Riding ’round

By Pat Kovsky-Dotson

Come, go ridin’ ’round with me!
It’s amazing what you will see.
Not in a jet, but in things we
could never, ever forget!

I doubt today that many folks go out just to be ridin’ ’round. Times have changed along with modes of transportation. We have so advanced since the good ole days, that yesterday’s wheels are somewhat outdated, but the past will amaze those in this generation. Come on with me down my memory lane and travel on a different set of wheels.

My first memory of driving was behind the wheel of my daddy’s car, sitting in our driveway, never moving. I was sitting in place in the driver’s position with the steering wheel in my hand. The mirror was adjusted, even though my feet could not reach the pedals. Now, where was I going? I can’t remember the destination, but I was certainly on my way. I must have gone thousands of miles while saving my daddy’s gas and never getting a speeding ticket! What an adventure!

In my day, growing up in the 1930s and ‘40s, I did not even get to ride in a baby carriage, for it was during the Great Depression and folks did well to keep food on the table, and most men lost their jobs. It must have been a hard time, but I didn’t know it because I just kept ridin’ on through time.

We had to live with my grandparents some of this time until my daddy was called back to work. My daddy had an old car with a rumble seat that folded down along with the top moving up and down. It was old and was not used unless it became a necessity to go somewhere, or if you had gas money.

I don’t remember this ridin’ ’round story because I was too young, but it has been told so many times that I think I must have been there. My daddy was teaching my mother to drive in the sandy yard at Grandpaw’s. The story goes that I was in the front seat with her! What were they thinking? My mother was learning to back up the car. She asked me, who was about 2 at the time, to watch for her out of the back window. Again, she must have been desperate!

Being the most informed person in the car, I told her I would. She asked me if she was about to hit the pecan tree. I said, “No, you won’t hit the ‘p-ton’ tree. You are going to hit Pawpaw’s anvil first!” Well, she must have made it, for I am still alive!

In later years, probably middle aged children, my sister and I would badger our daddy to death on the way to visit their farm. We had to ride almost all day to get there from our house. We never considered we had ridden all day, but kept pestering and saying, “Are we going to get there in time to ride in the back of the big truck to the cow barn?”

Hey, don’t knock it! We always made it in time for the truck was “waiting” for us to board to ride a few hundred yards down the sandy road to witness the cows and the milk ordeal. Oh, to hold on to the wood on the back of the truck and let the wind blow on you through the cracks. Few people have had the privilege of this exciting adventure.

Later on, when I was probably 10 and above, my other grandmother lived “as the crow flies,” just a few miles out in the country from our house. My folks would put me on that big, black L&N passenger train in our town, and let me ride by myself to visit. By train, it was a longer distance, and “the loop” was scary, even though people pay big money today to joy ride this destination.

The Conductor looked after me, or I thought, and told me when I was supposed to get off. I thought he must have been a king in his cap and black uniform, taking tickets and calling the stops. I always sat straight up and can remember never letting my head mess up the white starch covers on the back of the seats.
When I got off at my stop at a country grocery store, my next ride was on the back of my uncle to visit Grandmaw. My travel home in a few days was in daddy’s car that I had probably already “driven” thousands of miles!
We probably had several cars during my growing up years, but nothing could be so memorable as our 1940s Oldsmobile, which daddy had to drive all the way through World War II, which put me old enough to learn to drive!
What is it about a teenager who cannot wait to get behind a wheel? It is probably the fact that they are growing up. Well, in your mind, you are already as grown as anybody! I thought I could do it because I had watched my daddy, crank, steer, signal, brake, and everything else necessary. The only thing, I had never been behind the wheel, nor did I have licenses!
To make things more complicated, the cars in that day had a starter on the floor which you had to push. Of course, you pushed in the clutch at the same time, which was next to the brake. The gears were in the floor on most cars, and you used the clutch as you were changing them. To signal, you rolled down the window and stuck out your arm into whatever direction you were turning. Now, I bet everybody could learn with my instructions!
Every afternoon when Daddy came home from work, we would head about five miles out to the farm. I had waited all day for this, and now the time has come! I knew that as soon as we got off the main highway, and on to the dirt road, that I could get behind the wheel!
Scared to death, here I would go with my daddy’s instructions, and oh, yes, probably a few upsettling yells! I finally learned pretty well and got my learner’s and “real” driver’s license! What a wonderful ride this would be!
When I was allowed to keep our only car for awhile, I would pick up my school friends and away we would go. To buy gas, I would hold out my hand and they would give me their small change. We would stop at the station where I would hold out my collected change and tell the man to give us that much! Quite a ride when gas was around 10 cents a gallon ( never .25)!
And, yes, they filled your tank for you in those days.
Now, as I said, the car became older through the war years and after and you could not buy parts nor another car. It was drive it or walk! Well, we drove it, even though there was a broken spring among other little disasters. My classmates discovered this and when I was driving, they would jump up and down in their seat, and we would go bouncing down the road. What fun and how stupid!
Our senior trip was quite a ride! Has anyone ever gone to Florida in an older model school bus, through every city and on two-lane highways? Well, we did! It broke down in South Georgia in the middle of a swamp area. We just got out and rented a boat and paddled our way through alligators and such while the bus was being repaired.
While at our Florida destination, I took an unexpected ride that I still remember. We were staying near a boardwalk which featured an amusement park. I would ride everything except the roller coaster. I should never have let this ridin’ ’round be known, for a group of five or six of the boys captured me and we all got on this fearful means of transportation. I yelled and screamed as I protested, while they held me on and laughed their heads off!
‘Ridin High was not my choice of moving on.
Not all of my riding has been on wheels. The summer after high school graduation, several of my girlfriends pooled our resources and spent a few days at a nearby state park. We had to make our own entertainment except for swimming and paddle boat riding on the lake, that is, with one exception.
We always went daily to watch people ride the horses. We were either afraid to ride or were too broke to consider it. Late one afternoon we happened to be at the right place at the wrong time! The manager probably got tired of looking at us and said that we could ride the horses back to the barn.

What an exciting plan until it all happened! I had never been on a horse but finally settled myself in the saddle. About that time one of my pesky friends slapped the horse and away it went. I was yelling at her and the horse to the top of my lungs. It did no good to try to slow the horse down, for it was tired and headed home. The minute it took to get there seemed like forever, and I vowed that horseback riding was not on my bucket list.

One summer when I was home, my family took a vacation trip to visit family in Washington, D.C. To entertain us, Daddy had us to keep a log of all the places we visited and the towns we passed. It was fun for a while as we traveled down mostly two-lane roads with few interstates at that time.

To my surprise, Daddy said for me to drive! He and Mama got in the back seat and my sister and I had control of the front seat which meant the steering wheel. Quietly we traveled on in our new 1950 Plymouth, medium blue in color, with the new smell still inside, and a brand new engine to pull us along.

Finally, my teenage spirit got the best of me, and when I looked down I had reached the ripe old speed of 60. Then came 70 and 80. Daddy was asleep so I kept easing on up and in my uneducated mind, I decided to go for 100!

About the time I got there, Daddy woke up and I almost had a heart attack, and I guess he did too! All he said was, “Slow this thing down. This is not an airplane.” Quick lesson learned!

Once my sister and I took our daddy’s old houseboat out on the lake by ourselves, that is, except we had a total of our five kids on board. Our picnic and cruise all went well until the chain slipped off the steering wheel, and we could not navigate!

There we were out in the middle of the lake with nothing in sight but trees and more lake. By the way, this was before the days of cell phones! With determination and guess work, I got it put back on and that was another adventure that we never took again.

I have ridden in airplanes, and some more modern vessels. I have also pushed a two-wheel lawn mower and then graduated on to a four-wheel and then a riding mower. As a kid I rode on my granddaddy’s tractor, which lasted long enough to ride my children. It is now rusting down out in the woods behind the barn.

When I was married my husband was a car trader, not by his trade, but by his like of a different or newer model. It was nothing to look out the window from time to time and see a different vehicle in the driveway. I drove them all and some of my own, but nothing compares to owning your own car.

Sometime after my husband died, I needed a new car. I came up with the purchase of a nearly new Lincoln. We had a Lincoln before, but this was the one I bought and paid for by myself! This was my set of wheels until the popularity of the SUV came on the scene. I am sure I will not want to drive another kind of vehicle.

When I was little, I never had a little red wagon, and not even a tricycle or bicycle, but at least I never had to ride in a horse and buggy. Times have changed, and wheels have changed, but my memory still goes back to that old 1940 Oldsmobile when I first learned to drive, and certainly, I would never forget the rusting old tractor out in the woods.

Since you have been ‘ridin’ ’round with me in the past, you are likely terrified or mortified, and you probably have wondered how we ever made it. Actually, nobody knew differently. It was all there was. I feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to ride all the fun things.

Every generation has something better. This is so great, but remember no matter what kind of wheels we have, we all enjoy just ‘ridin ’round, probably looking at the newer models and thinking how much the monthly payment would be. Ah, the fun of just ridin’ ’round.