I don’t remember the first time I kissed a girl or saw Star Wars or my first day at my first job. But I do remember my first pickup truck.
It was a 1988 Chevrolet C1500 half-ton 4×4.
Really it wasn’t even my pickup truck. It was my dad’s. He agreed to let me drive it to school because the $800 Subaru I purchased from my uncle (for 16 easy installments of $50) was a stick. It was easy to feign ignorance or lack of skill in driving a stick, thus convincing my dad to swap vehicles with me.
It might have been hard for an untrained eye to understand why I did that. The truck was used and abused but it had a certain charm.
For instance, my favorite place to take a date in high school was down to the creeks. Despite what the rally car commercials may lead you to believe, you can’t ford 3 feet of water in a Subaru. The ole truck was essential for finding parking spots that no one else could get to.
Outwardly it didn’t appear to be much though and it certainly had flaws but I like to think of those flaws as “character.”
The engine had well over one hundred thousand miles on it by the time I got it. Dad believed that changing the oil was only necessary on odd numbered years – just as long as you used Valvoline. Its auto transmission shifted rough. But it did always start.
The hood was nearly completely primer gray from a known factory defect in painting. Why just the hood I may never know. The bed was beat on the inside and rusted. On each side inside the bed were metal toolboxes that might have been welded together by someone with less than perfect sight. All the way down the road they rattled and banged. I never knew if the truck was coming apart or if it was just the boxes.
On the inside the bench seat was mostly held together with one of those seat covers with the woven patterns that became ubiquitous in the 70’s (but weren’t quite in style when I got the truck in 1994). A layer of dust about an inch thick protected the valuable dash. The floor had a thick plastic mat – proof that trucks don’t ever, ever, ever need carpet. The dash held two radios. The factory one was just for show but the one balanced precariously in the factory dash pocket above it worked just fine. Assuming that your definition of fine was that it ate your favorite Garth Brooks tapes at the most inappropriate times. Dad had left papers stuffed in the hole on top of the extra radio. How it never caught fire I’ll never know.
But sure as I’m writing this now I loved that truck. Last I heard it had been sacrilegiously been painted red and was approaching 350K miles.
I’ve loved other trucks since but it took me more than 10 years to find another truck I’d love like that one. But in 2007 I bought my Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab 4×4 — and yeah, it’s got a Hemi.
Dad’s truck was a farm truck tried and true and I had really forgotten the value of a pickup truck when it comes to farm and homestead work. I’d never actually stressed a truck to that level. The real beauty of a good truck is that if you treat it with kid gloves its gets lazy and weak. But when you beat the hell out of it, the response you get is dependability and love.
While my truck has carpet and a CD player (that doesn’t think playing music is optional) it is a working truck and I don’t take it easy on it. Dents add character!
I’ve pulled trailers with it. It has pulled my bass boat many miles. On more than one occasion I didn’t quite put it in park while backing the boat in. One’s love for a truck is in direct proportion by how quickly one can jump in the cab when the truck rolls ominously toward the water.
It has hauled two harvested whitetail bucks. It has also hauled swingsets and a salvaged freezer. And it has taken me to work and back almost every day for 5 years through rain, sleet, snow and the ice storm of 2009.
Virtually every component on our cabin was hauled by that truck all the way down our 400 foot dirt (read: mud) drive. It has hauled mulch, rock, sand, compost and dirt. I know that I can fit enough dimensional lumber in the bed to create a 16×20 foot wooden floor — completely framed. It helped move my family closer to our homestead and ultimately our dream of freedom.
I put my four-year-old son’s carseat in the center so he can see out over all of creation. He always begs to take the truck instead of his momma’s car. Looks like this case of truck love is starting early!
You can read more about my homesteading and gardening adventures at my blog and podcast.