills. We had a big old Chevy truck that we would go up in the Hills and cut firewood for our wood-burning stove. I got my license at 14 and drove a 1970(ish?) A Ford Maverick was my first car.
I recently posed the question on our Facebook page. What was the first car or pickup you drove and at what age? Many of us cut our teeth while cutting grass. Brady Soulek said I was about 5 or 6. I transitioned from the Snapper lawnmower to a Case tractor pulling a grain cart in the field. Probably 8-10 before I drove the F-150 pickup on the road.
Many farm kids helped when tractors and equipment needed to be moved from field to field. That seemed to be a commonality amongst those who responded. I loved hearing about 'cheats' or 'shortcuts' that people would use. For instance, Jessica Heinrich said; I was about 10, I don't remember the truck but I used a pillow so I could see over the steering wheel. By fall I was taking the truck with grain from the field to the farm.
Some Dads also did a bit of rationalizing and justifying as in the case of Sonya Anderson. She said I was 12 years old. I just got my hunting license, Dad says you need to know how to drive in case something happens.
Monica Hall evidently scared her Dad into letting her try her hand at the wheel. She said I learned to drive in a 48 Willies Jeep. I was 9. My dad was afraid I might shoot him while rabbit hunting and I would have to go for help. This one sounded like Dad wanted to do the shooting while hanging out the window. (a story for another time)
Many of the posts flashed back to simpler times. Times when we were learning more than reading and writing. We were learning skills we would use for the rest of our life. Amy Elizabeth said, At 10 I'd sit on my dad's lap in Chevy Lumina and he would work the peddles and I would work the steering wheel. Then at 12, I started driving with dad in the passenger seat. Of course, all of this was on gravel roads.
I thank all of those who responded and am also grateful for those of you who share this story with your Facebook and Twitter friends! Oh, and here's to safe road trips to all this winter and all the time as we continue our 'drive through the country.'
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