Whatever happened to getting in the family car and going for a ride? Other than $4 a gallon gas, I mean.
That was one of our favorite Sunday afternoon activities when I was a kid. We'd come home from Sunday school and church and have dinner -- usually fried chicken or roast beef -- and maybe rest a while -- and then Daddy would say, "Who wants to go for a ride?" Everybody always wanted to go for a ride.
He didn't ask, understand, "Who wants to go the mall?" or "Who wants to run to Target" or "Who wants to drive to this or that destination." There were no malls and there was no Target and we generally didn't have a destination in mind when we piled into our big old Buick on Sunday afternoons. We were going to do exactly what Daddy said. We were going for a ride, just for the sake of getting out and going, and we never knew where we might wind up. That was half the fun.
The other half was just getting to spend time with my daddy, because his work schedule at the Osprey mill and my schedule at Porterdale School were diametrically opposed to one another. When he was home, during the week, I was either asleep or at school. When I was home, he was at work on the second shift.
Those Sunday afternoon drives were special.
I liked it when we drove down U.S. Highway 278, toward Madison. We would go past the Nixon farm and wave to the little concrete boys that sat on the giant brick pillows at the front of the property for years and years. When we got past the Hub Junction, Daddy would wind that old Buick out. It didn't make my mama happy but he said it was good for the carburetor. "Let's see what she's got left in 'er," he would always say, just before floor-boarding the accelerator, which he always called the "foot feed." I haven't hear that term in a long time, just like I haven't heard the term "boot" or "glove compartment" used in a long time -- or seen a dimmer switch on the floorboard.
I think we began the decline of civilization when everybody started using the term "trunk" instead of "boot" and they put the dimmer switches on the steering column.
Mama would like to ride around neighborhoods where they were building new houses. She knew that she would spend all of her days in a white mill house, built up on piers, within walls that were painted Bibb ivory, but that didn't mean she couldn't derive pleasure from looking at the modest brick ranch houses that were being built in various parts of the county. Most of them even had open carports to protect the home owners' automobiles from the elements. She used to marvel at that and wonder what it would be like to be able to get up in the mornings and drive to work without having to scrape ice off the windshield.
Lots of times we would drive down dirt roads. Now that was an adventure. In the summer we would look for wild plums or blackberry bushes and stop and pick our fill. Occasionally we would pick enough berries for Mama to make jelly, if the chiggers didn't run us out first. There were certain places we would go where the road crossed over a creek and we would have to ford it. Mama got really nervous when we did that, but not as nervous as she got when daddy would try to "keep it between the ditches" on a dirt road after a heavy rain.
We would slip and slide and once in a great while get stuck. Those were good times indeed and I learned some really interesting words while trying to help Homer Huckaby rock the car out of a tight spot.
Not much was open on Sundays back, then but we usually found a filling station -- run by heathens, my mother would insist -- and get a Coke and a pack of crackers or maybe a package of peanuts to pour into our drink. Sometimes we would stop in and visit friends or relatives, too -- if they weren't out taking a Sunday drive and trying to visit us.
Lots of kids would be bored by such shenanigans, but I loved sitting around listening to old folks talk and tell stories. Bee Mills was one of my daddy's favorite friends because he had fought in the First World War and had great stories about the hand-to-hand combat in the Argonne Forest and German soldiers surrendering to get a fresh pack of cigarettes.
I loved visiting with Aunt Lucille and Uncle Emory Ellis, too, because Uncle Emory liked to talk about baseball and football, and I was always interested in such as that. Those were the days.
Now we are way too sophisticated to draw pleasure from something so mundane as just going for a drive. As Yogi might have said, "It didn't matter if you didn't know where you were going because then you would never know if you didn't get there."
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at email@example.com. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.