…my life would have been a lot different.
My mother was delegated to teach me to drive, as I have written, and her nervous condition aggravated my mechanical ineptitude. She had this disconcerting habit of punctuating our drives with random screams, invariably causing me to jerk the wheel violently right or left, depending on which ditch I was nearest.
I should have been closer to the right ditch each time but she also had this habit of grabbing the steering wheel occasionally and invariably pushed it away from her, which, when combined with the scream, sometimes made me lurch to the left. This is how I killed one of our cows on the dirt road behind the far pasture. I always felt bad about this cow's death, since she was only reaching her head through the barbed wire to crop a few weeds just outside the pasture and had not attempted any kind of escape, like what happened the night I killed all the other cattle, but that is another story for another day.
We did not have air conditioning in the big old Ford car, so the windows were down in the spring and summer. The inside of the car was always filled with a coat of fine dust, a couple of layers thick, which, of course, filled my nose and eyes. I was sneezing most of the time, my eyes were running thick tears and I had begun to tremble like a bowling pin in an earthquake shortly after I started my driving lessons on the white dirt roads around our pastures.
All of this, I thought, made for unsafe driving conditions, endangering lives and property, but my mother was nothing if not tenacious. She had started to teach me to drive and teach me she would, if it killed every piece of livestock in the immediate Joshaway area, ours or the neighbor's.
Down the roads we careened, windows down, dust flying, mom screaming and grabbing the wheel occasionally, I with tears running down my face, my eyes swollen shut, the big old Ford, a car made of metal, real American metal, thick and powerful, eight pistons pounding, three hundred and fifty horses slaking their thirst with 13 cent a gallon gas, American gas, from the Permian Basin of Texas. Mom kept the AM radio set on WBAP, all talk now but all country music then, the only kind of music allowed in our house, none of this long-hair beatnick stuff from foreign nations like Britain, or California.
We would have nice drives, until I started to sneeze explosively, or she began to scream and grab the steering wheel. The twang of the C and W music never varied much, the songs were all alike, really, more early hip-hop, kind of redneck rap, with illiterate hillbillies talking their way through some kind of song about cheatin' or drinkin' or standin' by their man.
The sounds, I guess, were pretty much static, coming from the old car.
"Nice day," I said.
"Hot," Mom answered, swishing at herself with a fan from the funeral home.
"Yes, ma'am," I answered.
"EEEEEEYYYYYAAAAHHHH," came the scream. The fan flew into the back seat.
"Achoo, achoo, achoo," I replied. "I can't see. I have dirt in my eyes. I can't see."
"EEEEEYYYYYAAAAHHHH," she answered and, since I had slammed on the brakes by then, often leapt from the car and ran to the house through the pasture, refusing to finish the lesson or even drive home with me.
This is how I came to kill a number of our chickens one afternoon.