In the hands of an incompetent, novice driver, parking a car more or less safely in the garage should have been the end to any of my motor vehicle adventures. But Sally and I were women of the ’40’s and if our men could display outstanding courage on the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific, we could show a little pluck on the streets of Tullahoma. Displaying more courage than sense each day, we made a sortie to the camp hospital. Knees knocking, stomachs doing the rumba and nerves completely shell shocked, we trekked to the garage, pulled the poor unwilling car from its roost among the birds, wiped bird do-do off the windshield and turned the car’s reluctant nose toward the bus depot. We didn’t trust to luck or my experience as a driver to get us all the way out to the camp hospital and back. That was a distance of approximately five miles and some of it was uphill. We felt any distance over one mile was tempting fate too far. We considered it best to park the rumble buggy at the bus depot and proceed to camp by bus. It would have been a rotten stroke of luck for us to run over some unsuspecting GI just back from three years combat when he thought he was safe back on home ground.
All was silent within the car on those trips to town. I was busy praying Protestant prayers, and I’ve a notion Sally was offering up the Catholic version of the same. Using the car was neither a whim nor a luxury. We pretty well had to take it. At any one time there was either snow on the ground or it was raining cats and dogs. Sally and I realized full well that Chessie and his snowsuit, plus assorted food items requested by the men at the hospital along with the raging elements were more than we could handle physically.
Either our guardian angel or our reputation must have preceded us for the inhabitants of the town gave us a wide berth. Our trips were without incident or accident, except that one-day we almost murdered a horse. But it was the horse’s fault!
On that particular trip both the car I was guiding and an old nag of a horse headed for the same parking space in front of the bus depot. My philosophy of driving had evolved to the point that once I made up my mind as to what I wanted to do, I damn well was going to do it. It took me considerable time to figure out just what maneuver was required and which pedals, gears and gasoline were needed in what proportions to make it happen. It was downright impossible for me to change my mind and direction at a moment’s notice. Obviously, the equine wasn’t cognizant of that fact or else he was very headstrong, a trait not desirable in either horses or women. Old Dobbin just continued on his jolly way toward the parking space I had selected from way down the street. I, of course, assumed that the steed would show good horse sense and defer to a larger object, my car. He didn’t. He beat us to the space and thereby almost ended his wagon-pulling days. It was just in the nick of time when Sally was in mid gasp that I remembered the car brake. The poor creature looked over his shoulder and just stood frozen in the parking space. He regarded us with either an innocent stare or one of victory. It is hard to tell those expressions on the continence of a horse. Had he truly inherited any legendary horse sense from his ancestors he would have galloped away.
Having been beaten by the nose of the horse, we had to back up. I wasn’t exactly sure how that should work. Sally suggested that we use the one notch on the steering column we rarely used. The one we had so much trouble each day finding when we backed out of the garage. It was the one where the driver had to lift up the stick shift handle on the steering column, and force the shaft up into gear no matter how much grinding noise it made. So following her suggestion, I squeezed the whats-its into what I thought should be the correct position and despite the terrible grating noise gave the car some gas. We backed up beautifully. The other cars on the street so approved of the way that we did it that they honked their horns in loud praise and admiration. The day was saved and Pony Boy didn’t end up in a glue factory. It does show you that a woman can drive best when left to her own wiles. Had Chet been along on our many trips back and forth from the bus station and to our house, he would have been grabbing the wheel and screaming his head off.