The story is told of a wealthy Texas rancher who invited a distant relative to visit his ranch one summer in order to impress him with his amassed wealth and size of his immense ranch. One morning after breakfast, the rancher stepped out onto the veranda and, looking out over the vast fields and rangelands, spread his arms out and proudly stated, “I can literally get in my truck and drive all day in any direction without ever leaving my property. What do you think about that?” His less than impressed relative responded with, “I used to have a truck like that.”
Indeed, I think at one point or another we’ve all owned a truck or vehicle “like that” — meaning it had (has) special qualities and characteristics that made it a true part of the family.
The love affair that Americans have with their vehicles goes back a long way, to the time automobiles first started being mass produced on early assembly lines and began flooding the market. Herbert Hoover’s campaign fliers in 1928 touted that if he were elected president there would be “a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage.” I know a few people who have a few more than that — and chickens to boot!
Does anybody else out there have a name for their car/truck, and furthermore do you find yourself holding conversations with it just like you would a person? Makes perfect sense to me. I talk to inanimate objects all the time: my lawn mower, weed trimmer, leaf blower, truck, my computer at school, my GPS hand-held at work and of course anything else that doesn’t work the way I think it should.
I named my shotgun “Old Reliable” because I’ve had it for several decades and it’s still reliable even when its owner isn’t. The first new truck I ever owned wasn’t actually purchased on purpose. It was like Jack in the Beanstalk, where Jack goes to town to trade in his milk cow and comes home with magic beans ... that kind of deal. I do it all the time. I go into Sam’s Club to get batteries and come out with a six-pound coconut cream cake and a five gallon bucket of dill pickles. I went to Salt Lake to trade in our car for a van that would accommodate our growing family (wife and four kids at the time) and came home with a brand new pick-up truck, a small pick-up truck, as in the kind that will only sit three people. I’m not sure what I was thinking, figuring I could fit the whole family where? In the bed?
Although it didn’t become the ideal passenger vehicle, it served our family well in many different arenas. I simply called it “Old Blue,” and it was the best truck I ever owned. I won’t share what make and model it was because then I’ll have to deal with all the brand-name jokes that accompany truck ownership. It wasn’t four-wheel drive, so I had to take into consideration my routes, weather and the amount of divine intervention needed in order to get anywhere safely. I think back on all the hunting trips and places that little truck took us, and I marvel that we didn’t end up stranded somewhere in deep snow while cutting Christmas trees or stuck on a side road in the mud on fall hunting trips.
At times my conversations with Old Blue were encouraging and positive, like when we were going up a hill in the snow. “Come on baby, you can do this!” At other times, I expressed disappointment and frustration, like when the engine light came on not long after getting the truck out of the shop. “I just had you serviced, are you kidding me!”
There was total frustration if the heater quit working when it was 20 degrees below zero outside. “Why you miserable piece of junk! Why are you doing this to me?” And of course the opposite was true when I’d stumble into the cab after nearly freezing to death and the heater worked. “That’s my boy! Keep it comin’!”
If you happen to be LDS and you move to a new ward where it becomes known you have a truck, chances are you’re a shoo-in to be a Scout leader or at least on the Elders Quorum speed dial list for helping folks move (neither of which are bad things), and it wouldn’t surprise me if while meeting with the bishop there is a mental checklist being systematically checked off. “So I see you have a lot of boys in your family who are Scout age” (check). “I understand you’re a teacher?” (Hmmmm summers off to go to camps, check). “You obviously enjoy working with youth” (check). “And I notice you have a truck” (Ka-ching! We just hit the mother-lode. Scoutmaster it is!)
After 278,000 miles, Old Blue suffered a mortal wound while pulling a heavy Scout trailer over the summit of Logan Canyon. He never was the same after that, and ultimately I had to put him down. The truck I have now is OK, and I depend on it a lot for the same things I did from Old Blue, but when we pull out the old photo albums and see Old Blue’s picture, the boys all agree that “they just don’t make em like they used to.