Saturday, January 3, 2009

Driving Well #2

Now....imagine yourself driving a paved but narrow, two lane, winding canyon road like you've seen so many of. You are anxious to reach your destination so, while you are determined to drive safely, you would like to move along at a good speed.

So, you apply the roof (rag on old fence) rule: You focus you eyes on one of the white lines in the road, as far ahead as you can clearly see it. You won't do this continually for a long time, but you do as you approach curves, as oncoming traffic approaches you, as you approach and pass a slower moving vehicle, etc. You find that your peripheral vision gives you adequate information about approaching vehicles or vehicles you are passing. You also find that your mind and your arms, hands, legs and feet work quite automatically to keep your car centered nicely in the traffic lane, or in whatever position it needs to be. You will also notice that, as you approach a curve or car up ahead, your car assumes the perfect speed and you seldom need to touch the brake peddle.

I discovered this magic idea long ago, quite by accident. I started thinking about it as a kid as I watched my Dad plant sugar beet seeds. He would tie a cloth from Mothers rag drawer on the fence at either end of the field, marking the alignment where he wanted the beet rows to be (moving the rag the correct distance each time he arrived at the end of the field again). Then he would take his position on the drill (in those days the drill was a horse drawn, two wheel rig with a box to hold the seed and four tubes which carried the seed by gravity to the ground where it fell into four grooves cut by circular disks) on a metal seat on top of the box, his head being higher than the horses heads. He would then center the drill on the first flag, the flag being at his back, focus his eyes on the rag at the other end of the field (far enough away as to be barely visible), and cluck his tongue or say "gettyup" to the horses, always calling them by name.

He had them well trained and they moved at a slow even pace. He never looked up. He seemingly never took his eyes off the far away rag. And so he went all day long, and day after day. We were never to draw his attention from what he was doing. If Mother wanted him for dinner she would stand silently and wait until he had completed a "round" and was back at the beginning end of the field. And, to everyone's astonishment, when the beet plants began to grow and were large enough to see the rows, they were unfailingly straight as a string the full width of the field. No one had sugar beet rows quite as straight and true as Dad did. Straight rows were important in raising sugar beets because it made the work much simpler all the rest of the season, and protected the plants from being cut out and destroyed by weeding, ditching and harvesting equipment as the work progressed through the year.

I have concluded, as I've thought about it, that he probably didn't ever think about the horses in particular, or worry about where they were going. His mind and arms took care of keeping them on course quite automatically. The only thing he needed to do was "keep his eye on the goal".

We had a large lawn around the house in those days and it was my job to mow it regularly. I remember practicing the roof rule by picking a spot at the other end of the lawn and focusing my eyes on it as I pushed the mower across the lawn. I refused to look down at the mower, or to check to see if I was leaving a strip not mowed. I was amazed at how well it worked, and got better as I practiced. (To be continued)

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to hear what comes next...I've thought about this in different ways before. But this puts a whole new perspective on it. If you keep your eyes on the goal you don't have to worry about your hands, speed, or weaving. The theme for the youth this year is about being an example.............I like where this can go.