Butch decided he could drive the truck himself . . . no problem!
Butch decided he could drive the truck himself . . . no problem!
My parents always claimed I was a quick learner. I could read by the age of 4, primarily because my mother read to me all the time. There was one book entitled "Teddy Bear of Bumpkin Hollow" that she read so often . . . that I had all of the pages memorized! Sometimes the "quick learning" . . . or "imitation" . . . got me in a heap of trouble.
In 1955, when I was 7 years old, I was riding on the tractor with Dad in the "back 20 acres" while he was planting corn. The field was about a third of a mile behind our house. Dad pulled up at the end of the field, and told me to go have Mother bring the truck back to the field. I walked up to the house, but I decided that I could drive the truck myself . . . no problem, as I had rode with Dad hundreds of times and knew how to operate the 1947 International with a 3-speed shift on the column.
I sat behind the steering wheel, turned the key, and pushed on the starter pedal on the floorboard, as there was no ignition switch. To my surprise, the old truck took off as soon as it started . . . I had no idea it was already in gear!
I headed down the grass lane that led back to the field. I could barely see over the steering wheel, but I thought I was a pretty talented driver. Where the lane ended, there were two large concrete posts where the gate opened. All I had to do was guide the truck through the two posts. As I passed through the open gate, I detected a strange noise, but I kept concentrating on my right hand turn...and I made it through, drove to the cornfield, turned off the key, and sat there waiting to be congratulated on my superb driving abilities.
Dad pulled up on the tractor, waived his arms, and yelled something which cannot be repeated here. He pointed over to the concrete posts . . . and beside one was the rear fender of the old International truck . . . OOPS! The right side running board was still attached, but it was not in very good shape . . . rather crumpled you might say.
As Dad unhitched his belt, I heard those famous words which I had heard on a few other occasions, "Bend over and grab your ankles." . . . nothing severe . . . but enough to get my attention and correct my ways.
That ended my driving career...until at age 13, he allowed me to drive the "new" truck, a 1953 Dodge, to the Bowers elevator with a load of corn. I also drove it to baseball practice when my Cushman scooter was broken down with a blown head gasket. No more accidents . . . except for the time when I ran over my brother after unloading some chicken feed. Fortunately he was standing in front of the truck in the MIDDLE when I knocked him over...and just landed underneath with a few scratches. Sorry, Gary!
Back in those days, lots of parents, especially those who lived on farms, let their kids drive at an early age. People just thought it was a normal thing to do . . . Nowadays, they would likely get arrested. Dad needed me to drive the old truck when I was older because my mother never obtained her driving license. But I found out that driving at the age of 7 was a LITTLE TOO EARLY!

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.