My mother used to tell me about what it was like growing up on a tobacco farm. My grandfather was a tobacco farmer and often employed many of his family members and relative to work the tobacco during the summers. My mother was too young to working in the fields, so her job was to drive the tractor back and forth between the pack houses and the field while pulling the tobacco trailers. She did not know how to stop or start the tractor, so someone at the field had to get it moving in gear for her and then jump off. She would steer is to the pack houses several miles down the road where someone else would jump on the moving tractor and take it out of gear to stop it.
It was my mother who first taught me how to drive a car. My father would let us sit in his lap and steer while on the farm, but it was my mother who first put me behind the wheel and took me out on my own. Years before I was of legal age to get a permit, much less a drivers license, I was driving several miles down the road by myself hauling loads of firewood or a lawn mower to earn some spending money. Now that I have a son of my own, I can truly marvel at the trust and confidence my parent had in me at a very young age.
I think the stories my mother told me about driving the tractor on the farm, and my own experience of starting to drive at a young age says something about the quality of trust my parents and grandparent had in their children. It also shows the value they placed on working and providing for the family. They wanted their children to learn at a young age how to work and earn an honest living more than they cared about the hazards that were involved in doing so. Today, I think our culture places a greater emphasis on a child’s welfare than on developing his or her maturity level. In modern society we tell children not to play in the street, where as in the past, we taught children to get out of the way when a truck was coming.