3 thoughts on “Go Ahead, Pop The Clutch

  1. Part of my childhood was spent in a very small East Texas town. No stop light. A gas station and Post Office situation. We lived on the edge of town and dad thought a garden was in order. We had a small lawn tractor. Craftsman 11hp model with a mower deck and a ‘shadetree mechanic-made’ hitch plate for tiller attachment, etc. Dad asks the farmer who lived down the road if we could have a load of barnyard fertilizer. He agreed but we (I) had to load it. I drive down on the lawn tractor with dad walking beside holding a 55 gallon barrel perched atop that hitch plate. We get down there and quickly realize the barrel has to stay where it is because it would be too heavy to lift when full. So he holds it in place while my scrawny 10 year old ass tries to shovel manure into a barrel that is half again as high as I am tall. After 30 minutes of sweating and learning how to curse while trying to keep from dumping a shovel full of shit on myself or my dad, we’ve had enough. We had foresight to at least turn the lawn tractor around before we started so it was pointed toward the open barn door. I climb on and dad holds the barrel steady. Last words he says are, ‘Don’t pop the clutch.’ I say ‘OK’. Remember, I’m ten years old and new to this stuff. I start the tractor, stepping on the brake and clutch I put it in first gear and do what I’d been doing the entire time I’d used this lawn tractor to cut the almost half-acre of grass back at the house. I released the brake and simultaneously popped the clutch. The front end came off the ground and thus launched my short career in tractor pulling. The nose went down again and I’m bouncing along in first gear. The engine was even louder because we’re in the barn so I can’t hear anything. I’m creeping along in first gear, holding on for dear life as the front end bounces up and down. Dad’s yelling. The farmer is having a heart attack he’s laughing so hard. My eyes are wide open wondering what in the hell is going on. About 3-4 seconds pass and dad lets go of the barrel while I’m in a nose-high attitude. A decade plus later in military flight training I would have called this a pilot-induced oscillation. But it wasn’t. The barrel fell off the back. Cow shit went everywhere and I stopped the lawn tractor and turned it off. Dad looked at me and said, ‘I told you not to pop the clutch.’ I looked at him and replied, ‘What does that mean?’ Dad just hung his head and calmly explained it to me. The farmer looked at him smiling and shaking his head. Everything worked out as planned and in the end, I got to shovel the same shit twice in one day, and life lessons were learned by all.


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