I was twelve years old. My father had taken me on a trip to Dubois from Riverton and we were returning home in the late afternoon. We were driving along about 40 miles an hour, rather typical in those days, down the two lane road from Dubois. Suddenly my father pulled off the road at a turnout and stopped the bright red 1939 Terraplane Hudson sedan. The Terraplane was rather unusual looking for those times being very streamlined with a swooping rear section. 

My father says it is your turn to drive. I protested but to no avail so I went around   the front of the car and sat in the drivers seat. I managed with some difficulty to get the car moving (no automatic shift in those days) and we headed down the road at about 40 miles an hour. All was going pretty well for a time and then the trouble began. A very large gasoline truck came up behind us and seemed quite impatient to pass, but there was no place to pass in that section of two lane road. Soon were approaching  the bridge over the Wind River.  In those days you had to navigate a 90 degree turn to get on and then again at the end of the bridge  to go back down the two lane road. I went into panic mode!!  The gasoline hauling truck was nearly on my bumper and here just ahead was a 90 degree turn which I was sure I could not navigate at 40 miles an hour. So I tried to slow down, all the time worried about being run over by a big truck. BAD NEWS, I pushed in the clutch instead of the brake, both pedals being close together in those days. The Hudson responded by going faster, or least is seemed so to this totally-panicked 12 year old driver. So I tried my very best to turn the 90 degree corner at 40 miles an hour instead of maybe 20 mph-BAM!!-I hit the right side of the bridge and then bounced over to the other side of the bridge and scraped along that side as well. Both sides of the Terraplane were mangled pretty badly.  The GOOD NEWS is that the bridge was one of those old-fashioned types with heavy steel trusses on both sides rising above the road making it a drive-thru. I say good news because the drop into the river was at lease 25 feet or something like that. The other good news is the gasoline truck did not ram us from behind as its driver had slowed way down to make the Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 11.54.58 AMcorner.  The last piece of good news is that my father could not punish me much for this fiasco since it was his idea.  I have a feeling my mother took care of his punishment.  Only in Wild and Wonderful Wyoming did driving lessons start at 12 years of age on the main two-lane road from Dubois to Riverton.  

 The photo is of a 1938 Terraplane as I could not find a photo of a 1939 Sedan.

3 thoughts on “THE DRIVING LESSON

  1. Lessons start for 12 year Olds on a Ranch or in the country still…..the instructor sometimes does not believe you have been driving already for four years when taking your exam at age 16!

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