Just Fine

Summer is ticking by. The rain stopped for a few days, then returned with renewed vigor in a series of hammering downpours. This morning – right now – it is clear, and I am stalling for time before morning milking, waiting until the sun is high enough to reach the fence post where I halter Pip. I need the sun. We all do.

Our older boy got his driver’s permit, and we travel the back roads, starting and stopping and swerving at my command, and I think about learning to drive myself, more than 30 years ago now. God. It’s been three decades since I was my boy’s age. It seems like such deep well of time but I know it’s not. I think about him at 45, myself at 75, and it feels impossible, like a feat we can’t achieve.

Yesterday, he stalled in the middle of the steepest hill in town, and I thought for sure I’d have to be the one to get the car going again (it’s a manual transmission), but on the second try, we were off again, and by the time we made the top of the climb, I figured everything will probably work out just fine.

27 thoughts on “Just Fine”

  1. Ah yes, the Teaching Your Kids to Drive milestone. You’re about as old as I was when I was doing that. It was a good exercise in patience and restraint–a little microcosm of the relationship. Do I have anything to report back from down the road? I guess not, really–except yeah, it probably will work out fine.

  2. ​Hi Ben!

    Oh the joys of learning to drive! I cannot believe he is of age now – gosh, time flies!

    Wondering if there is any chance for a visit this month. I am back in-state for a bit and would love to get over to your place to see the new digs, if possible. If not, maybe next trip?​

    I also want to thank you for recommending black locust trees in your Homesteading book. They are amazing! We moved some of them this year and have new trees growing in the holes left behind – something we didn’t expect. And I just read about that broccoli type you recommended, which we will look to planting next year.

    Give my best to Penny. Hope to see you sometime soon!

    Wendy H. (from the old town we lived in)

    On Sun, Jul 9, 2017 at 6:21 AM, Lazy Mill Hill Farm wrote:

    > Ben Hewitt posted: “Summer is ticking by. The rain stopped for a few days, > then returned with renewed vigor in a series of hammering downpours. This > morning – right now – it is clear, and I am stalling for time before > morning milking, waiting until the sun is high enough to ” >

  3. Wow, good luck with this task. Your kids seem pretty good with common sense though, from what you describe of them. Of course there are plenty of grown adults who drive like complete shit all the time, and they manage to escape disaster by the skin of their teeth on a daily basis. I really hate being a passenger in those situations, getting epinephrine rushes every 5 minutes and frantically grasping the side of the door like you’re gonna die….

    1. Interesting. I have read that fewer teens are interested in testing for their operator’s permits because current communication technology means that they don’t need to physically travel to interface with their friends/peers.

      The most common cause of teen driver fatalities in Nebraska are roll over accidents when the drivers and passengers weren’t wearing seat belts and were ejected or partially ejected from the vehicle. Around here, gravel roads, excess speed, and a lack of experience are a deadly combination.

      1. My friends daughter knows how to drive but chooses not to. Lives in a metropolitan area. Takes Uber when she wants to go somewhere. Leaping ahead – What if: (no personal cars, just self driving cars on demand) More open space. No need for parking garages. Quieter cities. But what happens at “rush hour”?

      2. I came mighty close to three of those crashes you talk about, in as many weeks, last month. I am a firm believer in starting kids out early driving, which Ben has done, much to his credit. I have no doubt his sons will be talented drivers. Teaching the responsibilities of driving is somewhat another matter. Somewhat dependant on years of controlled experience before a license is issued, but not totally.
        I’m proud that my five year old (now six) could drive the neighbor’s golf cart from my lap, easily maintaining speed and direction on our quarter-mile long drive without my help.

  4. Thank goodness your boys have been raised on a farm so they have some experience with heavy machinery. We have an old golf cart we outfitted with tractor tires and our boys have been steering it (their feet can’t reach the pedals, yet) since they were tiny. They are really quite good and I can’t help but think they will be better drivers when the time comes for all their gradual experience. I remember the first day I took the behind-the-wheel class. The instructor had me drive to pick up a few of the other students and them took me out on a 4 lane interstate. Trial by fire, I guess, but I was not prepared in the least. I remember I tried to line up the hood ornament with the dark line in the middle of the lane in an attempt to stay where I thought I was supposed to be. Yikes! But, good memories and a wonderful feeling of freedom that is so precious at any age. Good luck and have fun!

  5. When we went out to the horse pasture I always let my daughter drive in the pasture and on the pasture roads. When she got her first car she griped. Ugly car! I said no. It’s not a car. It’s Freedom. She thought it over and decided the car wasn’t so ugly any more.

  6. A few months back I traded my little, low car for a pick-up, and now I feel like a real man, mostly because of the waves I get from the fellow workin’ man on our back roads, especially when rakes and shovels and ladders and shit are tumbling around in the back. My daughter throws big rocks in the back ’cause they’re pretty and that’s what a pick-up is for, pickin’ stuff up, and I laugh at the ridiculous things I transport which I may never do anything with – tree trunks with burls, a large set of antlers once adorning a pigpen my father built, a huge collection of antique and woods found canes (also his) that some day when I am old I will use, even if I can walk just fine, a different one for each day. I listen to cheesy country music, and almost remember those teenage years fondly when I was riding in the middle between the boys and straddling the gear stick, trying not to cough while they let me drag on their camels. I hadn’t driven a manual since my first car at 16, a little toyota that puffed huge billows of smoke from the engine every time I climbed our steep driveway and feared it would burst into flames. There was a little relearning curve this spring as I bucked up and down the road, practicing stopping and starting again on the hill just to make sure I could still do it. That clutch, a sensitive thing like so many in life – hard to know just when to let go and when to hold on one more second.

    1. A stick shift truck is a rare and beautiful thing. Drive it with pride. Have you perfected your two-fingers-off-the-wheel greeting to fellow travelers? It’s a kind of flicking motion. Subtle, but not without substance.

      Knowing when to hold on and when to let go… when you got that one figured, do me a favor and let me know, ok?


      1. Oh yes, I got that salute down pat – my fingers are nothing like my pop’s, but not too ladylike 🙂

        Damn, Ben, I was hoping you might have that secret sorted out in your unruffled soul and shed a little light to the rest of us left floundering when not fully entrenched in the moment’s work. No?

      2. When we lived at The Ranch and drove the flat bed into town we got the Ranch Wave from all the other pick ups. There’s levels you know. Depending how well you know the other pick up coming. When we drove the Toyota we got nary a wave. Well, we got waves from people who knew the car. The flat bed? Total strangers waved. I really miss manual. Suburbia ways have washed over the country and taken it down a peg. Sigh.

      3. Funny how what we drive says about us, even when maybe it’s wrong. Even when we might not want it to.


      4. I had a deprived childhood and did not learn to drive stick until my husband taught me when we were in our early 20s. Now, if driving is freedom driving stick is FREEDOM!!!!! Love it and can’t imagine ever being without. Another sad thing of this modern world is how fancy trucks have gotten. We were looking at used work/fleet trucks recently and the main thing I was attracted to was the crank windows. My boys were fascinated with them and cranked them up and down about a hundred times. I told them all trucks used to be this way and they said, “Well, why would anyone change that? That’s cool!” I agree. Another thing I miss is cigarette windows (even though I never have smoked.) On a hot day, nothing points the breeze right in your face any better. Love all the comments, as usual!

      5. Absolutely! And I have recently discovered the circling hand crank motion used to get the attention of someone in another vehicle is something that designates those of us of a certain age. Wait, did I just say that?

      1. Miles of it! A beautiful thing, though tricky for those of us left the keepers and curators in small spaces.

    2. Riding in the middle of an old 4 speed Chevy, where reverse is over and waaaayyyy down, be prepared. Anybody else remember that first experience?

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