Learning to Drive a Jeep

“You have not lived to-day until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” John Bunyan

A friend’s Jeep proved that I had never learned to drive, at the minimum to drive it–better said, to conquer it. In a way it was an unequal contest for I had never driven a Jeep before.

That confrontation occurred when friends of ours, the Kaspersons, drove that Jeep all the way from the interior of State of Parana over twelve hundred Kilometres to visit up. That was a long hard trip for most of the road at that time was just red dirt. When it was dry it kicked up dust into a person’s face through that open Jeep. Or when wet it became a gumbo that threatened to drag the Jeep into the nearest ditch. What a trip for Bob, Ruth and their two children. Oh there were a few Kilometres of paved road near the city of Sao Paulo but beyond that, all the way to the interior village of Neves Paulista where we lived, all was dirt.

But first a few memories before we get into telling of my confrontation with their Jeep. The Kasperson family were Lutheran missionaries in the frontier city of Maringa and we were friends for we had a lot in common—huge coffee farms in both areas with up to a million bushes. And each of our families sensed the isolation of living a day’s drive from the nearest English speaking person. Close by the Kasperson home in the State of Parana, coffee or corn grew between the logs and stumps of trees that had been cut. Their home was made of rough cut lumber from some of those trees for it was the cheapest material available. Their home never measured up to ours for our homes in Neves was made of brick. Now an aside: it is sad to remember those logs rotting away or being eaten up by termites for the wonderful wood from those logs now would be worth a fortune on the world market.

Although Bob was shorter than I yet people who knew us both would confuse our names. I suppose the reason is that we both had blond hair and light complexions that told of our parent’s roots in North European countries. Ruth had striking red hair that no doubt indicating her forebears were from a Scandinavian country. What mattered for us was their visit—it relieved some our loneliness. In any case Bob knew how to handle that Jeep so when he offered it to me to drive one night, I suppose he assumed I could dominate its cantankerousness. That was something I could not do.

I happened like this. We had a mid-week evening service in our little church, one of those services that brought poor families in from the coffee farms. One of those families, including children  needed to walk the couple of kilometres back to their home. When I wondering about giving them a ride, Bob suggested I use his Jeep. My thought was, “A great idea. You see the walk would be in the dark for they didn’t even have a flashlight for that trail. Even though the road was rough the Jeep would provide some extra comfort for that trip.”

We loaded up the Jeep and were doing fairly well considering the ruts and holes. But I had no idea just how bad one hole was. Nor did I know how stiff the springs were on that Jeep. I was quite obviously going too fast so when I hit that one deep hole the Jeep jumped from it right into the ditch. Nobody was hurt—well except my self-respect. My friends walked the rest of their way home and I walked in the dark back to my home to get Bob. Well, Bob had influence with that unpredictable Jeep so without too much more trouble he tamed it and drove back to our home.

A year or so before the Kasperson’s visit we dropped in on them in their home in Maringa. And during that time they took us to see more of their State of Parana—all in their Jeep. But I never had to get behind the wheel and of course looking back we all could be thankful for that. My confrontation with that Jeep triggers all sorts of poignant memories of our connection with the Kaspersons. Some of those I’ve shared in this post–perhaps I’ll share others as time passes. That may happen if my memory does not pass on as well.



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