My father was a logger and a farmer. He grew up on a family farm and it was in his blood. You could say that logging was just another type of farming, harvesting trees as the crop.
When I was growing up we had many gardens. There was the asparagus bed, the strawberries, the vegetable garden and the main garden out back that was an acre in size. A local farmer would come and plow it up every year and then I would end on the old John Deere R tractor with a disc getting it ready to plant.
My first tractor experience was at twelve helping my father pull trees out of the woods behind the saw mill. It was a small Ford diesel though it look huge to me at the time. My father would hook up the logs, I would drag them out and unhook them and drive back, over and over again.
I drove just about every truck, forklift, loader and tractor my dad ever owned.
One memorable truck was a late 1950’s dump truck that had no clutch. I was forced to learn to shift with no clutch, matching the engine speed to the speed of the spinning transmission. The only way I could get it in gear if I missed was to stop, shut off the engine and put it in gear. That was all well and good except for the time I missed a gear while driving up a short steep hill near the house. Don’t ask.
I also had to learn to back that dump truck up full of gravel as my father was building roads near the edge of the swamp to get around the wood lot. That dump truck also had NO power steering except me so it was quite the challenge as slow speeds. I managed to back off the road one time. I got luck as it near a tree that kept the truck from flipping over. Needless to say I got an ear full from my father as we had to shovel the gravel out by hand to make the truck light enough to pull out.
By the time I was sixteen and could go for my road test to get a driver’s license it was pretty much a fore gone conclusion. I had been driving up and down the road for years, back and forth to the woods with any number of tractors and pickup trucks for years.
That kind of driving skill is now often lost on the younger generation that never had these kinds of experiences. I sometimes wonder if that has any bearing on the lack of driving skills on the road these days. Don’t even get me started on stop signs….