New Horizons Writers’ Group – March 2015

How I Got Mine

Carol Mitchell-Gears

It’s every High School teen’s dream to get a driver’s license. I was one of them. This is how I got mine.

My first attempt was with my school friend Sue, she had her driver’s license and couldn’t understand why I didn’t, I passed the written test. She acted like what are you waiting for girl. Son one day at school she said, “I have my Mom’s car today, let’s just go to the DMV and you can take your test.” Ditching classes, which was easy to do as the school was open campus, off we went.

Sue drove her mom’s Ford Fairlane to the DMV, a bit nervous I sign in. When it was my turn to be tested Sue got out of the car and I waited outside of the car for the examiner to arrive. He introduced himself as Mr. Edwards, he was a pleasant man with slightly graying hair and reading glasses, he asked for my learner’s permit, and asked me to demonstrate the hand signals for left and right turns, slow and stop, he confirmed my name and made some notes on his clipboard. He got into the passenger seat as I walked around to the driver’s side. As I sat down I got the shock of all times, the driver’s seat was a flat as a pancake with a sink hole in the center, no working seat adjustments, no pillow to sit on. I’m five feet nothing. I could just barely reach the gas and brake pedals. Felling terrible and dwarf like, I was waiting for Mr. Edwards to blurt out “You gotta be kidding,” as he looked over the top of his glasses, his eyebrows raised and twitched. However he didn’t say a word, embarrassed I sink even lower into the seat.

I got through the first part of the test, how I’ll never know. It was the parallel parking part of the test that was the tear jerker. Struggling to reach the gas and brake pedals and looking through the steering wheel, my eye level just slightly above the dashboard, I pulled the car forward to line up the back of the car with the two front posts. There was no mirror on the passenger side of the car, so I had to turn resting my arm on the back of my seat, stretching my body, turning my neck and head to see out the back window. I was just about standing up. I put the car in reverse, pushed on the gas pedal, a bit too hard, turning the steering wheel a bit far, heading for the designated parking space. Well in less than a split second I had all four posts down, like bowling pins, yes front and back at the same time. Mr. Edwards was vigorously pressing and pumping his foot on the floor of the car as if he had his foot on the brake. Eventually when I abruptly stopped the car, when it stopped rocking back and forth he turned his head away from me and in a quiet voice said, “I don’t think so!”

Driving back to school Sue and I didn’t have too much to say, we laughed about my bad, very bad parking but both agreed it was best I didn’t pass. If I had passed what would I have told my parents?

Three weeks later I went with my mother to retest, this time in the familiar family Packard, with my pillow and a different examiner. Thank goodness I passed, parking was perfect, not one post went down. Best of all I never got caught ditching.

A Wagon Wheel at Barter?

Bob Hirt

Bill Finch, one of the area’s most profitable farmers, was also one of the county’s proudest and most well-respected individuals. But, unfortunately, he was also known for his stinginess. Always on top of the latest news regarding farming changes, new ideas – and ways to save money, he kept up with everything. But in a peculiar sort of way he was an open-minded fellow and listened to his sons, all three of whom were destined to become good farmers in this area as well. No doubt they would inherit the place one day. In addition to a large dairy operation the Finch family produced maple syrup by tapping the many mature trees on their farm. They were good at everything they did and the maple syrup they produced was Grade A, the best anyone could buy with its very light amber color. Many farmers in the area did maple sugaring in winter but none of them had syrup that measured up to the Finch standards.

Bill somehow managed to convince himself of the need to expand his farming operation if his three boys were to continue on there. He was getting older and eventually all three boys would likely marry and have a family of their own. They would need the income. So Bill and his wife decided to “go-for-broke,” but only this one time, mind you. They’d go for the latest methods popular at that time and they built what is known as a free-stall operation with its attendant milking parlor. Thus, the dairy cows were housed in a large loafing area of the barn and were fed automatically. A computerized system inputs the animal’s number from a tag that is on a chain around its neck and measures out the appropriate amount of grain concentrates according to the animal’s production record. Hey, no work, no food! At milking time, which usually occurs twice daily the cows follow one after another, like Pavlov’s dog, into the milking parlor where machines automatically draw the milk from the cow’s udder; and when the milk stream stops the machine turns itself off and falls from the udder. Such is the progress seen nowadays. Gone are most of the small farms where cows are neatly lined up in stanchions waiting for the dairyman to move from one animal to the next until all of them have been relieved of their milk load.

Now, Bill wanted to slowly phase out of his part of the operation and concentrate more on the maple syrup business. He started to clean up the area around their home, make the place tidy and also to no longer hear his wife’s nagging about “all that mess around here.” As I was leaving the property one day I noticed a huge old wooden wagon wheel that Bill was about to haul, along with other junk, to the rear of the farm into the woods and be left there for Mother Nature to do her part. That wheel had to be at least 75 years old. “Hey, Bill, what are you gonna do with that wheel?” I said. “Why, do you want it?” “Yeah, I could paint it a nice white color and put it by the brick wall in front of the house,” I said. “How about $30?” “Oh, I was going to get some of that maple syrup, too, maybe a pint, Okay?” “That’ll be $40 total, seein’ as I’m givin’ you a break on the wheel”. Frank, the oldest son, was nearby working on a machine and overheard the conversation. “Dad, for God’s Sake, Doc just stopped by to see how that cow he treated last night was doin’. Give him a break, will ya!” “Alright, $35 bucks and it’s yours!” “It’s a deal,” I said. I half-smiled because I knew of his ancestral background.

Just a year later I went to Bill’s funeral with the same son standing there at the casket with me. “He was a crusty old man but I loved him and I’ll sure miss him.” said Frank with tears in his eyes. Maybe just then I felt the warmth and goodness of that family coming through one final time. Two years later I left that practice and some of those fine people there who were “the salt of the earth.” Those were really very good times and very kind, humble people. Memories!