Country Driving Lessons

Seeing a friend’s photo of his daughter zipping around in a mini ATV reminded me of my first driving lesson. A stretch, you’ll find, but that’s the way brains work y’know.

Dad and I were bombing around the country gravel roads in early fall, following flocks of ducks and geese to find an optimal hunting spot for the evening. Windows all the way down and eyes straining for specks of movement on the neverending horizons. Hundreds and thousands floated just beyond our vision, wisps of imagination.

Suddenly a flock of ducks zipped out from behind us, coming up off of a nearby pond with a crescendo of calls. They would surely pass directly in front of us, quite low. “Grab the wheel!” dad shouted, diving across the cab and tossing me into the driver’s seat. I’m 11 years old and just learned to ride my bike. Terrified and not able to reach the gas and steering wheel at the same time, I was nonetheless doing my best to control this 70 kmph Nissan pickup.

Meanwhile, dad had crawled two-thirds the way out of the passenger window to snatched his pump-action 12-gauge shotgun out of the box. Having unsheathed and loaded the boomstick in record time, he sat in the open window, gun swiveling. We were then going about 30 kmph (as I couldn’t reach the gas pedal).

Ducks and geese aren’t stupid nor do their instincts often let them down. This flock, like so many hundreds of others before and after, saw and heard our ruckus bumbling down the road and shouting at each other and made a quick course change to stay clear. ‘CRACK!’ Dad took a shot across the top of the cab. Futile for they were well out of range, but I can attest that it makes you feel better regardless.

We rolled to a stop and I made my dad get back in the driver’s seat, vowing to never drive ever again.

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