Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Friday, July 30, 2010

'Driving: A Right of Passage': A Book Review

A beautiful and accomplished lady named Margaret Harkins Patterson, R. N., retired, who happens to be descended from the Nix and Harkins (and other) early-settler families of Union County, Georgia, has written a delightful book entitled Driving: A Right of Passage.

Margaret Harkins Patterson (on left), author of Driving: A Right of Passage, with her first cousin, Roma Sue Turner Collins at the July 18, 2009, Dyer-Souther Heritage Association Reunion. Both are descendants of the Nix, Dyer, Harkins, Collins, Turner, Souther and other pioneer settlers of Union County, Georgia.

I wish I had owned a copy of the book back when my husband Grover and I (together with help from their high school driving instruction coaches then) were teaching our own children, Keith and Cynthia, how to be safe, responsible teen-age drivers. It would have helped tremendously to have handed them Margaret’s helpful book and said to them: “Read this. And when you know what she teaches you through this book, and when we think you can drive safely, we will take you to get your driver’s license.” But the book wasn’t available then. It was published only in 2008, a gift of Margaret to her five children, her ten grandchildren and her (then) two great-grandchildren (and any more to come!).

Now that such a book is available, may I suggest that, if you who read this and are training teen-age drivers, you should go to and/or maybe the Book Nook bookstore in Blairsville, and preview a copy of this book and think about purchasing it for your own teenage driver. Better still, consider it as a gift to your grandchild who may be about to launch upon “Driving: A Right of Passage.”

First, something about the author herself. She is a descendant of John Grancer Nix, born about 1761 in Edgefield, South Carolina, who lived to be 107 years old and died about 1867 or 1868. I won’t repeat his wonderful descendancy in full here, for I’ve written about him and families in that lineage in previous “Through Mountain Mists” columns when I was writing a series about the Nix families in our midst.

But, closer in Margaret Harkins Patterson’s Nix line, she was a daughter of Maver Nix Harkins and General Pat Harkins. Her grandparents in the Nix line were John Washington Nix and Catherine Clarinda Dyer Nix who had children Harvey; Dora Lou (who married Franklin Hedden Dyer); Nola (Magnola, who married John Jarrett Turner); Mary Elizabeth and Martha L., twins, who died as infants; Joseph Spencer (who married Doris E. Nix and Cathryn Clark Birgel); Roy Walter (who married Idell Nelson); Maver Clarenda (Margaret’s mother, who married General Pat Harkins and second, Edward Collins); Howard Benson (who married Ellen Erwin); Florida Lee (who married Carlos Turner); and Cleo Inez (who married Rouse King). Margaret Harkins Patterson is justifiably proud of her ancestors who number among teachers, housewives, farmers, businessmen, and patriotic citizens, as well as those who have served (and many who are still serving) admirably in various walks of life.

And now, to get to a brief review of her wonderful book, “Driving: A Right of Passage (c2008 Xlibris Corporation), Margaret gives this reason for writing the book:

“My goal is to keep you out of the ditch, out of the tree, the river…and the morgue. Get the picture? I will teach you to drive safely and successfully and you will enjoy the process” (from “Prologue”, p. 9).
Margaret remembers great times with her father, Pat Harkins, who taught her much about cars and driving. From him she learned how an automobile works and how to make minor repairs, how to be a safe and sane driver, and how to respect “the right of passage” from being merely a passenger to being the responsible person behind the wheel. She pays tribute to Pat Harkins, her father: “My father taught me to drive. I began at the tender age of six when the speed limit was 50 or under…We lived in the country—dirt roads—quarter-mile driveway—perfect. I sat on my father’s lap in our ’38 Ford sedan. My job was to steer. He handled the gas, clutch, gears and brake. He never touched the wheel, but would stop the car if I screamed loudly enough. I learned a lot about steering the car. I was driving a tractor at age twelve and I never plowed up a row of corn!...The key word here is ‘practice.’ Practice is essential to ‘knowing your car’ ” (p. 20).

Giving a humorous and very readable account of how a teenager reaches and goes through driving, “the right of passage,” author Margaret Harkins Patterson gives in very personable terms how important driver education is to the teenage driver, a brief history of the automobile, how important it is to know a car—inside and out—under the hood and what to expect from the mechanical operation of a car, driving etiquette, how to handle hazardous driving situations, how to get the best insurance, and how to follow the rules of the road. This is a common-sense manual on driving. She gives her account in such a warm and interesting manner that reading the 90 pages and having the handy index for reference is like having a personal driving manual at your fingertips.

To make her book more appealing, Margaret illustrated it herself with her own art work, complemented with computer images to highlight and emphasize certain vital points of driving and knowing an automobile.

I highly recommend Margaret’s book for those beginning to drive as well as “old pros” who may have driven for half a century or more. She reminds us that automobile accidents are the number one killer of teenagers. We as adults have a responsibility to teach youth how to be safe on the roads, how to maintain a vehicle, and how we can contribute to safety and to the egosystem by knowing how to drive well and keep a vehicle road-worthy and environmentally-safe.

I am glad I know Margaret Harkins Patterson. I am glad that back in our plethora of ancestors our family lines converge, and we can claim some bit of kinship in family, principles and purposes for living. Why don’t you examine Margaret’s book and get a copy for your favorite teenage driver? You’ll be glad you did.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Mar. 4, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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