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Driver's Ed

Yes, I’m the one who taught Jim Jr. to drive. He was just fourteen years old. Of course, Jim Sr. sat in the passenger seat giving all kinds of advice and such, but I was the one who coughed and spluttered if he didn’t let the clutch out just right, or screeched and growled if he forced my gears. He got the message.

Jim Jr. was Jim and Martha’s only son. He’d be the one to take over the business after Jim Sr. popped his clogs. It was normal back in those days for young lads to help out on the farm and young Jimmy never made plans to do anything different.

I was around for quite a few of young Jim’s firsts. There was Evelyn, of course. I’m not going to say too much about that, but I can tell you my springs have never been the same! And then there was ‘Jack Daniels’ … oh my, Jim sure tied one on with his buddies that night all singing and jolly in the truck bed until Jim Sr. came out to see what all the hollering was about.

But, by the time Jim Jr. became a young man, my days of driving in to town or out for Sunday picnics beside the waterfall were over. I still got to carry feed out to the cattle and haul the helpers out to the hay fields, but most of my days were spent parked in the pasture watching corn grow.

Jim grew up, married Evelyn, had a couple of kids and bought himself one of those brand spanking new Chevy trucks with their extra horse power and automatic transmissions.

And I’m still here watching. The corn field’s gone now, replaced by a new highway, so that’s what I look out on today. The traffic is almost non-stop; whizzing by like every outing is some kind of emergency. Kids crammed into the backseats of family station wagons point and stare at me like I’m some kind of prehistoric relic. I’ve sat here so long now that grass has grown up between my teeth and my upholstery has been all but eaten away by mice and other vermin.

Jim Sr. died just months after his wife in the autumn of 1975. Young Jim was devastated. Occasionally he’d stroll out to see me, rest his hand on my hood and take a couple of swigs from the flask that had become permanently attached to his hip.

On November 5th, 1975, he’d just dropped by to lean up against me and guzzle down a nip or two before heading in to town in his fancy truck to meet up with his mates. I watched him tear off down the highway, driving right by me without as much as a glance in my direction. But he never made it to town. He took the corner too damned fast. It wouldn’t have happened if he’d stuck with me. I wouldn’t have let it. I’d have stalled out and he’d have kicked my tyres and cussed and called me names, but he’d still be alive, wouldn’t he?

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