Sunday, June 16, 2013

Driving Lessons

photo 1959 Plymouth Belvidere

Although I took driver’s education in high school, it was really my dad, Kenneth Bourland, and my uncle, Charles Bourland, who taught me to drive. I learned valuable lessons from both of them. When I got my learner’s permit we lived in an area with farm roads that were not too busy at most times of the day, and my dad frequently let me drive when we went to the store or out on errands. 

He told me that looking in the rearview mirror was just as important as looking through the
windshield. He said I should always know what might be coming up behind me, and should try to anticipate problems ahead of me on the roadway. (Later, I realized that was a good metaphor for life, but at 15, I thought it just meant to keep my eyes open.)

Mostly, I practiced driving the 1950 blue Ford, but I remember how excited I was when the family got a brand new gray Plymouth Belvedere in 1959. It was sleek, had fins, and smelled new. The whole family was excited about this car. It was a big deal to be able to afford a nice car like this one. After I got my license, the day came when my parents said I could drive the new car all by myself to visit my two cousins who lived about three miles away.

I could give you plenty of examples of my dad’s devotion to his family. Anyone who knew him
could do that. But on this Saturday morning, I got a true lesson about his priorities in life.

We had a three-sided carport with a garage door. Dad opened the garage door and stood near the front of the carport to watch me back out. His intention was to close the garage door when I pulled out onto the street. What happened next is kind of a blur, but I remember excitedly dashing to the car, opening the driver’s side door, and tossing my purse on the seat. Then I put the key in the ignition, started the car, put it into reverse and started backing up.

The only problem was, I had forgotten to shut the car door.


Dad yelled, “Stop. Hit the brakes.”

I did, and then just sat there kind of in shock about damaging the brand new Plymouth. Dad walked around the back of the car and helped me out. I felt so bad and so dumb. I stood there and
cried while Dad got in the car, and put it in forward to clear the car door from the wall of the carport.

I continued crying and wailing as as if I had run over somebody. I don’t know what I expected. Dad had never yelled at me in my entire life, so I knew he would not do so now, but I did deserve a lecture, a punishment, or at least a stern warning about not being a complete spastic idiot when I was excited about something.

But my dad did none of the things I imagined. Instead, he got out and took me in his arms, and squeezed me really tight. “Sugar, come on now. Stop this crying. Everything’s all right. After all, it’s just a car.

Kenneth R. Bourland
1916 - 2008

I love you, Dad.