Am I the only person here who learned to drive before automatic transmissions were an option?
Or maybe not. I learned to drive on my grandfathers 1916 Model-T truck when I was about eight years old . The Model-T had three foot pedals and a hand release brake/clutch. Nigh onto 70 years later my memory is a little hazy as to their respective functions but I do remember one was the brake and one you pushed to engage the driveshaft to start the vehicle moving, which, in a sense, was an automatic transmission since there was no shifting of gears. Once under way, you released the hand brake/clutch, took your foot off the pedal and the vehicle stayed in motion. I think the other pedal was reverse.
I know the T's had a lot more power in reverse and sometimes you had to back up really steep hills. There was a long, steep incline a mile west of town coming out of the Elk Creek bottoms on which car salesmen demonstrated the power of their cars by driving all the way to the top in forward without resorting to backing up or going into "granny" gear.
I was, of course, initially restricted to driving in the farm fields and was not permitted to drive the truck on the county roads until I was about ten nor to drive all the way into town until age 12. Naturally, these constraints did not apply to the tractors or teams of horses which could be driven anywhere as soon as we were physically able to do so.
In retrospect, I am horrified. I would not consider turning my pre-pubescent grandsons loose with a 3000# team of horse to haul a wagon load of cotton eight miles to the cotton gin.
Before anyone calls the cops, let me emphasize that this was not child exploitation. It was purely business. Economically, it just made sense that it was more productive to relieve a child from pulling cotton than a grown man who could continue to work, pulling two to three times more cotton than the child. And, the child was glad to take a break. It took a couple of hours to pull the laden wagon to the gin; not quite as long to pull the empty wagon home. If there was a waiting line at the gin you got to sack out in the wagon full of cotton. The down side was you were not making that 50 cents per hundred weight you could have been earning pulling cotton bolls.
For the agriculturally challenged among you, perhaps I should explain the distinction between "pulling cotton" and "picking cotton."
The hull of a ripened cotton boll bursts open and the fluffy cotton part remains loosely in the five dry, sharp pointed leaves of the hull. A "Cotton Picker" plucks just the cotton part, leaving the hull, and stuffs it in a cotton sack which is 8 to 14 feet long, depending on the size and strength of the puller, and dragged on the ground by a strap across one shoulder. A "Cotton Puller" grabs boll and all with considerable discomfort to the hands, unless he/she wears gloves which in macho juvinile society was considered "sissy."
The hull comprises more than 50% of the weight. "Cotton pulling" in pre-WWII Oklahoma paid 5- cents/hundred while "cotton picking" paid a dollar/hundred. A 14' sack full of pulled dry cotton in the hull weighed 100-125 pounds. A strong man could "pull" 600-700 pounds in a long day. There were a few studs who could pull 1000#/day and Calvin Horse reputedly pulled a 2000# bale in one day. Generally, the big pullers pull was "dirty" in that it customarily contained, rock, sticks, leaves and dirt. Consequently, they were penalized below the going rate for "clean" cotton.
The full, or nearly full, sack were weighed on a scale suspended from a pole extending from the rear of the wagon or from a tripod erected next to it. After weighing and recording the sack was hoisted into the wagon and emptied.
Ever see a 5-0, 100 pound woman throw a 125 pound sack of cotton over a six foot high tailgate? I kid you not, happened every day.
Most of the 1000 pound/day guys used two sacks so they did not have to waste the two or three minutes it took to weight and empty their sack. You had to keep moving to make that $5/day. Although that sounds like pretty poor compensation to us today, remember, these same men had earned only $1 dollar for a 14 hour day chopping weeds from that cotton in the 105 degree days of July.
Please forgive an old man's rambling. It is not exactly nostalgia cause it "warn't much fun" but it made the rest of my life a piece of cake and I am eternally grateful that God and my ancestors made me the fastest kid in Kiowa county, enabling me to escape that damn farm and attend Oklahoma A&M College.
Now I drive the automatic transmission of my choice.