The Six-Year-Old Truck Driver

When he was six my little brother Davie graduated from driving toy trucks to driving the real thing. He persuaded Daddy to let him drive the truck -- alone -- across the fields of our Montana farm and around the farmyard. Davie knew all about truck driving by then. He had seldom missed a movement Daddy or Grandpa made while driving.

It was an eerie sight watching Davie drive that truck, because you couldn't see him. It appeared the truck was driving itself. Then you'd locate the top six inches of his little blond head above the dashboard, eyes peering intently ahead. In those days he didn't drive in a seated position: he drove with his tiny bottom just brushing the edge of the seat, while his feet grasped for the pedals and his neck strained to keep his eyes above the dashboard. He drove well, putting his whole body and mind into it. In fact, he drove so well that in the fall he was allowed to drive the truck, full of wheat, over the farm fields to our granary in the barn.

That day he glowed with happiness.

When he was eight, he was permitted to drive the family car IN THE DRIVEWAY. He would spend entire Sunday afternoons doing so. He'd back the car to the end of the driveway, stop, change gears, drive the car forward forty feet to the garage, stop, change gears, back the car to the end of the driveway, stop, change gears...

One Sunday afternoon when he was nine he began showing the results of these training exercises. It was a raw March day, when the snow had melted and the soil just thawed, turning the field beside the house into icy clay gumbo. Which gumbo was several feet deep. Davie -- who by then had let us know that David, not Dave and never again Davie, was his name of choice -- David took the truck out into the middle of the gumbo and deliberately mired it up to its hubcaps. All afternoon we'd hear the truck roar and spin, roar and spin... a five-minute silence, then roar and spin, roar and spin. A miserable, cold, windy afternoon, and even David would be driven in to warm his freezing hands and get a drink of water.

David's reports were always cheerful. Early announcements explained how truly hopelessly mired he'd gotten the truck. Later reports described efforts with chains, boards, and gunny sacks, all performed with his bare hands in freezing mud.

"It's halfway out!"

Much roaring from the field.

"It's almost there, just a few more tries."

Sounds from the field as of a truck in its last agonies.

"It's out! It's out! I got it out!"

A look at the kitchen clock. "I guess I have time to get it stuck again before dark."

About the Author: Go STEAMIN