It was something we just did, sometimes early in the afternoon or late in the day before the sun went down. Most likely it was Sunday, sometimes Saturday but most always Sunday after lunch was done and Shirley Temple was over on television. There was no mall to go to or video games to play.
Sometimes if the weather was nice I’d go outside back behind the house where in the corner of the yard behind some low trees and branches I’d built my house, laid it out with lines drawn in the dirt. A big rock next to the barbed wire fence was my kitchen and a small cubby hole right in the middle, worn out by years of rain, I suppose, was my oven. I’d pretend to cook acorns and grass on a tiny pan fashioned from tin foil and a stick for a handle, occasionally throwing in a handmade cake of dirt and water from the hose if I felt like baking. I’d decorate it with tiny pebbles and red china berries, then sit it on the rock to dry.
But sometimes I didn’t feel like playing and instead wandered around the yard or the house with the kind of long pouty face only the most bored of children can produce. Then someone would say it.
“Let’s go to ride.”
It was something we just did, go for a ride for no reason at all. No destination in mind.
I don’t remember what kind of truck it was but I remember how it smelled. Like warm tobacco and cracked leather, with a seat that stretched from one door to the other and squeaked when you slid across. You sat on your hands or a dirty work towel until the seat cooled down if it was hot summertime and you were wearing shorts. The steering wheel was big and the knobs across the dash were few, only an AM radio and a vent that blew out tepid at best. But we didn’t need air conditioning.
“Roll down the window,” I told my daughter years and years later and she looked at me with smile in her eyes. “Why do you say roll?” she asked as she pushed the button on her door and the window disappeared, smooth and even. It hasn’t been that long, I told her, since things were different. How rolling down the window in the truck wasn’t always easy for little hands, churning the knob and watching the window creak down slowly. Sometimes it’d get stuck and sometimes you’d just unlatch the little window at the front so the air could slip in. It made a whooshing sound.
We’d ride to the other end of the world, it seemed sometimes. The world I knew, at least. Down hardtop that turned into knobby dirt roads lined with plum trees. Sometimes we’d stop if they were ripe for picking. If I wore my shoes I could climb halfway up the little bank, between the fat bushes to where the good ones were. But there were too many stickers and brambles and snakes for barefoot toes to risk. So I’d stand on the edge of the road in my bare feet and beg my sisters to save some good ones for me. They did. Sometimes.
When I was really little I’d ride in the front. Sometimes they’d let me ride in the back if I sat all the way down and held on tight but mama always hated that because it meant she’d have to brush out the tangles in my long, long hair and I would holler. Tender headed is what they said I was but I didn’t care because I I loved riding in the back, bouncing around with every bump, my hair whipping in my face and around my head and making me laugh.
We’d ride until it was time for daddy to take a nap or for supper or for Training Union. I knew we’d go again sometime, maybe the next weekend or the next. Sometime soon.
Like now. Sometimes I think about just going for a ride for no reason at all, not worrying about the gas I’ll be burning or the miles I’d be adding and I wonder if we thought about those things back then.
Maybe.But it was something we just did. And it was nice.
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.