Happy Fathers Day!

Here is a “Dad” story from my childhood.  It is a story about my dad…and my horrible driving.  Enjoy your day and celebrate your Dad!

My father is the source of an enormous trove of stories.  Many stories of faith, many

Leland Denney Family
Dad and his tribe, 1957

humorous tales, and a good number of stories of self-sacrifice and love for others.  While I could share stories of bears and mountains and adventures, or of faith and nurture and service to others, here is a story that captures so many of the facets of his life.

Dad and I went pheasant hunting in the farmlands of California’s San Joaquin Valley when I was 14 years old.  We walked a lot of cotton and corn fields and bagged a few birds.  By early afternoon we started the drive home through the back roads of Madera County.

As we drove along, Dad looked at me and asked, “Do you want to drive for a while?”  I was still more than a year from being eligible for a learner’s permit and had never driven a vehicle on a public road.  And this was not legal.  Or, as we were to find out, wise.  But this was my dad, always open to new things that would push my envelope a bit.

He pulled over and we traded places.  I drove slowly for a while, figuring out the various Ramblercontrols of the 1960 Rambler (right) that was our “hunting car.”  Soon I had the vehicle up to about 50 MPH, and we were making good time back toward town.  As we approached  the outskirts, he suggested that I stop at the country store and gas station that was coming up on the right so we could switch places.

Having never stopped a car from road speeds, I did not know how to apply the brakes effectively.  We were approaching the store’s dirt lot at an unsafe speed, and I was clearly not doing enough to abate our progress.  Yet I was dutifully pulling into the dirt parking lot, heading in the general direction of the fuel pumps.  Dad, normally calm in a crisis, began to be pretty excited in his encouragements to slow the car.  I, on the other hand, was occupied with all kinds of new things to do – stopping, steering to miss the gas pumps and other vehicles, and listening to my dad’s increasingly emphatic directives.

Swerving to miss the pumps, I shot past the store and finally stopped about 100 feet past the dirt parking area.  Dad had opened his door sometime back, and I think his plan was to jump if I was going to hit something.  He had avoided grabbing the wheel, allowing me to finish the driving experience without intervention.

We sat there for a moment, looking at each other and savoring the sweetness of life.  He grinned at me, and said, “You may need a little more practice at stopping.”  We traded places and headed home with our birds.  Nothing was ever said about this to anyone until my dad’s funeral.

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