Whoa Whoa Whoa

The topic may have come up. Perhaps Jake with the courage of an innocent child asked his parents why they didn’t own a car. He was still too young to drive legally but then farm boys always learned to drive at an early age. Grandpa, however, must have shaken in his boots at the thought of having to learn how to drive.

Grandpa looked forward to the weekly buggy ride to town to sell a few pounds of butter. The horse was never whipped to speed up the pace. Grandpa had all the time in the world and the horse knew the way. It was a matter of enjoying “the quiet away from home”. Here, lulled by the trot-trot-trot of the horse he could dream of the old country and the way it once was.

The Manitou farm was not doing well. It was a first experience for Grandpa. In the old country he had been a good student and eventually became a respected teacher. Hired help did all the hard work and he enjoyed the respect of the community. He could live a genteel life and not have to deal severely with anyone. He hated authority in all of its nasty forms. Sometimes he even found his wife too authoritative. The buggy ride to town left behind all of his troubles at least for a while.

He must have cogitated about this matter of owning a car. As head of the household, he would, of course, have to drive it. But he had no mechanical ability. The whole idea frightened him. Could he even learn to control such a machine? He had already completely banished the thought of owning a car. Rather he wanted to enjoy the warmth of the August sun and the odour of the haunches of his horse. He didn’t even mind the smell of the horse farting right in front of his nose, just as long as he didn’t have to think about owning and driving a car.

Grandma was the more practical of the two. Probably it was she who brought it up again.

“Don’t you think we should buy a car this summer?”

Grandpa winced. Fear deepened in his eyes. Both his favourite son and his wife were on his back to get a car.

By now, Katie and George were married. George continued as Rawleigh Products’ salesman and boasted that he was doing rather well. The job suited him to a T. He was always the lady charmer, and the products almost sold themselves. Of course, he needed a car to peddle his wares. Not surprisingly, the pressure on Grandpa increased.

“Why don’t you ask George to go with you? He knows something about cars,” continued Grandmother.

“But I’m afraid to drive. I’m afraid I can’t control the car. With Fly it’s so easy. Just a pull of the rein to the left and we go left, and a pull of the rein to the right and we go right. When I pull both reins she stops.”

“I know, Yash. I know.”

“I can even talk to her. When I say Cluck, she starts and when I say Whoa she stops. I can’t talk with a car, can I? I’m afraid.”

“But the people are talking. We’re the only ones who don’t have a car to go to church. How does that look?”

“Ya, I suppose.”

“I’ll mention it to Katie next time they’re over. She’ll tell George. You won’t even have to ask George yourself.”

“But God doesn’t care whether we have a car or not.”

“Yes, I know. But nevertheless.”

And so it was.

One day George and Grandpa made their way to Manitou to buy a car. Grandpa’s son-in-law flushed with self-confidence, rattled on about what you had to do to clutch the car, shift the gears and apply the brakes. He talked about buying gas and oil and adding water to the radiator when the engine got hot.

Grandpa wasn’t listening. He was worried about controlling the car on the downward slopes of the two hills on the way to Manitou.

Once at the used car lot the salesman approached and George spoke. It didn’t take long for the sales guy to figure out that he had one sucker in hand, which was worth two in the bush.

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Ed Janzen is the editor and publisher of CANADIAN STORIES, a literary folk magazine that publishes short stories and poems from Canadian writers of every province of Canada. Story Quilt is an electronic magazine similar in content. Ed has written four memoirs. He also writes for the old car hobby and has a column in OLD AUTOS - a biweekly newspaper featuring mostly Canadians events and automotive history.
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