Gotta love ‘em, gotta have ‘em, even when they’re somehow in the repair shop every other week. They’re dusty, rusty, chronically have manure somewhere on and in them, and sport hay-studded baling twine crammed into the door pockets meant for drinks and maps.
Those farm trucks take a beating over the years, pulling stuck equipment out of the mud, hauling wood and livestock, towing trailers all over the countryside, and tearing through weather that would leave our cars stranded. It’s hard to imagine a working farm without one!
Now, we’re not talking about the sporty, short-bed toy haulers, spotlessly clean and shiny. To be a farm truck, it has to have character — like a missing running gear, a latch in the back that won’t open unless you body slam the tailgate first, automatic locks that don’t work and cause the driver to lean over as far as she can reach to pull up the tab and let the passenger inside.
They need dings and cracks and scratches from that time you backed around the corner a little too sharp or barely made it past that tight spot on the trail in the woods. And the inside should look like a mix of a large animal vet clinic, the hardware store, and a towing company.
The back seat of our 1999 Ford F150 usually contains these essentials:
• Two different hitches, one for different sized ball hitch options and one open as a pin hitch for hay wagons and mobile chicken houses.
• Baling twine, tie-down straps, a tarp, and a red flag to hold down and mark oversized items that may be sticking out the back window or out the side of a trailer (like hauling those impossible-to-fit-into-a-trailer cattle panels).
• Two monster-sized wrenches for changing different sized ball hitches because everything’s so rusted it takes a strong grip and a long lever to budge the nuts. In a pinch, these can serve as hammers too.
• Exam gloves — never know when veterinary tasks may be necessary.
• X-shaped lug wrench (already been stranded once when the lugs fell off and the wheel went careening down the road ahead of us in a snowstorm!).
• Wire plyers and side cutter for fence repair or releasing the boar if his tusks are caught in the hog fencing.
• A sweatshirt someone left behind — never know, someone else might need it!
• Extra oil. There’s a leak somewhere, but it costs too much to get it totally fixed.
• A flashlight and a first aid kit (if you can find them amidst all the other items!)
This old truck, which Grandpa bought used back when we were just starting our farming endeavors, has been put through the test over the years. We’ve drug livestock shelters about, run to a number of states to pick up breeding rams or pigs, used the cab with the heat cranked up as a last-minute brooder for baby chicks when the power went out in the middle of the night (before we invested in a generator), hauled recycling into town and building supplies back, and dared its four-wheel-drive up wintry mountains in Vermont for cheesemaking internships.
The thermostat died this last year, so the heat quit working; a window in the back leaks when it rains, fogging up the windshield with humidity; and the shift reads one option off (park looks like reverse, drive looks like 2). Who knows how much longer our hardworking pal will last, but it sure has been a good run!
Kara received a note the other day from a neighbor friend about farm trucks, which gave us all a good chuckle. Ours isn’t quite this dilapidated, but we can sympathize with the situation.
1. They have about 20 miles before they overheat, break down, or run out of gas.
2. Only the owner knows how to operate the door to get in or out.
3. It is difficult to drive fast with all the fence tools, grease rags, ropes, chains, syringes, buckets, boots, and loose papers in the cab.
4. It takes too long to start, and the smoke coming up through the rusted-out floorboard clouds your vision.
5. The Border collie on the toolbox looks mean.
6. They’re too easy to spot. The description might go something like this: The driver’s side door is red, the passenger side door is green, the right front fender is yellow, etc.
7. The large round bale in the back makes it hard to see if you’re being chased. You could use the mirrors if they weren’t cracked and covered in duct tape.
8. Top speed is approximately 45 mph.
9. Who wants to steal a truck that needs a year’s worth of maintenance, u-joints, $3,000 in body work, tail lights, and a windshield?
10. It is hard to commit a crime with everyone waving at you.
But though the truck has served us long and hard over the years, it didn’t make the inspection cut for the upcoming, much-anticipated, cross-country trek to get our new (and first ever!) cows.
Instead, Kara and Ann are tricking out a cargo van with a plywood stall in the back and two large dog kennels for the additional Kunekune pigs they’ll be picking up as well. I can’t wait to hear how this saga unfolds — two gals, two pigs, and two cows in a cargo van. Sounds…well, I guess we’ll find out!
So the truck will be kicking around the farm, running errands into town, hauling firewood. Next time I pass you in the old red beater, I’ll be sure to give you a wave — ‘cause that’s what folks do in the countryside, driving their farm trucks. See you down on the farm sometime.
(It’s hard to imagine a working farm without a well-loved, beatup truck as part of the team. Photo by Bryan Neuswanger)
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