In the wee hours of the morning on July 4, 1896, Henry Ford smashed the brick side of his shed with an axe. That might sound a little extreme, but after months of work the inventor and future business superstar was finally ready to test drive a new creation he called the Quadricycle. The trouble was it didn’t fit through the door.
With the exception of a brief breakdown due to a faulty spring, the rest of the test drive was more or less a success. Ford’s friend and assistant James Bishop rode ahead on his bicycle to warn carriages and pedestrians to get out of the way. Ford fired up his four-horse-powered gasoline engine and tootled along behind in a 500-pound frame with four bicycle tires, no breaks, little steering ability, and a “horn” made from a doorbell.
Thankfully, he improved on the design a little through the years.
Can’t you just picture that first test run? I can imagine the look on Henry Ford’s face as he raced through the streets of Detroit at a whopping twenty miles per hour. It must have been a mix of elation at the beginning of a dream coming true and the terror of barely controlling something powerful enough to kill you and everyone in your way. It’s probably the same expression I wore many years ago the first time I got behind the wheel of a car and it actually started moving.
My oldest son recently got to have that experience. He turned fifteen at the end of last year and in the state of Missouri that means he became eligible to test for his driving learner’s permit. Because his birthday falls so late in the year, we decided it would be wise to get the permit as soon as possible so he had a better chance of gaining plenty of experience on icy winter roads before the state considers granting him a real license at age sixteen.
But because we didn’t have anyone on a bicycle to warn everyone to get out of the way, we decided to start in a large, empty parking lot on a dry, sunny day.
I’m not sure what expression I wore when I handed him the keys that first time and took my place in the passenger seat. I’d like to think I conveyed calm reassurance. We took a little time for him to get familiar with dashboard controls, mirrors, break, and accelerator. Then he turned the key for that first time, put the car in gear, and took his foot off the brake.
As Henry Ford probably was more than a century ago and as surely every new driver has been since, my son was nervous and a little unsure, but also really excited to discover the sensation of wielding so much power.
That afternoon he drove us around and around the parking lot, practicing turning, breaking, and parking. Then I made him work on backing up, another thing Henry Ford’s original Quadricycle couldn’t do.
When we were both a little more comfortable, we took the lesson to a few quiet back roads. He even drove us home and parked in the garage without incident and with very little cringing or pretend break stomping from me.
My son is still a little uncertain behind the wheel. He’s got more to learn and will need a lot more practice to gain the confidence required to be a really good driver, but he’s attentive and teachable and determined. I’ve no doubt he’ll get there. I just hope he never feels the need to take an axe to the side of the garage.
And . . .These days, when I’m not teaching my son how to drive, I’m preparing to launch a new book, coming February 4th. Follow this link to get a peek!
12 thoughts on “Four Wheels and a Hint of Danger”
Congrats on having the patience to teach an offspring how to drive (and congrats on the book too). All my known attempts (at teaching driving) sank into the ax mode rather quickly.
Oh dear. It definitely helps that he listens to me pretty well. When it’s his brother’s turn I suspect I will need some help.
Ah, I remember the days of driving around the parking lot…and a few meltdowns when my stepdad tried (and failed) to teach me how to use a stick shift. I love the idea of car horns being doorbells and can almost hear how pretty a traffic jam might sound if we’d stuck to that concept :))
A doorbell would be a lot less angry sounding. We have not attempted teaching him stick shift yet. I’d like him to learn, but that can wait until he’s comfortable with an automatic, and we figure out how to find one he can learn on. I remember a lot of frustration when my parents insisted I learn. There’ve been a few times I was really grateful I knew how.
I never had the patience to teach any of my kids to drive. They had other adults who would or they paid for driver’s ed. But you may want to caution him to use the brake instead of the break, though. Sorry.
lol. Oh, well. I guess them’s the brakes, er, breaks…
Oh there’s always something. I have a Welsh friend in the blogosphere who was very quick one time to point out that I had inadvertently refered to the Prince of Whales. 🤦
Sorry. Really did laugh out loud at that one. I have had them, too, but fortunately for me, I have a couple of readers who jump on them and e-mail me before they got away. Have a good one.
My mother usually calls. 🙂 And this is why I work with a brilliant editor when I write books, one who doesn’t laugh at me too much.
A most entertaining post, Sarah. My son is also going to apply for a learner’s driver permit soon. It is only at 17 years old here.
It can be a little scary, but with patience and practice he is getting there. Good luck with your upcoming family driving adventure. Thanks for stopping by!