Of all the homesteading tools I use, my pickup truck has proven to be the single most useful one. Since moving from the city to our 90 acre spread on Manitoulin Island over 25 years ago, first one truck then another has served my family and I as we’ve built our stone-and-timber home and lived a life of self-reliance on the land. I’ve created a video retrospective of our time building and living here on the Island and how our trucks have made so much possible. Check out the link at the end of this blog. But before you do, let me share some details of my homesteading story.
When I was 18 I realized that the city I grew up in was not for me, and when I was 23 I bought the piece of farmland and forest that we live on now. I longed for an honest life in the country and knew that a pickup truck was going to be an important part of making that happen. So in 1986, I bought my first truck – a 1968 Ford F-250. I fixed it up with tender, loving care while working in my parents’ driveway and it served me faithfully for the next 18 years.
I used my skills as a carpenter and cabinet maker to support my family as we began to build our stone and timber home, hauling about 500 tons of hand-quarried limestone with that old truck, shaping the blocks to build my basement and the walls of our new house. Despite the work I put it through, my truck stood steadfast and also carried thousands of pounds of white pine beams from the sawmill to our homestead.
Our family has grown from two to seven over the years, filling each room with laughter, love and plenty of the kind of real life squabbles that set in with a house full of kids. When the truck was 30 years old my neighbor couldn’t afford a replacement truck when his died, so I handed over the keys to him. By then, it was far from pretty, had at least 300,000 miles on it, but could still certify.
My next truck was a 1990 Ford F-150 that I bought in 1998. It was the last truck owned by a legendary old-timer from my island, a man named Ivan Bailey. Many years have passed since then and this same F-150 remains a constant in our lives. Only minor repair work has been done, as well as a paint job a few years ago, but it still runs as smoothly as it ever did, without a spot of body filler anywhere. On many occasions, we’ve helped move our neighbors, we take regular trips to town for groceries, supplies, and grain to feed the chickens that my youngest son, Jacob tends to. I taught my oldest son, Robert how to drive the old truck, and today he’s using it to expand his cabin in the woods in preparation for a young lady that will become his bride on May 20th, 2014.
One of the most memorable rides I ever took in my truck happened this past July 27th. That’s the day my oldest daughter, Katherine, asked me to drive her to her wedding in the old F-150. As she climbed into the truck wearing her mother’s wedding dress, my memories took me back to when she was just a little girl climbing into her car seat for the first time. Check out this special moment for yourself in my video retrospective of the two trucks and our homestead.
A good truck is like a good dog. It becomes part of the family in big ways. Got some homestead truck stories of your own? Tell me about them.
Steve Maxwell lives on Manitoulin Island with his wife Mary and their 5 children. Lately they’ve been using their pickup truck to haul firewood, tools and some eavestrough that Steve has been installing. Learn more about Steve at www.stevemaxwell.ca.
Photo by Robert Maxwell
Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on Google+.