I have a fear of driving. As fears go, I feel like it’s a logical one. Many people die or are seriously injured in car crashes. Nevertheless, though it may be a logical fear, it’s not really a practical one.
This summer I’m driving combine for my dad’s cousin Darrell, on the original family farm that was owned by my great-grandfather. What I like about working for Darrell is that I’ve been able to learn some practical skills beyond driving combine. He’s had me take his pickup various places, and it’s a stick shift, which I’m not used to driving. I’ve also driven the truck in and out of the field at times.
Due to my fear of driving and my love of learning practical skills, I’ve been rather proud of myself for learning these things. I even kind of bragged about it on Instagram. But you know what they say about pride.
The fall, as it were, came the very next day.
We were working on a small field just off of Harris drive. This one required us to use the road for access, instead of just driving through little back lanes on the farm. When we finished, Darrell asked if I’d rather drive the combine back to the shop, or take the truck.
Eager for a chance to test out my truck driving skills on the road, I chose the truck.
The field had yielded more than Darrell had anticipated, and the truck was full to the brim with seed. Darrell had to tarp it, but he couldn’t find a bungee cord to tie it down with, so he used his bandana. It was a bit dubious, and he told me to just drive really slow.
So I got in the truck, and started pulling out onto the road. No one was coming from either direction, so I was good. I took it nice and slow. And then…
Something shifted. Something was wrong. I thought about the dubiously tied tarp, and panicked. I stopped the truck, and it rolled backward a bit, and started tipping to the right.
Darrell came running up. “What did I do?” I asked, confused.
He had a frightened look on his face. “Pull the parking brake and get out!” He said. “You’re about to roll the truck!”
Now I was scared, obviously, and I jumped out. Somehow, the back wheel of the truck bed was in the ditch. I was confused. How had I not seen a ditch there?
Well, it turns out that when you’re driving a long truck, it doesn’t just neatly follow behind you when you turn a corner. Of course this may seem obvious, but it did not occur to me when I was turning onto the road. The back wheel didn’t hit the driveway, but rather cut the corner and went in the ditch. When I stopped because I didn’t know what was wrong, I rolled backwards further into the ditch, and with the bed full of seed and very heavy, I very nearly rolled it.
To make matters infinitely worse, the ENTIRE HOSTETLER HAY CREW was in the field across the road, eating their supper.
Not only that, but apparently the whole Hostetler clan–wives, children, everybody–who all know me because I was their school secretary–had come to eat supper with the crew.
And oh, yeah. My cousin Randy’s wife Shelly just happened to be walking by at that moment as well.
Darrell called Simone to bring the tractor, and then walked over to the Hostetler clan and asked Tina to give him a ride back to the shop.
I hid in the combine, mortified.
Darrell got some chains at the shop, Simone picked him up in the tractor, and they returned and pulled the truck out of the ditch. All was, apparently, fine.
I didn’t know if I would ever be allowed to drive the truck again, but Darrell pulled it back into the field and gestured for me to come down out of my hiding place in the combine. “You ready to try again?” He asked me.
That made me feel a lot better, actually. Like I hadn’t screwed up beyond repair. It was a learning process. I could try again, swinging wide this time to avoid that ditch, as I now knew was necessary.
And so that’s what I did. I got on the truck, and I pulled out onto the road, and this time, I did not hit the ditch.
Shelly waved at me as I drove past. All the Hostetler wives waved at me. All the Hostetler children waved at Miss Emily, former school secretary and drama director, now apparently truck driver.
(The rest of the Hostetler crew, having enjoyed a show with their dinner, was already gone by this point. They’d squeezed past my truck as it blocked the road, and continued onward to the next job.)
Now I couldn’t understand why I, the person with a fear of driving and a fear of incompetence, had to face both fears in one day, and in front of so many people. But when I got home and told my family they laughed until their sides split. “You HAVE to blog about this!” They commanded.
I suppose the good news is that it does make a good story. And, after all, I probably won’t drive a truck into a ditch again.