Pulling out of Austin the next morning, the bright spring sky gave way quickly to a gentle mist. Once more, the family followed behind Bob in the VW with fresh brakes. Less than an hour had passed when suddenly a dark billowing cloud of smoke poured out of the back of the yellow car; the VW pulled quickly to the side of the road. The family clamored, “It’s on fire! It’s on fire!” Bob turned off the motor and immediately went to the back of the VW, lifting the lid on the engine. Indeed, smoke was pouring out but fortunately, by then the mist had turned to rain and the fire quickly subsided. They stood on the side of the highway, a very quiet Easter morning, wondering what to do next. Little brother noticed a gas station not too far away. The attendant did not do repair work but directed the family to a house down the highway where a mechanic lived, “If he ain’t still at church, that is!”
The mechanic told Bob and Kayte that he didn’t have any parts which would undoubtedly be needed for the car. Only thing to do was to tow it to Dallas. Mysteriously, Bob just happened to have a tow chain tucked away in the van. With careful instructions, the mechanic described how Kayte’s mom, driving the van to pull the VW, would NOT use the brakes at all, but instead, using arm signals out the van window, indicate when Bob in the VW, trailing the van, should apply the brakes to slow both vehicles down. Of course, with the van directly in front of him, Bob would not be able to see where they were going or when to stop. With Kayte’s mom muttering and shaking her head in disbelief, the mechanic waved them a cheery, “Good luck,” and they were off.
It was indeed fortunate that they had an early start; light traffic meant that there was little reason to slow down. Little brother sat in the back seat and reported as he watched Bob in the VW on the end of the tow chain. Mom drove, white-knuckled, teeth gritted, two and a half hours through rain and mist. Kayte kept her company in the front seat. The highway turned out to be simple compared to navigating the side streets once they were back in Dallas. Relief washed over them all as they dragged up in front of home! Little did they know that the car had earned his name through that day’s adventures!
Kids from most middle class homes rarely experience genuine danger and risky situations. As a result, they lack the experience to judge true risks. They also lack the example of problem-solving in less than ideal circumstances. Hearing, to say nothing of participating in, conversations about options, weighing possibilities, considering drawbacks of various plans, all provide a bank of experience for later. It turns out that when things go wrong, our kids get more learning than when things go smoothly.