I guess you could say that I taught myself how to drive.
It was in a ‘49 Ford pickup truck, standard shift. It was Mama’s pickup and Dad’s extra duty pickup.
We only had pickups. Dad said if you couldn’t haul ice in it, it had no place at our house.
I don’t remember exactly how old I was. Maybe 12 or 13 or years old.
I watched Mama very carefully as she drove. In time I thought, ‘I’ve got this’.
The keys were always in the ignition.
Not unusual. I don’t think anyone ever worried about car thieves.
I began by simply starting the engine. Cool. No one said anything.
I practiced shifting gears. That got boring real fast.
Then I got braver and put it in first gear, slowly let out the clutch and gave it a little gas.
The ‘49 just made a big jump and died.
After I did this a few hundred times, I got the hang of it.
I practiced driving up and down the driveway a ‘thousand times’.
Up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down……
This was my practice routine for days and days.
One day I told Mama,”I’m going to drive around the block.”
Mama’s only comment was, “Ok. Be careful.”
Can you believe that!
No one seemed to mind that a 13 year old was behind the wheel of a ‘49 Ford pickup and driving around the neighborhood. I practiced a lot.
Incidentally, there were no directional signal lights.
To signal to the car behind you meant extending your arm out the window.
Straight out: turning left.
Straight up, bent at the elbow: right
Straight down, bent elbow: stop.
By the time I was 14 years old, Dad had me driving a truck load of ice to the camps at nearby Lake Murray.
No, I didn’t have to carry ice.
I would drive to the ice plant and someone on the dock would load the ice into the bed of the pickup.
A huge tarp was put over the ice to keep it from melting.
After I arrived at my lake destination there would be someone there to unload the ice.
Hmmm. Do you think this was the reason no one interfered with my learning to drive?
“If you’re in the Pylant family, you’re in the ice business.”
– Sue Williams
NOTE FROM ROY: Having delivered ice with my grandfather countless times as a boy, I remember him telling me that once a year the entire police department had a party at Lake Murray and each year he would fill an entire pickup truck bed level-to-the-top with crushed ice. The police chief would then stick hundreds of cans of beer into it for his crew. Yep, this was small-town Oklahoma in the 1950s and 60s.