My uncle used to work at the state-run agricultural cooperative, as a combine operator – and I used to go to work with him.
I was fascinated by the sight. The combine harvester devoured the field, driving into tall cereal, and in a moment it turned around and left a mowed strip of land behind its back. Driving a combine is hard. The steering wheel is up front, but to make a turn the combine uses the rear wheels and you had to wait a second and a half for them to react. Keeping the lane straight was a true art.
I remember the first time my uncle let me behind the wheel. He let me drive for a while and then he said: “Now look back.”
I didn’t even have to turn around. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw the crazy zigzag lane behind us. Left, right, left, right, all crooked.
One day, all the kids decided to take a long walk to see the combine harvesters. We trudged through the wood, through the mud, and suddenly darkness fell and there was nothing in front of us. We must have walked at least ten kilometres, we started to be afraid, and also hungry.
And we started arguing.
“We gotta run.”
“Can we do that?”
“Otherwise we’ll get lost!”
I was one of the youngest kids in the group, so I just waited for the council of elders to decide. The combine operators were crazy fast, mowing one field after another in rapid succession, and they had already finished with the field where they were supposed to be. And since there was no dew that night, they could keep going till midnight. But we, the lost children, did find them in the end.
Phew! The bus that used to take food to the combine operators took us back home, otherwise it would have taken us till three in the morning to get back. And we were given a good dressing down. We gave our parents a scare. These kinds of shenanigans are not okay, they said.
And since we’re talking about driving: apart from the combine harvester I got acquainted with grandpa’s old Škoda Octavia as well. The gear mechanism was at the steering wheel, the door opening was weird. The car had been used as an ambulance, but I hadn’t been around yet at that time. I remember driving the Octavia around the countryside when dad was playing football. Grandpa would sit me in the front and off we went.
P.S. Next week - Chapter 5