Salamanca was eleven when Gramps first taught her how to drive. Bybanks, where the family lives, is highly rural, and Gramps would let his "chickabiddy" drive his old pickup truck around on the dirt roads on their farm. While Salamanca drove, Gramps sat beside her, smoking his pipe and telling stories (Chapter 28).
It is not unusual for children from rural areas to learn how to drive at an early age; the wide-open spaces make it far less dangerous than driving in more populated areas. When Gram is hospitalized in Coeur D'Alene, a little over a hundred miles from the place where Salamanca's mother died in a bus accident, Gramps, perhaps rashly, gives Salamanca the keys to the car, knowing she will complete the last leg of their journey herself. Salamanca, who is thirteen at the time, manages to navigate the dangerous mountain road safely, but she is caught driving alone on the winding road to Lewiston alone. The sheriff gives her "a lengthy and severe lecture" about driving without a license, and makes her promise not to drive again until she is sixteen. When Salamanca asks if she is forbidden to drive even out on Gramps' farm, however, he grudgingly acknowledges,
"I suppose people are going to do whatever they want to on their own farms...as long as they have a lot of room to maneuver and as long as they are not endangering the lives of any other persons or animals. But I'm not saying you ought to. I'm not giving you permission or anything" (Chapter 43).