Why a Pickup Truck?

by J. Kirkendall

It is a beast of burden for working people. It is travois, a wagon, a good mule, a team of horses or oxen. It speaks to something primitive and modern at the same time. It will carry laser and computer technology, rock and sand, picks and shovels, steel and lumber. It provides shelter in foul weather and is a quiet place to have lunch with a friend or wife and kids.

It can be a phone booth from which one can talk to a boss, co-worker, 911 operator, pizza take-out, or a lover. . . not necessarily in order of importance.

Park on a hill, having climbed a storm-rutted old mining road in grannie gear, and you can watch hawks hunt and dive at prairie dogs, vultures float on the thermal winds, antelope slide under barbed wire fences, and javelina search for edible roots. You can witness rainstorms, dust devils, sand storms, snowstorms, and rainbows. Watch them come and go.

And if you park it in a grove of trees near a stream on a moonlit night with the stereo playing, you and your friends can dance until dawn. You can fall asleep in the back on a mattress or a broken bale of straw while listening to faraway voices, knowing you always carry jumper cables.

Listening to a crackling truck radio you can hear the latest hits, oldies, country, classical, jazz, conservative commentators, liberal news stories, and music from Mexico.

At just the right time in history, you might hear on that radio about the World Trade Center, the Space Shuttle disaster, King’s assassination, and humans setting foot on the moon.

It will carry friends, relatives, fishing equipment, picnic goods, camping supplies, machinery, trash, family keepsakes, dogs, cats, and even a horse if he is the right size and has been trained to make the jump.

You can use it to move adult children out of their parents’ homes, move yourself into a different home, and move a mobile home anywhere on the continent. They are their own special version of a Model T, RV, SUV, and Humvee rolled into one cosmic vehicular experience that some of us find indispensable to life.

That is why a pickup truck.

Tailgate Talk # 1

Why the tailgate title you ask?

The tailgate of a pickup truck is where working men (and some women) congregate on working-class job sites. It is the “office water cooler” for people who do physically demanding outdoor jobs, using their backs, their hands, their minds, their tools, and heavy equipment on a daily basis.

The tailgate is the desk upon which architecturally sophisticated, fully engineered, globally positioned multi-million-dollar homes are laid out in blueprint form and studied. It is the tradesman’s chat room and lunchroom. It is the boss’s oval office, where policy is laid down, schedules made, people hired, fired, chewed out, and slapped on the back. It is where hands are shaken in mutual respect and final agreement.

It is where a man can sit and rest at the end of the day and talk seriously or laugh out loud with friends It is the place to retell the story of some goofy job someone did years ago, something no one had done before, or a job that went bad, but no one got hurt. Maybe some big shot from Texas came to town and thought he would blow away the small-town local talent. Or some rich guy from California spent a fortune building something wasteful and extravagant.

It is where you stand to hear if your company got the bid, if there is work for next week, if the weather will allow a full eight-hour day, if materials are to arrive, where to turn in

Classic 1982 Chevy, straight-six, 4 spd. w/ granny-gear

your time card, and where to pick up your paycheck.I write about a lot of different kinds of people, but I hold in special regard those folks who go to work in pickup trucks.

* Final note: This here’s the favorite pickup truck of my sixty-year lifetime.  A short-bed birthday gift from my cousin Rocky.  The truck became known far-and-wide on area construction projects as “The War-Pony.”

Do you have a favorite tailgate/ pickup memory?  Share it. Then, if you have a tailgate, go “have a sit down.”  Remember those good times.  It’s good therapy.