Saturday, March 23, 2013

“Pickup Truck Parade”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

When I was a kid in the 1960’s, almost no one in the family owned a truck.
Our neighborhood in southeastern Ohio boasted more farm animals than human residents. But my father drove a Corvair van.  People at church depended on an assortment of Ford Fairlanes, Dodge Coronets and Chevrolet Impalas for transportation. My grandfather lived on a farm in Columbus, but drove a two-door Falcon.
Only one uncle near Gallipolis had a weathered GMC pickup. It was dark blue. I never saw it move because by day, he sold Buicks for a living. But the “Jimmy” was waiting for duty when he returned to his few-acre spread.
Trucks were workhorses in that era. Not stylish. Not likely to increase one’s social standing. People owned them out of need and not for any other reason.
I grew up lusting after British sports cars and motorcycles. My favor also tilted toward air-cooled Volkswagens, the only kind in existence at that moment in time. Yet in the back of my mind, there was a sort of fascination with these heavy haulers. They were minimalistic and useful, like a Jeep.
After a Beetle and a diminutive Chevette, I bought an Econoline van. Strangely, that vehicle made me want a pickup truck.
The Ford was set up to move cargo, with seats in the front and nothing behind but space. It carried a one-ton suspension package and rear axle. Though decent in winter months, thanks to its weight, the vehicle made me wish for better snow-going traction.
Soon afterward, I bought a 1979 F-150 with a 351 V-8 and four-wheel drive. It was a step I took with great determination.
Because I lived on a dirt road in Munson Township, the pickup proved to be invaluable. No longer did I worry about getting to work in the midst of Mother Nature’s wrath. “Ol’ Blue” stayed in motion even with snow packed in its radiator grill and chunks of ice pelting its windshield.
During one particularly violent winter storm, my wife and I set out to do grocery shopping in Chardon. We met up with friends who had a ’69 F-250. They were out enjoying a similar bad-weather jaunt. After trading stories about the road conditions, we decided to share dinner. Our meal was soft-shell tacos and Guinness Extra Stout.
The ’79 F-Series was followed by a green 1978 model, with the extra-cab and eight-foot bed. It handled like a school bus, but tracked freight-train sure in slippery driving conditions.
Next, I bought an ’85 Ford Ranger. The little mule sipped gasoline with a stingy appetite, but felt undeniably small. I often bumped my skull on the headliner. My knee always rested against the window crank.
I did lots of traveling in the new-size Ford. It was easy on my budget with the 2.8 liter V-6 motor. Yet that truck never truly felt comfortable. My heart was set on going back to an F-Series.
Ironically, a 1996 Ranger 4X4 appeared at Classic Chevrolet, in Mentor. It carried the 4.0 liter V-6 and a 5-speed transmission. The price was $10,000 under list, even though it only had 16,000 miles on the odometer. With air conditioning and a CD player, the truck was a bargain.
I swallowed my pride and bought the black beauty.
We nicknamed it “Eight Ball” because of its dark color and round rear fenders.
I bought a set of air fresheners that matched the theme, at Kmart. They hung from the inside mirror.
After being promoted to Co-Manager at my retail business, I decided to step up to F-150 ownership, once more. I bought a brand-new 2005 model from the Classic dealership in Chardon, where Lawson Ford-Mercury had been.
The truck was an STX, black with gray interior. It had 4wd and the 4.6 liter V-8 engine, plus the extra cab with a half-size door behind the regular one. At the wheel, it felt like a combination of my ’79 F-150 and the ’78. The truck proved to be useful for hauling family and friends. Plus, my dogs loved riding in the back.
The economic meltdown of 2008 took its toll on the family, however. I was out of work and struggling. Literally putting ten-dollars-worth of gas in the tank at a time, to look for employment. Before finding a solution to the crisis, my F-150 got repossessed.
A heavy pall of sadness hung over my empty driveway.
Rescue came in the form of family assistance. I scraped together pennies to afford a low-mileage 1998 Ranger that appeared in Madison. It was a cheap 4wd model with the 3.0 liter V-6 and no cruise control, CD player, or air. Just right for the budgetary needs of a life wrecked by the Great Recession.
I received it with endless gratitude.
The perky little Ford got me to work through the wintery chaos of life in Geauga County’s eastern badlands. Even with snow up the sides of its doors, the truck kept going.
When financial needs caused me to close the family storage space in Montville, it served usefully to haul many loads of boxes and furniture. And it kept me on the road for three years that followed, until today.
After six 4wd trucks in a row, I pondered quietly. “What next?” My automotive life had been a pickup parade or sorts.
A return to the F-Series seemed likely. Or perhaps, in a moment of wild abandon, a Chevrolet Silverado or Dodge Ram for variety. But most certainly, not a Toyota Tundra, Honda Ridgeline, or vintage VW Rabbit pickup.
As an old-timer once exclaimed: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

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