How did I learn to tell a tractor from a bulldozer? Answer: My children had toy trucks, even my daughters. No dolls. Just trucks, like their big brother had. The big Tonka ones. Heavy yellow dump trucks. Backhoes. Steam shovels. Cranes with working pulley systems. Cement mixers. For 10 years my dirt driveway was under construction by two ponytailed girls and their older brother. That's how I learned about trucks.
"Vroom, vroom, vroom!" they'd call out from under the kitchen window. I'd take a peek. There they'd be, bent over. Both hands on the front- end loaders. Moving down the driveway to the next excavation. Shirts riding up their backs. Dust up to their ankles.
"Lara, would you smooth out this pile of gravel for me with your bulldozer? My steamroller is busy," Matt would ask his sister.
"No problem, Matt. Be right there!" she'd reply, as she raced down the driveway, ponytail flying.
I felt liberated just watching them. I had never played with trucks when I was growing up. Trucks were only for boys in the 1950s. So I never paid much attention to whether those machines down the street moved gravel with a blade or a bucket. Weren't they all tractors? Well, no, as I learned.
'I'LL take that green tractor," I said to the saleswoman. "The what?" she asked.
"That green truck-thing," I stammered. Here I was a writer and I was (horrors!) putting "thing" on the end of a word. But I was desperate to get that ... thing.
"Oh, the backhoe!" she said with authority.
"Yes, that's it! That's what my daughter wants," I replied gratefully.