Dan McCaleb, a local writer for the Northwest Herald, wrote an editorial that threw me right back to when I was a little girl. It seems Dan gets frustrated with people who drive at a relaxed pace, well-below the speed limit, along some of the winding roads in the our rural county. If only he had my dad when he was a little boy.
Getting to church on time was quite the challenge, when I was a little girl.
For some reason, keeping track of the little kids’ shoes was next to impossible. I looked in the toy box, cuz kids throw all sorts of non-toys in there, just to get the room cleaned up. I found some tooth fairy money in there after Bonita waited a blue-moon and the tooth already got taken away by the fairy. I figured it was a rotten tooth, until I found the money in the toy box. I supposed the fairy had to high-tail it out of there before we saw her. Once Johnnie’s shoe got stuck on the underneath side of the stool he used to get close enough to the toilet and pee standing up like a big boy. I thought we’d never find that shoe.
Anyways, searching for shoes or hats and running out the door to get to church was the way we got there most Sundays. We had a tin barrel of Sunday hats on account of six girls in the family. But you had to remember to put the hat back in there if you planned to find it the next Sunday morning. Besides that, Deanna fussed about having a good matching hat for her dress, so she took forever trying on one, then the other, and getting in the way of the rest of us. Who the heck cared about matching? God only wanted our head covered when we came in his house. Boys didn’t need hats. Maybe that’s how God could tell which from which, way up there on high, in heaven, looking down. The girls had the pretty hats on and the boys just had hair sticking up every which-a-way.
Anyways, stuff like that, plus Frankie wetting the bed, or Dad late in from doing the chores, or Julie screaming about somebody touching her in the car, all added up to aggravation and us running late. Mom hated being late. It set her teeth on edge and got her dander up all at the same time. For some reason, that made Dad drive even slower.
“Deli,” he said. “How long will it take us to get to church if we drive 60 miles an hour?”
I was a smart little cookie and even though all my pencils were at home, I could figure this one in my head. If we went 60 miles an hour, that’s the same as one mile every minute and we could drive the six miles to church in six minutes. Easy-peasy.
I sat up a little taller in the back seat of our white station wagon.
“Okay, how long will it take us if we drive 30 miles an hour?”
Oh man, I wish I had a pencil for this one. 30 miles an hour divided by 60 minutes in an hour is… hmm.. that’s the same as 3 divided by 6, on account of the zeros cancelling out. Times six miles. “3 minutes,” I chirped.
Just like Teacher telling me to show my work, Dad wanted to know how I got the answer.
“You could have just divided by two,” he said. “30 is half as big as 60.” Dad could figure so much arithmetic in his head. I bet they didn’t have pencils when he was a little boy. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure he said he wrote on something called a slate. That’s a kind of rock, I think.
Mom just sat there with her shoulders rising up toward her ears and her teeth biting down so hard little ripples of cheek danced on her face.
“So, even if I go twice as fast as I’m going now,” Dad said. “We could only shave off three minutes.” His eyes met mine in the rear-view mirror, so he saw me nod yes, before he glanced over at Mom.
“What if we went 40 miles an hour?”
That one was a whole lot harder to figure and I wished I had a pencil. I always could think better just holding a pencil in my hand. “I guess we’d save about a minute.”
“See, Reet,” Dad said looking over at Mom still looking straight ahead at the road, leaning a little forward, like she could maybe just think us to church on time. “If we leave 15 minutes late, there’s no way to get there in time. We’ll get there, at just about the same time, anyway you look at it.” Dad smiled over at her with one of those grins that lit up his whole face.
Mom reached in the glove compartment for the church envelopes, got out her billfold and pen and concentrated on getting everything filled out.
“You sure are good at arithmetic, Deli,” she said. I could see her smile starting to crink up around her eyes.
See, Dan McCaleb, if you had a Dad like mine, you’d know that no matter how you nudged that slow-poke ahead of you on Bull Valley Road, you’re going to get to where you’re going in just about the same amount of time. You might as well unclench your jaw, loosen your grip on the wheel, and enjoy the trees, the white fences, and all those historical barns of Bull Valley.