Jon Dawson: Mystery surrounding 14-year-old La Grange motorist

Jon Dawson: Mystery surrounding 14-year-old La Grange motorist

Our beloved Tax Deduction No. 1 had a birthday yesterday.

Neither of our TDs have ever asked for very much when it comes to presents. A few Christmases ago, they nearly ended up with a bag of switches due to their inability to give ol' Santa a hint. When I threatened to take things from their closets and re-wrap them for Christmas, their collective mental blocks dissipated. 

Although TD#1 has never presented us with a long list of wants, there are two things she's asked for repeatedly over the years: a pet duck and a telephone. 

I love ducks as much as the next guy, but we have a dog by the name of Lucille, and her mission in life is to eat every bird that comes within 7 miles of our home.

Be it a hawk, herring or a dove, Lucille goes after it as if she hasn't eaten since Gunsmoke went off the air — and sometimes she catches them. On more than one occasion, I've come home to a crime scene in our backyard, with our goofy, smiling dog sitting amongst the carnage as if she'd just raided the buffet at Golden Corral.

Until proper security measures can be taken to ensure its safety, the duck thing is on hold. As for the phone, TD#1 was 11 when she first asked for it, and coincidentally, that's also the first time we told her she could not have one. As I tell many young parents looking for advice, any chance you have to tell your kids "no,” do it. 

Thankfully, The Wife and I were on the same page with the whole phone thing. When making major decisions, we employ the "two-man" rule, which according to Wikipedia is "a control mechanism designed to achieve a high level of security for especially critical material or operations. Under this rule, all access and actions require the presence of two authorized people at all times." 

The ‘Two-man rule’ system requires two officers to turn their keys before a missile can be launched (photo from Wikipedia).

In addition to TD#1's phone, we've employed the "two-man" rule to such important matters as adding fruit cocktail to Jell-O (which required savvy negotiating on my part), bedtimes for the kids (I wanted 6 p.m., we compromised on 8:30 p.m.) and smooth vs. crunchy peanut butter (files are sealed on this one). 

Since TD#1 was turning 14 and periodically stays after school for sporting events, we decided it was time to give her a phone.

After we went through the 48-step process of setting up the phone, I told her she was only allowed to use it from 10 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. every other Saturday. Before she hyperventilated, I let her off the hook but gave her a set of conditions as long as my arm:

  • Don't store anything on the "cloud.” None of Steve Jobs' minions need access to your photos, location history or texts you've sent to your father telling him how awesome he is

  • Your mother and I will have access to the phone whenever we want, so if you're going to complain about us to your friends, your "delete" game better be on point

  • No online gambling — unless you're winning.

  • If you stay on the phone so long your earrings begin to melt, it may be time to put it down for a minute

I was 17 when I had my first experience with a mobile phone. The company my dad worked for provided a bag phone for him, and when he graduated to a phone that was permanently mounted in his car, I was given the bag phone.

Even though the bag phone had no service, it could still be used to call 911 or reach an operator in the case of an emergency. Also, it was fun to pretend to be on an important call at a stoplight. 

The thought of a bulky mobile phone the size of a loaf of bread surely elicits scoffs from anyone under the age of 40, but in all honesty, they were much better phones than these thin little televisions we all carry around in our pockets these days.

Photo of an early model bag phone.

My father-in-law still carries a bag phone in his truck. Why? Because he tends crops in parts of Jones County that are so far off the cellular grid, these smug little iPhones and Androids don't have enough juice to pick up a decent signal.

Can you hear me now? Well, only if I use a bag phone that weighs 7 pounds and has an antenna tall enough to tickle low-flying geese.

The next big step for TD#1 will be obtaining her drivers permit.

Since I grew up working on a farm every summer, there were plenty of opportunities for me to drive trucks around fields and get some practice in. TD#1, however, has virtually no driving experience. There is a long dirt path leading up to our compound, and currently there are no crops to damage on either side of it. I told The Wife today that we need to start letting TD#1 drive down the path a bit to get some driving practice. 

"I let her drive down the path after we picked up the Christmas tree yesterday," The Wife said.

"Why didn't you tell me?" I asked.

"I had some trouble steering," TD#1 said.

"It's a straight line," I said. "If you didn't touch the steering wheel, the ruts in the path would keep the car moving in a straight line."

While TD#2 was riding her bicycle this afternoon, I investigated the tire tracks up and down the path. Sure enough, there's a point where the tracks disappear to the right, reappear a few feet down the path, then disappear again on the left.

There is no point where the tire tracks reappear on the path, yet there is at least 100 yards between the last tire track and where the car is parked beside the house. When the TD#1-driven car deviated off the path that last time, how did it make it to the house without making a track?

No one is talking. When I ask what happened, TD#1 just looks at The Wife, and The Wife just puts her hand over TD#2's mouth to keep her from talking.

To be continued.

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