I Learned To Drive When I Was Six
When I was six, I learned to drive a truck.
And my dad taught me.
No, my dad didn’t teach me to drive a truck on purpose. I guess at the time, you could call it more of a life-requirement. After all, necessity is the mother of invention.
But on that day that I learned to drive, I also learned much more than just where the gas pedal was, how the clutch and stick shift worked and how to steer.
On that day, I learned something about life.
Back in 1976 I lived with my family in Driggs, Idaho and if you know anything about Driggs, you know that it isn’t exactly Phoenix-weather from about September until April. It is cold there – so cold that when you go there, you will most likely call it a different kind of cold.
And it snows. A lot.
It snows so much that they have put up 6-foot-poles all along most of the roads, just so you can tell where the road is for the entire months of December, January and February.
Which means in August of 1976 I was out getting ready for winter… also known as “cutting firewood”.
My dad took me out in the forest to cut firewood and after hunting around for a while, he finally found a tree that looked like the perfect specimen to do the manly thing of firing up a chainsaw and going to work on an evergreen giant that seemed to be the size of the Washington Monument to a 6 year old.
After sawing for a few minutes on The Monument, he turned off his chainsaw and told me to get as far away as I could from the tree because it was about to fall.
So off I went.
I ran off into the forest as I heard him fire up his chainsaw again and go back to work.
I ran for a few seconds and then I suddenly heard his chainsaw stop.
I turned around to see if I had run far enough that the tree wouldn’t fall on me and was about to scream “DO YOU THINK THAT’S FAR ENOUGH DAD?” and I realized that however far I had ran at that point was about as far as I was going to get.
The tree was coming right for me.
And I froze.
As in FROZE.
Down came the tree with a thundering roar and to this day, I swear that the top of that tree covered the tips of my shoes.
All I felt as I closed my eyes was a giant “whoosh” and then it hit me: I almost got hurt. Bad.
And all I could do was freak out. Not just a gentle freak out, but a frozen-to-the-ground-freak-out-like-Rainman-freak-out.
I yelled for my dad.
But my dad was nowhere. I couldn’t hear him, I couldn’t see him.
And I was in a panic.
I kept yelling, crying, panicking.
But he never came.
After a few minutes, I finally calmed down to see where on earth my dad was and why in the world didn’t he come to save me. So I started walking down the end of The Monument and when I had gotten about halfway down the tree, I could hear my dad moaning and saw him laying on the ground.
When I finally got to him, it became clear that he had much bigger problems than telling me I would be okay after I was nearly crushed by The Monument – somehow The Monument had fell on him and crushed his leg. He looked at me as I got to him and said:
You are going to learn to drive today.
Clearly, if we both were going to make it back to town, someone who still wet the bed on occasion was going to become good friends with a Dodge pickup. We managed to get him in the truck and after a little coaching, we managed to get him back to town and into the hospital.
But the lesson I learned on that day, at that point in my life really wasn’t about driving.
Or making sure that should I ever be dumb enough have a desire to cut down Another Monument, I would make sure to stand on the other side of the tree as it fell.
No, the lesson I learned on that day was about others.
And perhaps Stephen Covey said it best when he included this in his 7 Habits:
And in practice today, before I freak out that someone else’s Monument fell really, really close to me and even possibly scuffed up my shoes as it fell – I head down to the other side of the tree to make sure they don’t have a broken leg.
And if they do, I try to load them in my pickup and drive them to the hospital.