Three Wheel BabySitter

by kfrego

Linda and I spent a lot of time camping near the drill rigs. All of our children spent as much time in the camper bus as they did at home. When my Mom came to visit from New York she joined us too. We all loved it. Our oldest son Jamie was five and his understanding of the terminology and drilling methods was uncanny. He would get to spend a couple of hours at work with me once in a while. While drilling a 2500 foot hole on a forty five degree angle we had the bus a half mile from the drill. Myself and a helper drilled only on day shift because the owner of the property didn’t want the hole completed faster than his monthly cash flow allowed him to pay. Each day when I came down the hill Jamie wanted to know how many feet we drilled and all the particulars. If we tripped the drill rods out for a bit Jamie knew it by the sound of the drill. He also knew if we got the rods back in the hole and started drilling again. He knew the different drill bit configurations and their specific purposes.

We bought a Honda ATC 90 three wheeler when they first came out. We also bought a small helmet for the kids. Jamie couldn’t reach the shift lever, but he put on a lot of hours in first gear. He could go anywhere he wanted because he was so light. We had an old tailings area near the bus where we could always see the kids. When the ATC got dusty we gave it a bath in Carpenter Creek.  Jody, our youngest, was only a few months old. When he would get fussy Linda would put him on the ATC between her legs and slowly ride around. Soon he’d be dead asleep. When my Mom was kicking back she’d jump on the ATC and go riding. On weekends and evenings I would take one of the kids and off we’d go exploring.

One evening Dori, who was three, jumped on the ATC with me to go exploring. She would set between my legs so she could reach the handle bars to hold on. It also made her feel as if she was contributing as a driver. We made a big loop up onto the partially timbered slopes near camp. About a mile above Carpenter Creek we started our descent back towards camp. The ATC was in first gear idling slowly down a sagebrush covered slope as we picked our way along. Dori’s arms got tired of being in the same position so long. When she repositioned her right hand, she reached between my thumb and forefinger onto the throttle. By the time I got her hand free we were hitting the ground about every ten feet on the steep hill. We were out of control and both got thrown over the handle bars as the ATC tumbled over us. Dori was all right, but scared. The ATC was several hundred feet below us in the creek bed. We got it started and went to camp. Dori’s helmet had red paint on it. She didn’t like getting back on the ATC to get home.

Dori thought the ATC caused our wreck……and ignored it for a long time afterwards.