I’m on my second truck. Once a bright red, it’s now a faded and beat-up 1997 Ford F-150 Super Cab coming up on 200,000 miles, with a long bed and the biggest V8 Ford had at the time. It has more dents, dings, and scratches than a 50-year-old humpback has barnacles, and most of them weren’t put there by me. Assorted children, ex-wives, and wives have wrapped the bed around poles, minivans, and God knows what else. Once, my ex-wife backed her Volvo station wagon smack into its side. Just broadsided it. What’d you do that for? I asked, though in the back of my mind I knew she had about ten good reasons for doing it. It didn’t hurt it, she said. There are three long scratches on the hood where I cleaned it off last winter with a snow shovel.
I love this truck, I once said to Jimmy Abdon, the mechanic who works on it in Quincy. I know you do, he replied, with traces of sadness and pity as he struggled to loosen a headlight frozen to the grill. You’re going to have to bury him in it, Jimmy said to my wife, who drives a hot little black Saab. Just about everything is rusted on tight or has rusted off. The spare tire damn near fell off when the bracket holding it against the gas tank rusted through. So I just slung the spare in the bed. It’s not worth stealing, so I feel safe about that. I use silver metal tape to patch up the running boards and fenders. I just keep layering it on until there’s more silver tape than there ever was original metal.
Nobody bothers you when you’re driving this old Ford. If I want to turn left I just ease through the intersection, and if I want to change lanes on the highway, I just hit the blinker and slide over. People get out of my way. Nobody behind you honks if you sit a second too long when the light turns green. I imagine people think you got a gun or something hidden under the seat somewhere. God knows what kind of outlaw would drive something that decrepit in broad daylight, they must be thinking, in plain sight of women and children. On nice days I roll down the windows and crank Gillian Welch or Mary Gauthier. Chris Knight or the Black Lillies. John Prine.
You can have a lot of friends, if you want, when you drive a truck. I once saw a bumper sticker that read, Yes, this is my truck, and no, I won’t help you move. That pretty much sums up a truck guy, right there. I’ll tell you something else about truck guys: There’s a whole little secret world out there where we let each other make turns, give little nods to one other, inspect each other’s rigs. Mine may not be the prettiest, but it’s bought and paid for. It’s like seeing an old dog; they know I’m nursing this Ford along, keeping it alive as long as the engine can turn over on a cold morning, like they hope to do for theirs someday.