The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

No Training Wheels

I am sitting in the living room, reading a book and watching the news, when the doorbell rings. Almost immediately, the door swings in, followed closely by an excited little girl.

“Papa John! Papa John!”

Right here in the story I could leave the reader with the notion that Papa John’s the most important person, but actually I was just the first person in view. And when you’re excited and have to tell a grownup something important …

“Papa John,” she cried out.. “I can ride my bike-without-training-wheels! Come see me ride my bike-without-training-wheels.”

I wrote that about a dozen years ago. Four-year-old Kass, after a couple months trying to go farther than a few feet, had finally figured out how to make the thing stay upright and under power.

Last weekend, she shepherded a couple thousand pounds of car up US 15, down Pumping Station and Blackhorse Tavern roads. In front of our house, she u-turned and pulled into the parking spot, not even running over the grass.

You’d have thought, had you been watching from outside, she’d been doing it for years. It was her first time out for more than a short run to the gas station near her home, but you would have to have been sitting beside her to notice.

Some regular readers might remember the curly-topped specimen who sometimes accompanied me on my journalistic rounds while her mom and grandma were at work. Kass was the one sleeping under a table in the back of the Straban Township meeting room, in a corner with a coloring book at county commissioner meetings, or watching intently at a Punkin’ Chunkin’ competition. And she back-seat drove through the county on several Land Conservancy of Adams County road rallies.

Now she has a Maryland “Rookie Driver” book in which adults are to certify her steps toward the experience she will need to pass a road test for her own permission to drive on the nation’s highways.

I like the idea of that log book. My experience is too many parents allowed their offspring to get a license, then turned ‘em loose. Sometimes I wonder why the planet is over-populated. This way, the wannabe driver must get some time in specific categories: daytime expressway, night expressway, inclement weather, light traffic, medium traffic, heavy traffic.

It reminds me of when I learned to fly an airplane. There were certain maneuvers a wannabe pilot was required to master before being allowed to take the exam. In the middle of traffic as a drunk driver comes at you is not the time to be figuring out how to avoid a crash.

Back in our house, either her 12-year-old cousin or her four-year-old other cousin was searching for something. Kass remarked how it was right there in plain sight, and should have been quickly spotted.

“I remember,” I said, “when a little girl could stand in the middle of her room and insist she could not find a shoe that was in clear sight, not quite under her bed.

“But then I was A Child,” she responded.

She’s not as grown-up as she would like to be, but she’s closing in on it fast.

I feel a little badly for her mom. Kass already wants to take a road trip in search of the world’s largest ball of twine. It’s in Kansas. I don’t think she knows how far that actually is. I don’t think she will care when she finds out.

I, for one, am looking forward to her stopping by now and then with glorious tales of where she has been, and what she has discovered.


  1. Good memories, good stories to hear later. Congrats, grandpa, she’s a driver now.
    Like the logging system. Wish all states had them. My dad made me drive straight through and made turns in a mown corn field before I could go on the road. The stubby cornstalks made good lane markers.

  2. She’ll get more practice on dirt roads as well as Interstate. The back roads are great for learning to back up, move through snug spaces, and in winter, to skid in turns — the latter being one of the most needed, and least taught, experiences for a new driver.

  3. “It reminds me of when I learned to fly an airplane” is a sentence that I’ll NEVER write. But I get the picture. Good piece.

    • Thank you, Roz. Flying an airplane or driving a motorcycle are liberating experiences, in part because – more so than cars – they are little forgiving of inattentiveness.

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