The Farmer’s Wife – Truck Driving Lesson
Truck Driving….Double D clutch!…..Hay Pick Up?….Seriously!!!
No! Was my answer. A simple indignant hands on my hips…. No!
The hay had been baled, the in-laws were away and the irrigator needed to move right where the hay was standing in the paddock. George way carefully explaining to me that this wasn’t really a negotiation, it was necessary. The answer was still No!
I had only been driving for a few years and it had taken me a year after my 16th birthday to work up the courage to get my license. If I hadn’t had to catch a bus for over an hour to get to the train for another hour to get to work I probably still wouldn’t have had my license.
Driving a truck to pick up hay might seem simple, but I was young and a little overwhelmed. My palms were sweating, my stomach was rolling and I was getting more and more frustrated and emotional by the second. You see when dealing with moments that were out of my control I had a habit of getting a little stubborn.
I have painted the picture of our old farm equipment already and thankfully our circa 1954 crank start hay truck had finally given up and been laid to rest. It’s body can be seen to this day, slowly decaying away in the paddock. The not so new addition to the line up was a fading red tip truck with a very unreliable gas conversion and cantankerous clutch. George hooked up the hay trailer ignoring my refusal as I continued to plead my case.
Finally he challenged me. Why didn’t I want to drive the truck, he would show me how and there was no one around to see, so what was the big deal? I shrugged; I really couldn’t say why I didn’t want to drive the truck. The only reason I could possibly think of was fear. I was afraid. My husband’s answer to my fear was so simple.
‘What is the worse thing that can happen?’ he asked.
‘I can hit the fence or break something,’ was my answer.
‘If you do, I will fix it.’ he replied.
Well how can you argue with that. I realised there was not going to be any way out. The hay had to be picked up and there was only the two of us to make it happen. With no more excuses left George continued with my first truck driving lesson. I had to learn to ‘Double D’ the clutch; that was interesting NOT! I didn’t just have to learn to drive a truck; big bulky, with a trailer and no power steering. I had to learn to manage coordinating the clutch, accelerator, clutch combo, all while not jerking around too much and throwing George off the top of the truck. Talk about pressure!
I managed the raceway and the gateway with the trailer in tow, hands still sweating, stomach still rolling. I was starting to get the hang of this. No posts had been damaged so far and George was still on the tray top in one piece but there was more to come. As if driving the truck wasn’t enough of a challenge on my first day out, I now had to line up the hay pickup with the small square bales to pick them up while George continued to balance precariously and stack the bales.
As I lined up that first bale my hands were shaking, my clutch foot was unsteady and my arms were already aching from the heavy steering, but I kept saying to myself ‘What is the worst thing that can happen? What is the worst thing that can happen?’ I could kill my husband that’s what! Slowly I drove up alongside the bales with the bale pickup, lining them up just right, so they would turn around and pick up on to the conveyer. I managed steering around the corners without missing any bales and all while maintaining a steady speed. That was right up until the sandy hill. The truck slowed, jerked backwards and forward and backwards and forwards, almost stalled as we trudged up the hill. I watched in the mirror as the hay bales; stacked high now, swayed and hovered over the side of the tray for a breath taking moment before settling back in place.
I don’t think I had ever been so nervous or so far out of my comfort zone than that day. There have been so many more challenging times since, but there was no better preparation for all those moments which followed than farming. I can’t thank my husband enough for his enduring patience; without it I would not be the positive, motivated and focussed woman I am today.