We can’t believe it, but another year has flown by, and we’re having another birthday here at Petticoats and Pistols. Thank you to all of you who have been here with us not only this last year, but for so many previous ones. You’ve made the journey fun and memorable.
Since we’re turning 16, a lot of us mentioned what a turning point that was in life because it meant we could drive. The next thing we knew we were sharing personal driving mishaps, discussing if we’d used them in our books, and we decided to share those musings with you. Most of the stories are personal, but a couple fillies didn’t have ones to share. Instead they talked about transportation mishaps in their stories.
We hope you enjoy our thoughts, and they help you get to know each of us a little better.
When I took my learner’s permit test, I missed only one question. At sixteen, I aced my driver’s test and got my license. Apparently, however, I didn’t quite understand the concept of looking around or behind me when I reversed. As a result, during the next six months, I was in a total of three fender benders, all of them my fault. The worst one was when I backed my mom’s new Rivera into the side of my brother’s Bronco. Yeah, I was grounded. And no one in the family talked to me for weeks after that.
My husband and I own a trucking company and sometimes I ride along with him. A few years ago, we were heading eastbound on the interstate, hauling eggs back from Ohio, going about 75 mph. My door jiggled open. At that speed some people might wonder if their door will actually open. I can’t say about a car, but in a 379 long-nose Pete? Yes. Yes, it will.
It was kind of interesting, watching the pavement fly by from a new and rather distressing perspective, as I leaned out, grabbing for the latch. I got the door shut and sat in my seat, panting. I hadn’t quite made it to the euphoria-from-having-cheated-death stage, when my husband, who never left off the throttle, because, you know, he’s a man, and we have to GET THERE FAST, looked over at me. “Wow. Wasn’t expecting that,” he said. With one hand on the wheel, he dug under his seat and handed me a wrench and screwdriver. “You mind checking the latch? I’d hate to lose that door.”
As a perfectionist, I hate trying new things when I don’t think I will be very good at them. So, when my dad determined to teach me to drive a stick shift when I was 15, I was a mess. Between the whiplash and the uncontrollable sobbing, my dad gave up.
Fast forward five years, and my fiancé owns a stick shift that will be our only car after we marry. Insecurities battle the need to impress my man, and after a few patient lessons, I manage to semi-master the necessary skills. Today, I’m a proficient stick shift driver, which just goes to show that true love really does conquer all.
Back in the days when large families drove station wagons the size of gunboats, my dad took all nine of us into the country so I could get some driving practice. He sat next to me on the bench seat, with my mom by the passenger side door. I approached a Stop sign at a fair amount of speed, with no sign of slowing down. Maybe I forgot where the brake pedal was, I don’t know. But as we careened closer to that sign, perched on the edge of a ditch, it seemed inevitable I was going to hit it and dive headlights first into that ditch. Only after screaming STOP! STOP! STOP! from the remaining eight family members, did I somehow find the brake pedal with only inches to spare from a collision. I burst into tears, and my dad had had enough. I got out, he moved over, and he drove us all much more safely home.
I learned to drive as a high school junior in 1964. Back then it was offered as a class on driving simulators and credit given. I ran over every person crossing the street and after a few weeks, my instructor told the class that some of us should never be allowed behind the wheel. Thank goodness, he didn’t mention any names, but I knew he was talking about me. Still I kept trying hard. On weekends, my dad took me out to a country road and let me practice. The only thing was our car was a stick-shift and I gave Daddy a whiplash. Thankfully he let me keep at it and I eventually got the hang of it. I passed my state written driving test with a hundred. And even though I was really nervous, I was able to pass the driving part without killing any pedestrians.
The last person my heroine Crystal Jones wants to run into is Sheriff John Turner. Unfortunately, she not only runs into him, she does it with her car! She didn’t mean to give his cruiser a tap and hoped all he gave her was a citation. But she wonders, would she ever be the same seeing him again? After all, her life was nothing but a series of mishaps. Would this be one more thing? She hoped not. She was trying for a fresh start. She didn’t need another broken heart. John broke it well enough the first time. What was he going to do now that she’d smacked his bumper a good one?
I started driving really young as drivers in rural areas sometimes do. My grandma lived about one mile from me on gravel roads, with a single crossing of a paved highway.
I drove over there whenever we needed to pick up anything from her or take anything to her. Or sometimes I made up an excuse because driving was fun! It was all very accepted, and we had neighbors whose fairly young kids were driving around, too.
So, I was driving to grandma’s house and knew I was going too fast. And suddenly, as if I hadn’t driven over to Grandma’s a hundred times before, the stop sign just snuck up on me and I slammed on the brakes….and the car spun completely around in a circle on that gravel road 180 degrees and with STEEP ditches on both sides.
Rather than go plunging off the road into a ditch, or flying out onto the highway, the car stayed right on the road and when I was done sliding and spinning…I was facing the wrong direction, back the way I just came.
I sat there just shaking for long minutes. Finally, I gathered myself enough, I just drove back home the way I came and never told anyone it happened.
The second book I ever published, waaaay back in 2001, was originally titled Something More and has since been reissued as The Unexpected Bride. In the first chapter the heroine, Elthia, has traveled from Massachusetts to Texas to become a governess to a young family. The last leg of her trip takes place via stagecoach, and I open the scene when she arrives at a lonely staging post where the hero is supposed to meet her and transport her to his farm.
To my surprise, my then-agent and two friends who agreed to read and critique the story all referred to that opening scene as taking place at a train station. Puzzled, I went back and reread it. The very first sentence of the scene referenced opening the stagecoach door and there are numerous other references sprinkled throughout to the stagecoach and to working on a change of horses. It was a real head scratcher for me. The only thing I could figure was that because this was a long book (just over 100,000 words) and this was in chapter one and the only scene that referred to the stagecoach, that that ‘minor’ detail had somehow gotten lost. Which only goes to show how our minds can sometimes play tricks on us, filling in gaps with familiar images. I’d like to think that these readers of my early draft were so engrossed in the story that their minds simply replaced the stagecoach with a more familiar mode of transport, the train. 🙂
At sixteen, I lived in Dubuque, Iowa, a town known for its hills. One day I came out of school to find it had snowed a few inches. Without thinking, I drove home via my usual route. Everything was fine until I found myself on a street with a huge hill with a stop sign at the bottom. Knowing there were no other options and cursing myself for not having thought about this awful hill, I set off as slowly as possible. Of course, stopping at the stop sign was impossible, and of course there was another driver foolish enough to think he could make it up this hill. Trying to stop at the sign, my wheels locked, I swerved, and sideswiped his car. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and my dad was understanding even though the car I hit was a new dealer one driven by a car salesman.
I am a GenXer, so I don’t really remember learning to drive. I know I took a driver’s ed course, then I was expected to just know how everything worked. I remember my aunt being the first one to hand me the keys and feeling sick to my stomach at the idea of driving someone else’s car. I had no idea how to keep it in the center of the lane, nor how to hold my foot steady (I think that’s because at the time I was 4′ 6″ and no one told me you could move the seat…) We all lived and apparently the GenX method works because I’ve never had a driving incident. At least, not that I can remember…
Growing up on a farm, I learned to drive years before I could legally do so. By the time I was twelve, I’d progressed from driving the small Ford 9N tractor to being allowed to drive our farm pickup all by myself. I thought I was queen of the world, until I accidentally backed into a section of fence. No one was watching, the fence was unharmed (my dad knows how to set a sturdy fence post), and I couldn’t see any new dents or scratches in the pickup. I was home free! Except for the guilt. It ate at me for several days before I had to tell Dad what I’d done. My punishment was something tragic and dreadful — not getting to drive the pickup for one whole week!
In Idaho you could get a daylight license at 14, which meant that we had students driving to junior high. The much-coveted nighttime license came at age 16. Just a few days before my brother turned 16, I had to make an emergency trip after dark, but I’d just had dental surgery and was on painkillers. My brother offered to drive me even though he wasn’t quite legal. We passed through a very small rural town and there was a sheriff’s vehicle parked in front of a cafe. As we went by, the reds and blues came on. My brother and I desperately tried to figure out how to trade places so it appeared I was driving, but there was no way. He was toast. No night license for another six months. But the guy that approached the car wore logging clothes—Frisco jeans cut short, suspenders, logging boots. It was a logging town, but usually law enforcement wore a uniform. He checked my brother’s obviously daylight-only license, then nodded knowingly. We were about to start our garbled explanation, when to our amazement, he sent us on our way. As near as we could figure, a local good old boy was entertaining himself while the sheriff ate dinner at the café. We still talk about the time we got pulled over by a logger.
Growing up in a small town in Illinois, I was used to driving on gravel as well as dirt roads. And then, I moved to Los Angeles where I simply couldn’t drive — those freeways literally scared me silly (6-10 lanes on one side of the freeway).
Didn’t last long, though, before I was not only driving on them, but speeding along them, too. Much later, my godson — who had grown up in a rural area in South Dakota — came to visit and my role reversed; I’m afraid I scared him with my high speed on those multi-lane freeways.
But, I noticed it didn’t take him long before he was racing along those highways, too. I realized then that a learning curve could be pretty fast when there was a need.
Oh, boy, do I have a memorable event about my early driving years! Born and raised in Oklahoma, the summer I turned 17, my dad was transferred from Oklahoma to Charleston, West Virginia. Um, yes, it was very different! Oklahoma was flat, not many curves, and my husband has teased me for years that we just “wired the steering wheel straight ahead out here because we never needed to turn it.”
One day, I set out to drive to college on a very straight, non-curvy section of the interstate, and a state highway maintenance truck merged on the entrance ramp two lanes over. I thought nothing of it until…his back axle broke right in two. Half of it, with the tire still attached–and rolling along at 60 mph–barreled across two lanes of traffic and headed right for my front passenger-side tire! Yep, it stuck in the tire, but I managed to get the car off the road.
I had a very unlikely guardian angel that day. Our next-door neighbor left for work just after I did and saw it happen. He pulled over and helped me get the info I needed from the other driver, loaded me up, and took me home. I was VERY shaken, but not hurt. It scared me but it made me realize that I’d kept my wits and gotten through it!
GIVEAWAY: Today we’ll be picking 5 winners. To be entered in our random drawing, leave a comment about one of your driving mishaps or one you’ve enjoyed reading in a book scene or watching in a movie. One responder will receive our grand prize of a 12-month subscription to Audible. Four others will win either a drink sleeve and car coasters or the wrist purse and car coasters.
Thank you for being here to share our Sweet Sixteenth Birthday!