When I think of days growing up on the farm I remember my mother, and her seemingly unending adventures.
She always found a way to grow a garden. She said she loved a vegetable garden because you always had enough to share. (With our tenant farmer’s budget, having enough to share was quite a luxury!)
The idea of staggered planting hadn’t made it to our house yet, so she’d take a #2 washtub—the one we bathed in—and fill it with squash and tomatoes as they ripened. I remember those rare times of plenty with lots of canning to do.
When we had the money, we’d go downtown to do the wash. On the way we always passed a startling sign about our town that said “Population 1200”! It was a lot easier than using the washtubs and working in the hot yard with a washboard. They even had city fans and drink machines in town. I loved it when we had an extra nickel for a Grapette soda!
Times were hard the year the locusts ate every bit of our large garden. So mother decided she needed to get a job. But she had to have a driver’s license to go into the big city of Tulsa to work at the laundry there. She got a short-term ride, but would have to get her license to keep the job. (It was not air-conditioned and she was to run a pants iron, with only a mayo jar of water and two restroom breaks a day!) Nowadays it would be called a sweat shop, but then it was just survival.
So she started studying the driver’s manual. That part was a cinch since she was a excellent student. But she had the same poor coordination that she bequeathed to me and later my son—so the driving, especially parallel parking, proved to be a travesty.
She went week after week to take the driving test. Finally, summer was almost over and her ride was about to play out. She was getting desperate for the license, but it didn’t seem to improve her actual parking skills. She’d always miss passing the actual driving test by a few points.
The last week she happened to have a batch of laundry in the back seat, tied up in a blouse. In her desperation she told the first fib of her life! She said, “See them clothes in the back?” The poor unsuspecting man said “Sure.” Then she took a deep breath and uttered with great sincerity, “Well, my family sent my clothes with me this time and and told me not to come back if I don’t pass!”
The man administering the test said, “OK, ma’am” and proceeded to witness with white knuckles her usual mangled attempt at parking maneuvers. At the end of the test things got real quiet for a while. He seemed to be studying his pencil and pad very intently. At long last he wrote 70% and said, “Try to stay on the back roads.”
My mother somehow made it home, but was both elated and embarrassed. However, her voice gave it away that she was quite proud, if not of her driving, at least of her ability to wangle a driver’s license out of the test administrator!
There have been a number of family conversations about this in later years. We’ve often wished we could have heard what the man told his family when he went home that night. One couldn’t help but wonder if he wasn’t getting tired of risking his life each time she retook the test with him. I bet he was thankful for the bag of clothes in the back seat, too!
In her later years when it was time to give up driving, she made that decision in a rather unexpected way. She was filling up at her local gas station and found herself aggravated at her car. She suddenly ask the mechanic if he knew anyone who would take the car off her hands! She was so grateful that he was quite willing, and she enjoyed riding the bus after that. She never understood why he had volunteered so quickly but we kids did. It was a 57 Chevy!!
Copyright by Hildra Tague. Contact author for permission for publication.