Tuesday, August 03, 2004

This is for Pandora

My youngest brother and I went down memory lane about the cars our folks had when we grew up. I learned to drive on a 1936 green, stick-shift chevy that my folks had since it was new. It was kind of a lime green with a trunk that bumped out in the back and running boards. I remember on one trip we took that the guide at Gettysburg stood on the running board and steered us through the park. My folks drove that car to New York City when Dad was transferred from Fort Peck Dam with the Army Corps of Engineers and drove it back several times before WWII started.

I think I became socially attuned during the drives because we passed through what I now realize must have been Busby and Lame Deer (we also visited Mount Rushmore which wasn’t yet finished, but had a visitors’ center.) The Indian villages were slums of a kind I had never seen before. It scared me as well as making me wonder how people could live that way. Now I think I know. (I also remember getting on a Jim Crow bus in Washington, D.C., when I was eight and heading for the very back seat of the bus where I liked to sit and being called back and having everyone laugh at me. When it was explained to me why I couldn’t sit in my favorite seat I thought that was very unfair.) Dad drove that car back to Montana, starting on VJ Day when everything was closed so he had nothing to eat but a few snacks he found at a service station that remained open. My Uncle Paul, who’d been a mechanic in a WWII armored division that saw heavy fighting later fixed it up. He may have seen to it as well that we got new tires (recaps at that time.)

But back to learning to drive. My Dad would come up to Worden after work to pick me up after football practice and I remember one night after practice that Dad let me drive the old Chevy home (I had just turned 15 I think and I hadn’t had driver’s training yet, but I got it the next summer—our school system then was advanced that way). He told me to take what my brother remembers as the township road, which was a long and wide graveled road heading toward the river, and I was doing fine. But it was getting into dusk, so I had the headlights on and a car was coming toward us.

At that time, the dimmer switch was on the floorboard to the left of the clutch. I tried to find it with my foot and I couldn’t so I stuck my head down to look for it and promptly turned the wheel to the right. After a second or two, my Dad said something along the lines of “Chuck you might want to get back on the road.” I looked up and we were in the ditch heading for a mailbox. He may also have told me to do it gradually, that I don’t remember, but I do recall guiding us back on the road slowly and missing the mailbox. He never said anything to me and I drove until we had to get back on the road to go into Huntley. And I have just now started to wonder what the driver of that oncoming car thought.


Blogger Pandora said...

Thank you!

One weird coincidence is that I used to live in Lame Deer when I was 14 years old. I was one of the few white people who lived there at the time. I had to ride the bus to St. Labre to go to school. My stepfather worked as a plumber for the mission at that time so we had to go to school there. I just thought it was interesting that you remember passing through Lame Deer and Busby.

I also remember when dimmer switches were on the floorboard!

5:55 PM  
Blogger Chuck Rightmire said...

You can't. That's ancient history, something like the Flintstones. Thank you for the comments.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Pandora said...

I said I remember them, I never said I drove a car that had them! :-) We always had older cars when I was growing up and they had the dimmer switches on the floor.

I'm not a young whippersnapper, you know! :-)

5:45 PM  
Blogger Chuck Rightmire said...

Well, I'm an old whippersnapper and that makes you just a kid!

12:09 AM  
Blogger Pandora said...

I'll take that as a compliment! It's been a long, long time since anyone called me a kid. Thank you. :-)

7:06 AM  

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