I’m the youngest of five children, and there are almost 20 years between my oldest sister and me. Daddy turned 40 years old not long after I was born. That’s not unusual today, but in my parents’ day they were considered old enough to be grandparents! There are seven years between the next-to-youngest and me, so I’m sure Mother and Daddy thought their family was done long before I came along.
You’d think they would not have been pleased, but from all accounts they were thrilled. Even when I was a teenager, Daddy still spent time with me and did things with me, difficult as that was for him with a girl who wasn’t athletic, and at a time when we didn’t have money to spare for movies or dinners out.
One inspiration he had falls squarely into the “don’t try this at home” category. It rarely snowed more than a dusting in our part of Tennessee–ice storms were more prevalent. So any snow was a huge treat and a special occasion. One winter we got a few inches of snow, and school was closed. I had a sled, but the runners kept getting bogged down in the wet snow. Then Daddy had his big idea. He took a discarded car hood from my uncle’s garage, and chained it upside-down to the back of his tractor. “Get on the hood, baby doll, and hold on!” he said.
We spent a good part of the afternoon going up and down the slushy, ice-slick road with the tractor and car hood. Looking back on it now, I wonder why the hood didn’t slide into the tractor’s rear wheels, and how on earth I kept from falling off. But I had no problems at the time, and it was exhilirating to ride and slide in the cold.
Finally we went home, and Daddy unchained the hood. My boy cousins next door had been watching enviously. “Uncle George, could we use that car hood?” Dale asked. Daddy said they could. Dale and Don launched themselves down a hill, completely unable to steer the hood. They hit a tree and Don broke his arm. Oops! Like I said, don’t try this at home!