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The day Dad learned to listen

My parents were always resourceful. My mother sewed and made bread and helped my dad remodel our house. He also worked on our cars and even made his own parts when he could. One thing he didn’t do was listen very closely to my mother.

We had a 1956 Chevrolet pickup that had developed a minor problem. The starter became temperamental. My mother told him about it, but since it had not happened to him yet, he ignored her warning.

My sister had just turned 16, and our mom was in the hospital. We had a friend over, and my sister asked my dad if she could take her home. He was reroofing our house at the time, which was a 12-by-12 pitch, a 45-degree angle. He told her sure, and off we went.

Across the street was the famous Branstetter corner. Who knows how steep that sucker is, but it is steep. Everything went fine until she killed it at the stop. Remember, this is a 16-year-old, 110-pound teenage girl, who was driving the equivalent to a Sherman tank without power steering and with four on the floor. When she tried to start it again, oops! The starter didn’t work.

Meanwhile, my dad was up on the roof watching this whole thing evolve. She wisely decided to back the pickup out of the middle of the road, but when she did, she lost control and backed into a parked car, which backed into another car, which ended backing into a Black Butte rock retaining wall, reducing that to a pile of smithereens. Mission accomplished. It was out of the middle of the road.

But if the air could have turned blue surrounding my dad as he watched the process, it would have. I’m surprised he didn't fall off the roof. I can still remember his body going into contortions as he reacted to the scene. He was muttering to himself all the way down the ladder and across the street as he approached us. It wasn’t pretty.

Needless to say, she was devastated, and I thought she would never drive again, but I was wrong, thank goodness, because she ran me around after that for years.

My dad, on the other hand, hadn’t learned anything from this lesson yet.

Later, when he and my mom took a load of old rotten shingles to the dump, he backed up too close to the flames of a burning pile and the bed of the pickup caught on fire. He immediately got in the pickup to drive it away from the flames, and guess what ... it wouldn’t start.

Meanwhile, back at the front porch of our house, my sister and I heard the fire alarm go off and watched as the trucks rushed down Branstetter Hill to South First, where we lost interest, until we watched our mother arrive in a cop car, shortly thereafter.

What happened? The pickup burned up. When our dad finally came home and threw the pickup keys on the table, he never said a word. To this day, he has never mentioned it. My mother, on the other hand, just rolled her eyes and went to the kitchen, where she started to bake another batch of bread.

I’m not sure exactly who learned a lesson from this, but it definitely left an impactful memory on my sister and me. When my mom talked, we listened after that. To quote Doris Day: “Que será, será.” And so it was, it was.

Marilyn White lives in Medford.

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