I Learned to Drive a Tractor First by
(34 Stories)

Prompted By Learning to Drive

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I grew up on a farm, and thus began driving a tractor before I was ten years old.  I remember one day when my dad took me to the tractor repair shop, about ten miles from our house, and had me drive it back to the farm over public highways at a top speed of 14 miles per hour, distressing a number of people who were following us.

I had to pass the test, because I had a date that night with my girlfriend and needed to drive!

Later, I was allowed to drive our pickup truck down the lane to the township road on which we lived.  I was then supposed to walk another quarter mile to the barn, where I milked three cows (by hand).  It was only a matter of time before I decided that I didn’t really need to walk that extra distance to the barn, and began driving all the way.

I did take Driver’s Ed in high school, the summer before my junior year.  Because we were in the Driver’s Ed class, we were able to get our learner’s permit at 15-1/2 years old.  Since I had been driving for more than five years at that point, I had already learned mastery of the mechanics of driving.

I scheduled both my permit test and my driving test on my 16th birthday.  I was practicing parallel parking with my dad that morning when the brakes went out on his car.  I called my girlfriend, and her dad allowed me to take his car to the driving test, the first time I had ever driven it.  I passed the permit test with 100% on both signs and laws, and then passed both the driving and parking portions of the driving test, again with 100% on each portion.  I had to pass the test, because I had a date that night with my girlfriend and needed to drive!

I taught both of my daughter’s to drive – neither of them wanted to learn from their mother, who just made them nervous.  And I taught my younger stepdaughter as well – she didn’t want to learn from her mother and certainly didn’t want to learn from her dad.  My stepson bought a Mustang with a standard transmission, and I had to teach him how to use a clutch – not the easiest task.

I’m approaching 70 years old now, and estimate that I have well over a million miles to my credit.  I drive a Prius Prime, which allows me to plug in, charge over night, and then drive all the way to the school where I teach and back home again, without burning a drop of gasoline.

Profile photo of Jeff Gerken Jeff Gerken


  1. Suzy says:

    Great story, Jeff! I can just imagine 10-year-old you driving your tractor on the highway at 14 miles per hour. Bet you got a lot of honks! And acing your driving test on your girlfriend’s father’s car which you had never driven before is a nice touch! Did that girlfriend remain in the picture after high school? And I love that your daughters and stepdaughter all wanted to be taught by you – that’s quite a compliment!

    Welcome to Retrospect! Looking forward to reading more of your stories. Sorry this prompt is no longer the current one, so the story may only randomly be on the home page.

  2. Marian says:

    How cool that you drove a tractor, Jeff! It’s great that you could teach your children and step children how to drive. I’m sure they are grateful to you. Welcome to Retrospect!

  3. JeanZ says:

    In my high school chemistry class the teacher tried to explain something by analogy to plowing on a tractor. He clearly faced a sea of blank faces as he asked, “Has anyone ever been on a tractor?”
    I was the only one to raise my hand but that was a stretch. I had a childhood friend who lived on a nursery where her parents grew and sold small trees and bushes to suburbanites for their yards. We used to ride around that small farm on a tractor.

  4. John Shutkin says:

    Really enjoyed your story, Jeff, and welcome to Retro! Your story reminded me, once again, that all those farmland kids like you who were able to drive tractors at an early age ended up the best drivers and knowing the most about cars. (I grew up around plenty of farms, but Connecticut is not exactly the heartland, particularly with regard to motor vehicle laws.)

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    I love that it was “only a matter of time” before you decided to drive all the way to the barn. Of course it was. As long as you had wheels, why bother to walk, even at that tender age. It seems that you are a very accomplished driver, going from your father’s car, to your girlfriend’s father’s car on the same day without missing a beat, passing all tests with 100% and the desired teacher for all children in your family. That is a remarkable statement and quite a feather in your cap. Kudos to you. I understand about mothers who were nervous drivers. I had one of those myself. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I really enjoyed your story, Jeff, My father taught himself to drive at a very young age so he could help his father drive the cleaner’s delivery route. He ended up being a pretty good driver, so maybe starting young is helpful. Well, probably not these days. I love how you taught your children and step-children to drive, and that you have moved on from a pick-up to a Prius. Welcome to Retrospect!

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