Sunday, November 1, 2009

East Texas Back Roads

Seems so long ago now.

That right of passage from two wheel transport up to the family car.

Gaining the trust of my parents to prove that I was responsible enough and worthy of learning to drive. To take the only mode of modern day transportation my parents owned and take it out on the open road.

The first new car my parents ever owned was a 1972 Mercury Comet. Up to that point, every car we called ours was at least a second or third hand used model.

Come to think about it, that '72 Comet was the only new car that ever graced a driveway where the Chambers' resided.

Most of my driving skills were learned on a paper route; during the darkness of early morning hours, running the back roads, city streets, and highways between the east Texas towns of Woodville and Jasper.

Mind you the cars I speak of rarely ever had an automatic transmission. I loved the shifting of gears and figuring out how 'not' to jerk the car around by dumping the clutch when shifting gears.

One of my favorite cars we came across was a 1958 Chevy. You remember the body style...the area just above the tail lights were horizontal fins. Kind of reminded me of a whales tail fin but sort of swollen.

It had four doors, was turquoise and white. A six-cylinder engine, with standard shift on the column. Originally owned my dad's brother, but driven mostly by my Aunt 'Tiny'. Can't remember what her given name was right now...but that's what we called her. She was a little bitty lady and loved doing stuff out of doors.

My aunt and uncle lived in Alvin, TX. Remember the story about my dad growing up in Alvin...well his brother kept his family there until they moved to the Texas hill country out around Junction, TX., but that's another story.

By living in Alvin, the commute to Galveston for my aunt to spend a day of fishing and crabbing was easily accomplished.

There's no telling how many trips she had under her belt, but I can tell you this...every time it rained, the trunk would take on a bit of water due to the rust holes around the back window...(standard options of the early Chevrolet models) ....and the mix of fresh rainwater with the remnants of sand, crabs, and saltwater would allow an aroma familiar only to the gulf coast would emanate out and find the nearest and untested set of nasal orifices, resulting in the usual response from the unsuspecting victim...

"What the heck is that smell.....?"

It got better....or weaker with time and more frequent rainfall.

Going back to the paper route my parents were responsible for, at one time we had the entire distributorship of the Beaumont Enterprise and the Beaumont Journal for the entire town of Woodville, Texas and its outlying areas. I perfected my driving skills while dodging potholes and throwing rolled up newspapers at the end of subscribers driveways.

No big deal you say. How about if I tell you that I wasn't even out of junior high school when all this was 'happening'? Thinking back, it probably wasn't all that odd learning how to drive at the young tender age of 13 or 14 years old.

Reckon you could say I had earned the trust of my parents. I remember my dad dozing off during parts of the route, leaving me to drive and make the tosses that had to be made. Reckon he felt pretty good about me and my driving ability.

Have you ever heard a song on the radio and either the song or the words would transport you back to a time in your life that just made you smile and maybe laugh at the memory?

Just last week, the country and western song by Alan Jackson; "DRIVE" came on and caused me to make that trip down memory lane.

...and I would press that clutch,

and I would keep it right,

and he'd say, 'a little slower son you're doing just fine,

just an old dirt road with trash on each side,

but I was Mario Andretti,

when daddy let me drive....

I remember several different events while driving the paper route. The nocturnal life of the native critters in our corner of the world, snowflakes as big as fifty cent pieces, and the best place to get a grilled cheese at 4 A.M.

Every time my travels take me through that part of Texas, I look for specific landmarks and re-visit that time in my childhood and smile....because,

...I was high on a mountain,

when daddy let me drive.


  1. Jake this is my all time favorite post. It made me think of my dad and how he let me drive his car. We still have my husband's 55 Chevy pick up same color turqouise & white. Please send this to that magazine I told you about. They pay and people would love to read this.

  2. 1st car was a '76 Torino automatic. That was a big slug of metal. I didn't learn to drive a straight until I was 19. After learning on with my girlfriend's car, I didn't want to drive automatics anymore. I just recently bought an automatic truck and now I'm happy not to have to switch gears all the time. Good post, Mr. Chambers. Brings back memories.