My daughter turned 15 on Sunday. In Salmon, we don’t celebrate the traditional Quinceanera like they do in places where they have more than one ethnic background. Rural communities tend to celebrate the 15th birthday with El Drivers Licensero, which should send a shudder down the spine of anyone who has ever been a teenage driver, witnessed a teenage driver, or god forbid, ridden with one.
My hope for our children was that we would run out of fossil fuels before they became of age. But then Carly turned 14 and the gas stations were still pumping petrol like it was going out of style. There went that idea.
But then a new diversion became available. In a community where the unemployment rate is about 10% and the underemployment rate is approximately 62.4%, we have not a single person in Salmon who will teach the state sanctioned pre-requisite drivers education class. Well, that’s not exactly true…through the Idaho Digital Learning Academy, young people can do the book work via an online course, but neither a school employee nor the general entrepreneurial public will actually get in the car with the students for the practicum part of the class.
When I was a young person and candy bars were a nickel, we could actually get our Idaho driver’s license at age 14, but we were not permitted to drive at night until age 16, which is totally backward because during the day you can see that you are sharing the road with a teenage driver which may cause you to panic and swerve off the road. My driver’s education instructor was a nice Mormon math teacher who had so many kids of his own and had been teaching so long that he could very adeptly go to some quiet secret place in his head and be completely oblivious to his surroundings. This was truly a blessing when Kellee Metier was practicing her cruising speed on I-84 between Mountain Home and Hammett and decided that it would be morally wrong to run over a whistle pig. So I’ve recently found out that outside of Mountain Home, people refer to whistle pigs as the Townsend Ground Squirrel. They look like this….
except in the spring and summer when they engage in the squirrel version of Running with the Bulls on the interstate and look more like this…
Mr. Gibbons shook himself out of his trance as our Chrysler sedan fishtailed on first one lane and then the next. He ordered Kellee to pull over on the shoulder where we all got a brief lecture on the inadvisability of swerving to miss wildlife, especially small rodent wildlife, when one was sharing the road with 18 wheelers. I quietly lectured myself on the inadvisability of wearing pastel-colored shorts when Kellee Metier was practicing cruising speeds on the interstate.
When we did get our licenses, our problems were compounded by the popularity of the hit show Dukes of Hazzard.
Even if you did not own a 1969 Dodge Charger and instead were borrowing your dad’s 1969 Volkswagen Beetle, you were almost required by law to stop on any given dirt road using only your emergency brake. Given the recent (I say 2005 is recent) remake of Dukes of Hazzard into a major motion picture AND the emergence of Texting, I would venture to say that teenage driving is now 7,000 times more dangerous now than during the Interstate 84 World Whistle Pig Expo.
The inherent limits on rural educational opportunties have never felt better.