Driving and Life Lessons

Old leather key wallet on top of an antique drivers license

Dad loves his wallet. Lately he looks through it several times a day then hides it somewhere in his room. During his professional life he conducted a good amount of cash business,  is accustomed to carrying large bills, and more than most of us might. Although he doesn’t remember to purchase anything anymore it is a way for me to give him a sense of purpose and perhaps comfort. The amount is much smaller and I have already decided it’s alright if he should lose it. He counts the twenty dollar bills again and again. Until recently he never bothered to carry ones and fives, and he doesn’t count them.

Dad also loves his driver’s license. Although it has expired, he still carries it. I keep other expired cards in his wallet as well. Strangely, this morning he pulled out his draft registration card dated 1956. I’ve never seen it before and have no idea how it was placed in his wallet. Then he shared a story I’ve heard many times. He was thinking about his “poor momma” and how she tested several times before passing the driving test for her license. My grandmother would get nervous and make mistakes. Finally, Dad went with her for moral support and she passed the test. Dad said she was a careful and safe driver and it was just a few years later that she was driving me all over town. Dad was also an excellent driver, but because his reaction time and vision were affecting his confidence, he willing stopped driving a couple years ago. 

Dad began teaching me to drive at a very young age. He would find a backroad in Arizona and put me on his lap behind the wheel of his 1947 Ford truck. When I was very small and squeezed into the middle of the seat with Dad on one side and my sister and mother on the other, Dad would grab my knee to make the horn honk. He was discretely pressing his elbow on the horn with his other arm. I still find myself in childlike awe of Dad.  As I grew into preadolescence, Dad would ask me to move the truck around our property or  just roll it forward a few feet while he was dumping a load of dirt. I had to stand on the gas and clutch, work the gear shift and wasn’t tall enough to see over the dash.  One day I drove into our neighbor’s fence. Dad and I spent hours repairing the fence before our neighbor arrived home. This is the only time I can remember him handling a situation this way. Dad and I still chuckle about how Mr. G. never noticed the fence repair. These days whenever Dad’s truck or a tractor needs to be moved around his property I ask him to do it.  If we have the time, I jump in and we sneak in a few laps around the block. 

At 16 years of age, a few months after I started driving, I got a speeding ticket. I was running late for the start of a parade and was the girls’ drill team commander for my high school junior reserve officers training corp (ROTC).  As taught, I took a backroad hoping to save a little time. Oops! My age and the nature of the ticket required I appear in court. To my surprise, Dad wanted to go with me. He asked me to wear my ROTC uniform. He thought it might help me make a positive impression in court. He still values a tidy appearance and tucks everything in to everything.

Dad met me at the court in our small downtown. We parked on the street, walked in off the sidewalk and stopped.  If my memory serves me correctly, there was just a few feet between the front door and a wall-to-wall partition of fancy wood. Looking up, there sat a small old man in a black robe. We were the only ones in what appeared to be a one-room courthouse. Dad was right, the Judge noticed my uniform and asked me about it. I explained the circumstances of my ticket and apologized. Dad was also in uniform wearing a shirt with his employer’s business logo neatly tucked into trousers with a belt.  He obviously made the most positive impression but not necessarily because of his appearance. I recall the judge asking him if he had taken off work to be with his daughter in court. The judge gave me a warning with six months probation. The ticket never went on my record. I was a fast learner.

Dad and I were recently in an accident where another driver drove into the back of us on the freeway. Thankfully, we were not injured. Dad told me I did well handling the moment. After dropping off my car for repairs, we took off in the rental car and stopped for lunch. I was delighted when Dad took out his wallet and paid for our meal – in cash.

 

Stock photo ID:870902952 Cindy Shebley

 

God Bless the Road Rebel

Dad has always been a “car guy”. Nearly every story he shares begins with a car, truck or tractor and then as the tale unfolds I learn about family history. During his teen years Dad and some of his friends started the Road Rebels club. The purpose of the club was to share a common interest and learn more about automobiles through hands-on experience. The father of one of the young men owned a garage where meetings were held. Dad enjoyed it so much he continued to wear his Road Rebels leather jacket for years afterward. One Sunday morning, as the story goes, the family was running late for church. As he ran out the door Dad grabbed his favorite jacket. Dad and mom settled into the last row pew just in time for the service to start. When it was time for the offering, the Deacon was short an usher and gave Dad a tap, asking him to help. Dad willing assisted in collecting the offering, moving row by row up the aisle to the front of the church for the blessing. As the congregation prayed over the collection, Mom looks up and sees in large white letters R O A D R E B E L S across Dad’s back. I never heard anything more about the jacket after that Sunday. Since then Dad has worked on many automobiles and enjoyed restorations. Industrial and truck engines became a significant part of his successful career. What I appreciate the most is that Dad taught me how to maintain my own car.

Dad is a NASCAR fan. Over the years I would often buy him tickets to races as birthday or Father’s Day gifts. He would always take Jim; his best friend of more than 40 years. They had a great time and every year gave me a detailed accounting of their day at the raceway. Lately, I have been recording the races for Dad to enjoy in shorter segments during the week since he doesn’t sit through a full-length race anymore. Dad loves it if someone watches the race with him so I sit nearby and get computer work done during the race. Imagine my surprise when I started a race for him today and he said, “This is the same one as yesterday.” I reminded him that yesterday we watched the end of a race in Atlanta and this race is in Miami. He said, “It can’t be. Its the same drivers in the same cars with the same numbers.” I wasn’t sure what to say and replied, “Yes Daddy, that’s how it works. There are quite a few races in a season.” Dad then inquired, “You mean all they do is drive around in circles for hours?” I said, “Yes Daddy.” Dad continues, “and they spin out and hit each other and roll over?” I nodded yes. Dad shakes his head and says, “That can’t be good for those drivers.” I said, “We hope they don’t have accidents but sometimes they do.” Dad jumps up and exclaims, “Stupidity!” Although still bewildered, my brain is finally catching up to the moment and now I’m trying not to laugh. I asked, “Who is your favorite driver?”, Dad says, “All my favorite drivers are dead.” I told Dad we could turn the race off if he didn’t want to watch it. He said, “I want to watch it. ” I asked him who he was rooting for and he said, “Jimmy Johnson”. Dad is enjoying the race and even laughing at a few comments by the announcers. I haven’t told Dad Jimmy Johnson is retiring this year. All I can say is, “God bless the Road Rebel!

Grand Canyon – Light and Laughter

Photo by Daughter

Dad and I went to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We went because he did not remember having been there and always wanted to go.  While we were waiting to check in to our cabin we decided to hike the Bright Angel Point Trail. The trail starts near the lodge and winds along sheer drop offs with dramatic views of the canyon. While we were hiking, Dad began to tell me how much he “hated this trail” sharing he hated it the entire time he helped build it. I was surprised but just listened. He explained that it was cold and snowing and he and all the workers feared they would slip and fall. I encouraged him to walk away from the edge and we continued along the trail. I asked him where he lived when he was working on the trail and he told me he drove to work from his home every day. He lives more than eight hours one-way from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. He also told me a good friend of his, one he worked with for years at his primary profession, quit after just one day. He was adamant about his experience, so I just hiked along with him in his moment. Along the way we stopped for a few sips of water under a shady rocky overhang.  At this same stop was a couple visiting from India. Dad told them in great detail how he built the trail sharing how the stones were placed along the edge and about the dangerous work. The couple listened to his story with interest and became excited to meet him. I just stood there quietly watching and listening. After all, my mission was to give Dad a happy visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We had a wonderful evening watching the light sweep across the canyon at sunset and a glass of wine with dinner. Our cabin was just 20 yards from the edge of the canyon. We slept peacefully under the pines with a fire in the stone hearth. We woke early to watch the sunrise and enjoy the changing hues as much as possible. Just one day – a few hours together as father and daughter to be remembered…or not. A few days after we returned home, Dad called me and said he needed to apologize. I said, “Dad, you never do anything you need to apologize for.” He said, “I never built a trail in the Grand Canyon.” I said, “well, there is a couple in India telling their friends they met a guy that did.” We laughed and laughed. Dad still remembers our trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Sometimes we look at the photographs together, talk about how beautiful it was, and laugh about our adventure.

Photo: National Park Service

“A short trail leads visitors from Grand Canyon Lodge to a viewing area at Bright Angel Point. Looking east, hikers can see Roaring Springs Canyon, a major tributary to Bright Angel Creek and the source of Roaring Springs. Deva, Brahma, and Zoroaster Temples are visible to the southeast. To the west is The Transept, a large tributary canyon of the Grand Canyon. The Colorado River, however, is hidden among the multicolored buttes and rock outcroppings that fill the Canyon’s depths. Along the trail are displays of marine fossils and crinoid fossils that illustrate the evolution of the landscape and life through the millennia as revealed in the exposed layers of the Canyon.”  Bright Angel Point

The Funnies – Together

Smokey Stover – One of Dad’s favorite comic strip characters.

Dad makes almost daily references to comic strips like Smokey Stover which he enjoyed growing up.  The other day Dad said “Cash U. Nutt” and then asked, “Do you remember Nancy?” I didn’t so I asked him to tell me about it. We looked it up on the internet and he was so excited to see the comic strip Nancy. We read a few and chuckled. Then he asked me if I remembered Henry. I didn’t. Dad said, “You youngsters can’t remember anything!”. Here are strips of Smokey, Nancy and Henry we found on the internet with Wikipedia excerpts describing each. I think we will make reading the “funnies” a daily activity. Enjoy!

“The puns and “silly pictures on the wall with various items hanging clear out of the frames” was the feature that provoked the most reader mail, according to articles and interviews with Holman. The cartoonist often visited the syndicate office to pick up the puns which readers suggested for the walls. He called these items “wallnuts”. For example, a picture of a fish opening a door is labeled “calling cod”.[2] The panels of Smokey Stover regularly include sight gags, mishaps, absurd vehicles, and bizarre household items, including oddly shaped furniture, clocks, vases, headwear, cigarette holders, and telephones. Framed pictures on the walls change completely from panel to panel or feature the subjects literally jumping out of the frames. The strip also abounds in nonsensical dialogue, non-sequiturs, and puns.”

“Comics theorist Scott McCloud described the essence of Nancy: Ernie Bushmiller’s comic strip Nancy is a landmark achievement: A comic so simply drawn it can be reduced to the size of a postage stamp and still be legible; an approach so formulaic as to become the very definition of the “gag-strip”; a sense of humor so obscure, so mute, so without malice as to allow faithful readers to march through whole decades of art and story without ever once cracking a smile. Nancy is Plato’s playground. Ernie Bushmiller didn’t draw A tree, A house, A car. Oh, no. Ernie Bushmiller drew the tree, the house, the car. Much has been made of the “three rocks.” Art Spiegelman explains how a drawing of three rocks in a background scene was Ernie’s way of showing us there were some rocks in the background. It was always three. Why? Because two rocks wouldn’t be “some rocks.” Two rocks would be a pair of rocks. And four rocks was unacceptable because four rocks would indicate “some rocks” but it would be one rock more than was necessary to convey the idea of “some rocks.” A Nancy panel is an irreduceable concept, an atom, and the comic strip is a molecule.[18]

Cartoonist Wally Wood described Nancy‘s design more succinctly: “By the time you decided not to read it, you already had.”[19]

“Art Baxter analyzed the appeal of the character and the strip: Henry was a strip that was supposed to be contemporary, but it never looked that way. There were almost no modern trappings. There may be cars or telephones, but that’s about it. It always seemed like Henry could always find the coal wagon, horse-drawn ice delivery or a five-cent ice cream cone. There were always shadings of nostalgia in the strip, even when it began in the Depression. Part of that has to do with the fact that Henry’s creator, Carl Anderson, was already an old man in his late sixties when he created the character by accident. Henry is autonomous in The Saturday Evening Post strips. Henry would not pick up a regular cast of characters, all with no proper names, only titles: the mother, the dog, the bully, the little girl, until it became a William Randolph Hearst comic strip. The Saturday Evening Post Henry is similar in many ways to the Little Rascals/Our Gang comedies of the same era. That is children free from the tyranny of an adult presence (mostly): children navigating the world as best they can with the knowledge and experience they currently possess; sometimes getting things right, often getting things wrong, and frequently coming up with solutions to problems unique to their limited experience. Necessity is the mother of invention with funny, surprising results.[4] Later strips of Henry would be somewhat a reversal of earlier themes, such as adults having the last word when Henry and his friends misbehave, or Henry walking around town to see free samples of common household items, then seeing another sign advertising ice cream for expensive prices, to his unspoken consternation.”