Out of Pearidge

Authorization is granted for the use of short quotes for educational purposes as long as proper citations are used. A version of this story first appeared in The Huntsville Times, March 23, 1996, C2.

Grandpa's Last Adventure

Grandpa Adams had diabetes and used a cane as I walked with him. The cane didn't seem to hamper him since he was never in a hurry. He averaged three conversations per block, in 1950. These conversations often spoke to his adventurous life.

That was the year we got our first car, a 1947 Chevy two-door sedan. Mother began teaching both my sisters to drive. I had to watch from the back seat, since I was only seven. From the back seat, driving seemed so easy. I visualized all the steps. I would practice, behind the wheel, when no one was present.

It was several weeks before Grandpa made it around for a ride. My oldest sister was to have the honor of driving.

I was practicing driving when Grandpa arrived. He admired the car and mentioned how impressed he was with my sisters for learning to drive. Then he walked over to our front porch, placed a chair in the shady part at the corner nearest me and began whittling.

My mother and sisters had been out earlier and seemed all ready to go. My older sister had even got into the car, but then they remembered something and all of them went inside.

I wanted to show my Grandpa that I, too, was learning to drive. The first thing to do was pull out the choke, push in on the clutch, switch it on, press the starter button and give it a little gas. When it started, I could push in the choke. Then it would be running when they came out.

Having reviewed the steps, I knew I could do it if I only had the keys. Then, to my surprise, I saw the keys in the ignition; my sister must have left them. When I looked up I saw my sisters coming out the door. If I was to do it, now was the time. I rushed through the steps. The engine roared. I pressed the choke and my foot slipped off the clutch. The car started toward the porch. All I had to do was hit the brakes. I jammed my foot in that direction. But instead of stopping, the car accelerated directly toward Grandpa. His cane went flying across the drive and he went running across the porch.

All I could think to do was to dodge because the run-away car was crashing into the post behind which Grandpa had been peacefully carving only seconds before. Fortunately, when I ducked I continued to hold the steering wheel. The car veered missing the remainder of the house. My evasive action also removed my foot from the accelerator. In the meantime, my sister caught up to the passenger's door, managed to get in and stop the engine.

My plan had gone awry. What would my Grandpa think of me? What would Mother do?

When Mother reached the car, she was more relieved than angry, "Boy, you were lucky this time! Let this be a lesson to you. There are some things you just have to grow into. You must promise Mother you won't try to drive again until you are older."

"I promise," I said, relieved that I had gotten by that challenge so easily, but, I still had to face Grandpa.

He was standing by the leaning porch roof. I didn't dare look him in the eyes. "Come on son," he said. "You can prop this post back up and your dad can fix it it easy enough later. I'm ready to go for a ride."

To my chagrin, Grandpa delighted in telling his friends, as we walked around the court house in the following months, how I had made him move so rapidly. Still, as I watched his face on those occasions, I realized that Grandpa was proud of me even when I made mistakes.