Saturday, April 28, 2012

Epic Driving Stories - Part 2, by Joyce Tillotson-Henderson

Grandma Lil told me when Wendell was around 8 or 9 he would take her car and go for a ride around the loop in Center Lisle. He would drive around the back side of town by the school house, around the corner up to the farm on the edge of town, back down by the Lodge Hall, down Main Street and back to the store. I believe the big attraction was driving and going to the farm where he would later work when he was a teenager. Needless to say, Grandma Lil was really upset. She told me she was afraid she was going to lose her driver's license if he kept that up. 

 Wendell and Grandma Lil

She ended up buying him a little tractor. She told me it was a big relief to her. She could hear that tractor start up, knowing he was driving that tractor instead of her car. She could keep better tabs on him when he got that tractor.

All three of the Henderson kids were like their Dad. They all started driving at the age of 8 or 9. Ronnie was an accomplished driver at 12. He could bale hay, spread manure, plow, rake, run the mixer wagon and drive the skid steer.

Ronnie with Grandma Lil

By 14, he was an accomplished mechanic. He had one of his father's most expensive John Deere tractors apart and the parts were scattered all around the garage floor. He was doing a major repair. I was astonished and said, “Ronnie, do you think you can put the tractor back together?" He said calmly, "Why, Mother, I have no doubts."

He learned so many things from his Dad - driving, welding, doing electrical work, machinery repairs, and this last fall he built two new horse stalls and is now completing a new hay wagon. Ron told me not too long ago, "Mother, I was playing with electricity when I was 5.”

Ronnie Driving the Tractor, Baker Family Reunion 2009

Kathleen started by driving the riding John Deere lawn mower. She loved this job. She always kept the lawns looking so nice. She gradually got into doing flower beds.

She learned a lot from her dear great Aunt Gladys. Gladys loved showing her all the different varieties of flowers and Kathleen took it all in. Kathleen had beautiful flowers in the flowerbed she and her Dad built from fieldstones right here by the porch near the steps.

She now has her own home and she has the green thumb, with many beds of beautiful flowers. Kathleen likes doing the perennials. Every summer she stops into our local greenhouse near Lisle, which usually has very good prices on all their flowers.

I believe Aunt Gladys instilled in her the love of growing beautiful flowers. Her Dad always wanted a large vegetable garden, which she also has. She always has all the vegetables she and her boys can eat, shares some of the veggies with me, and keeps it weed-free even though she has a demanding job at the hospital. 

 Aunt Gladys's Garden, 1990

David started driving the skid steer when he was 8. The skid steer has a bucket on the front of it and one day he was pushing the manure down the free stall on the far part of the barn. I was milking cows at the time and the cows were all gathered up in the holding pen to be milked. I went out the door to put another batch of cows into the milking parlor and, lo and behold, I looked straight ahead and my little boy was driving the skid steer! I was a little bit shocked - more like horrified! - but found out his Dad was right there near by. 

We have many stories about life with Dave on the farm. Like taking my car for a drive when he was 2 and Ronnie running after the car with Dave inside. Dave had just been on the porch with all of us and then suddenly the car was going across the driveway.

Dave would take keys out of tractors and the draw pins out of the tongue of the tractor where the two pieces of equipment would connect. One day Wendell was driving the tractor and all of a sudden the front end of the manure spreader dropped to the ground - no draw pin! Wendell was a little bit upset but Dave made it right when at the same age – 8 - he installed a radiator in my car.

Wendell, Dave and I had gone to Cortland one morning and picked up the newly renovated radiator for the car. We came home and I was getting lunch when I noticed it was much too quiet in the house. I said, "Wendell, where is Dave? You better go see what he is up to.” Sure enough, he was in the garage and had installed the radiator into the car! Wendell came into the house and was just beaming, exclaiming, "Gee, he actually did a good job and did it right. I guess I can't get too mad at him!"

 Wendell and Joyce

I believe our children growing up on the farm was a good life for them even though they all had to work hard but they learned so many things. But it can be a dangerous place as well and Wendell always stressed safety. Wendell was pretty much even tempered and I am proud of our children and I am so glad they had Wendell as their Dad who was always positive, hardworking and took everything in stride. All three children have these traits and I am very proud to be their MOM.

Standing: Kathleen, Dave, Joyce, Grandkids, Ronnie
Seated: Harold, Sylva, CB, Leona


Pat said...


I love this story! You DO have talented children--I can hardly imagine putting a radiator in a car at age twenty-eight, let alone eight years old!

Thanks for sharing this with all fo us,


Aunt CB said...

Dear Joyce,
Hard work and little money BUT what wonderful memories!! Resulting in great kids! yes, the farm was [ and is] a good place to live! And you and Wendell had a grand life together! Good years, Joyce, many do not have them!!

Kathryn said...

Joyce, you can correct me if I am wrong, didn't Dave drive one of the farm vehicles down to Ma's when she was real sick? I seem to remember her saying that they needed help for something and called for Wendell but he was not home. Dave would have been about 10 or so then.
When he did the radiator, Ma made sure to tell me all about it. She was so proud of him! She loved all of you as much as she loved us. (That proves that Wendell was more my 'brother' than hers!)
I love you!