By Doris Schroeder
Have you ever thought how hard it would be in life if you couldn’t drive a car? This is something we take for granted in today’s world. If we are missing an ingredient in the kitchen or we need something for the house, we merely grab our keys, jump in the car, press a button for the garage door to open, and race over to the nearest store. In spite of the higher price of gasoline, most of us still do it on occasion. Yet in the 30s and 40s, many women did not even know how to drive. Be-sides that, most households only owned one vehicle, if even that.
My mother was one of them, even though she had done a little driving in their “just-married” days. She often told me the story how she had turned too short at a corner when dad was trying to teach her, and had tipped over the top-heavy Model T. She had never driven since that time.
Of course, this made it pretty hard for my dad when we lived on the farm and he was the only driver. He had to drive to Hutch every morning, leaving mom, my sister Carol, and me on the farm with no transportation.
In fact, one cold day in late winter, I noticed when I came home from school, Mom was a little agitated. Dad had been home that day, working on getting the motor of the car to spin, when it started and almost sliced one of his fingers off. As Mom related, Dad had come running into the house shouting “I lost a finger!” He rummaged in the buffet drawer and then took off with the car. There was a lot of snow on the long driveway but it wasn’t so deep on the field to the side, having been kept shallow by the row of mulberry trees. Somehow, he had made it to the road and down to the highway ( now 82nd St.), Mom recounted
She kept saying to me “I don’t know if he said “I lost a finger or I lost a figure and have to get to the Buhler Bank!”
Of course, our wall phone was not working at the time so we could do nothing but anxiously wait for Dad’s return and wonder about all the possibilities.
The sun was just beginning to set in the west in ominous-covered clouds when we spotted the ‘39 Mercury slowly driving up the hill on the snow-packed ground.
I ran out to meet Dad as he got out. He grinned sheepishly but his face looked pale. He was holding his hand gingerly and I noticed a thick bandage on the middle finger of his right hand. We came into the house and he told us what had happened.
“The top part of my finger was almost cut off when the motor started up. I knew I had to get to the doctor in Buhler before I passed out. I prayed I wouldn’t get stuck as I took off down the field and I managed to get there all right, but just barely!” The doctor had sewed it back together and put a stint on the finger.
If I remember correctly, Mom had to milk the cows that night and probably the rest of the week, and of course, I helped.
As I look back now, I marvel at the persistence my Dad had to have to keep going at the times when it didn’t seem there much hope. There were so many obstacles he had to overcome…he had studied to be a teacher and was only lacking three hours for a college degree. He had wanted to enter seminary to become a preacher but they told he was too old at thirty. Now he worked in a filling station and farmed. He and Mom had lost their oldest daughter a few years earlier by an accidental shooting. Now they just had me and Carol…both girls. He could have used a boy to help him on the farm, but he had me instead. Last of all, he was the only one who could drive in a day when he needed help badly.
Recalling those days, I can emphasize now what trying times he must have had. A person tends to forget the rare times he yelled at me because he must have had burdens pretty hard to bear. He did depend, however, on a God who saw him through times that were certainly not easy. I know God always gave him the solution to each of his problems. One of them was to teach me, a young ten-year-old girl to drive. But then, that is next time’s memory, so look out!
Doris appreciate your comments on learning to drive & can be reached at [email protected]