I think somewhere around 9-10 yrs old, I started driving my uncle’s little 3-speed automatic Datsun in the fields near my grandparents’ house. Once I showed that I could reach the pedals, they would turn me loose and tell me to not go on the road.

The first time on a dirt road was in the same uncle’s T100 at around 11-12 yrs old. He wanted to teach me to drive manual, so I hopped in the driver’s seat. His daughter was sitting in the bed when I stopped at a railroad crossing. We’re in the middle of nowhere and there are no crossing barriers. When I tried to leave, I stalled. I did it again and the lurch forward had me stopped on the tracks. I went to turn the key again when we saw a train turn the corner. It was waaaaaaaay down the tracks and they move slowly in the area, so my uncle calmly says, “Easy on the gas. Ease out the clutch.” After two more attempts, this turned into, “FLOOR IT AND DUMP YOUR LEFT FOOT!”, a crying little cousin in back, and the end of that day’s driving lesson.

The first time on pavement was at 12. My grandfather had a 9th gen F-150 and we needed to go to the grocery store over in town. My grandmother wasn’t around that day, and when we walked outside my granddad asks, “Bubba (started by my little sister and NOT my actual name), you think you can get us there?” and hands me the keys. I was up for it and ended up getting us the 12 miles or so down the highway. I was FASCINATED by the dimmer being a foot switch. I don’t think I drove us home, but that was the first of many on-road lessons with my grandfather. My grandmother still has his truck and I’ve been thinking about doing a restoration. I miss that dude.