Smelly Socks: Driving Lessons - Going on a thrill ride

By Johanna Bloom
Dec. 20, 2012 at 6:20 a.m.
Updated Dec. 23, 2012 at 6:23 a.m.

Ranch Life

It is required that if you grow up on a ranch, you start driving earlier than most "city" kids do. According to my two boys, that almost makes it worthwhile living out of town. That is especially true if you are a certain 12-year-old boy named Austin. It is just too tempting with all of the various roads going all over the ranch to travel on and definitely no traffic to contend with. So, Austin has been given some Popsy (what my children named my father) supervised driving lessons lately.

Austin is a sports car fanatic, particularly the fast and flashy kind. An often used quote from one of his all-time favorite movies, "Top Gun," is "I feel the need, the need for speed." So as his mother, I have feared these upcoming driving lessons. I am concerned that he understands the responsibility of driving, and I am sometimes suspicious of just how carefully my father is teaching him to drive.

My tenacious child has been bugging Popsy incessantly about a certain shiny, red sport car that is tucked away for storage in a barn at the ranch. Oh the treasures that can be found in wonderful old ranch barns. Austin has been so insistent that he receive some driving time behind the wheel of this barn treasure that it has now gotten to the stage of near harassment. Lately, when my father comes out to the ranch, like he does periodically to check on things, he tries to park his truck where Austin can't see him.

The kids were out of school for the Thanksgiving holiday, and my father was unaware that he had an audience watching him the minute he drove over the cattle guard at the ranch. Austin quickly noticed that the barn door, which is constantly locked, was open.

The whole house began shaking with Austin's bellows of, "Popsy's here, and he is getting out the car." He flew out the door before I could address the situation. As my father turned around, there sat a half-dressed Austin sitting behind the wheel in the driver's seat, grinning from ear to ear.

It appeared that my father was finally caught. Austin's determination had paid off; he smiled smugly from the driver's seat. I heard the car crank up and a steady rumbling noise suddenly made Jamison's ears perk up. Austin was coaxed out of the driver's seat, and Popsy slowly backed the car out of the barn.

Austin got in the passenger's seat, and they drove down the caliche road toward the highway. I wondered what my dad had planned, when I noticed the car coming back up the road. However, something was not quite right. The car was surging forward and stopping, surging forward and stopping. As they reached the house, I noticed that my son had weaseled himself behind the steering wheel. As they stopped, he practically levitated out of the driver's seat with a, "Wow, that was just great." I heard my father murmur clearly, "Next time it is back to the pickup."

They came into the house and Austin was going on about his sports car driving adventure. You would have thought that he just won the Indy 500 with all of the enthusiasm that he exuded.

After my father calmed himself down with a couple of glasses of tea, he regained his composure and said, "You know, Austin really did do exceptionally well. But he had some trouble with the manual transmission. It's just going to take a little practice; he'll eventually get it just like you finally did." He continued, "But, I assure you that it won't be in this car again."

Later that day, I recanted Austin's driving story to John, he suddenly broke out in a cold sweat. John cringed and said, "Oh, not in that car. He won't even let me drive that." We both decided that grandparents and grandchildren have a special relationship. Things that parents would never let their own children do is suddenly just fine for their grandchildren to do. "Isn't it funny how things change," I mused.

Our Thanksgiving meal was devoured, and my mom and I were getting the dishes together and the table cleared. The boys, John and my father were outside trying to work off their meal. I immediately heard Austin's voice. "Hey Dad, what about your '66 'stang in the garage? It needs a little airing out, and you know that I like American muscle." It dawned on me that it is too late. We have reached the point of no return. My children are growing up way too fast, and they inherited my father's and husband's love of cars.

Thankfully, we have a little window before Jamison catches the driving bug. I had just finished my thought, and then I saw Jamison racing through the yard on his four-wheeler. He screeched to a halt at my father and John's feet, raised the visor on his helmet, smiled sweetly and said, "So when is it my turn behind the wheel? I want to burn some rubber like Austin."

Johanna is a proud seventh-generation Texan. She lives on her family's South Texas ranch with her husband and two lively boys. Email Johanna Bloom or Anita Spisak at



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