“She don’t care if I don’t work a lick
She’ll start every time, if the choke don’t stick”
– Glen Campbell song, “I Love My Truck”
I have a 1998 full-size pickup truck that I’ve had since it was nearly new.
I should trade it in on a more practical vehicle–maybe one of those little make-believe trucks with a fraction of the hauling capacity and power. But I love the old beast.
It uses a bit too much gas, it’s got nicks and dings all over it, and the tailgate doesn’t latch real well all the time.
The paint is peeling and chipping on the hood and roof. The dashboard on this particular model year can become brittle and actually crack and crumble; mine has.
The air conditioner went out three summers ago and I’ve never wanted to put the money into the old warhorse to get it fixed; the heater did work until this winter, but it started smoking…literally smoking…the first time I turned it on this year. I only drive it on warm days now.
The dashboard falling in might have something to do with that, I guess.
It rides like a…well, like a truck. It’s set up with heavy-duty suspension and a towing package; this truck was originally used to haul horse trailers.
Yeah, common sense tells me I should trade it in on a newer model, but that thinking flies in the face of my upbringing. See, I was raised at a time when you had loyalty to your car; take care of your car and it will take care of you.
It was a time when loyalty was such an important part of American life that even cars were counted as important contributors in a family.
My dad would buy a car and drive it until the floorboards were rotting through and the engine had run at least 200,000 more miles than the factory advertised.
He would cover the seats with cloth seat covers to keep the real seat covers clean; maybe take the covers off for special occasions, like a funeral or a wedding.
He kept the oil clean and the gas tank full, and even though we lived in northern Wisconsin on dusty gravel roads in summer and salt-covered roads in winter, he kept it shiny and clean–at least most of the time.
There were four children in the family; I was the youngest. By the time I was high school age, my dad was tired of driving back and forth to bring me to school functions; my mom never drove, so he was the chauffeur.
I’ll never forget when I was about 17 I came home from school one day and he tossed me a set of keys to a 1964 Ford Galaxy 500. I had never even asked for a car. It was like a dream come true to a dream I hadn’t even imagined.
The car had been through several Wisconsin winters and the salt had done a number on the lower panels, but overall it was a beauty. It only had a 289-cubic-inch engine, but to me it was a Maserati; it ran like a champ.
I pampered that car mercilessly; waxed it, polished the chrome, even added an 8-track tape player and big Jensen speakers mounted in plush carpet on the back window ledge.
It was cool back then; it would be the bomb today.
I kept that car and took care of it until I had to leave for Marine Corps boot camp and couldn’t take it with me; I felt traitorous selling it. I still feel a twinge of guilt.
So, you can see why I am having separation anxiety about my truck. I love my truck.
I’ve taken care of the engine like my dad taught me; the oil always runs clean, the gas tank never gets below half, the tires are always well-treaded, balanced, and aligned; the brakes are always good.
The V-8, 5.9-liter engine is a monster by today’s standards, but isn’t bad on gas as long as I don’t gun it; however, if I need the power, it’s there–oh yeah, it’s there.
I’ve only had a few occasions to use the 4-wheel drive, but it’s like insurance–when you need it, you really need it.
In fact, at this writing, after having looked at the exorbitant cost of new cars that don’t have the guts and character my truck does and don’t get much better gas mileage, I have made a decision.
I won’t abandon the old veteran. I won’t cave in to the “new normal” and lay it off just because newer models promise XM radio, Bluetooth compatibility, and marginally better gas mileage.
I’ve decided to put some money back into the old bird, get the heater and A/C fixed, replace that dashboard, and, hey, why not upgrade the AM/FM radio/cassette player to a high-def audio-platform with cd player and maybe even one that will allow me to connect my iPod.
I’ll get that electronic passenger side window fixed so it will roll up after having been rolled down. Maybe get that back tailgate latch fixed too.
I’ll have the battle scars sanded off and get a total paint job.
I’m going to treat this old veteran with the respect it deserves after a loyal career, not just put it on the back shelf to be scrapped.
A car salesman somewhere will lose commission on a new vehicle they could have sold me.
But some lucky mechanics are going to gain job security when I drive into their shop. I’ll be helping support the family of some car painter. A local garage will be able to stay open because I am not going to abandon my truck.
It’s like I’m providing my own little stimulus package. Instead of bailing out on my truck, I’ll boost the local economy.
And perhaps most important, I’ll remain true to my roots. I won’t give in to the new normal, the disposable society. I’ll see the old warhorse come back to life and give it another chance to pull its weight.
It’s amazing what people will do for love of their truck. ☺
Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Peachtree City, Ga.; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email email@example.com.