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Boy Oh Boy

Aug 30, 2023

Aug 28, 2023

Shark asked to borrow my truck to get a load of mulch.

“Sure thing,” I told my daughter. “It runs fine, but don’t be alarmed if you notice a few of the dashboard indicators aren’t working.”

“Like what indicators?”

“Oh, things you wouldn’t look at anyway, like the gauges for oil pressure and engine temperature. The fuel gauge and speedometer went out a few weeks ago, too. I’ve found I can get along without them. I can tell how fast I’m going, and I keep the gas tank topped off. Make sure you have your Triple-A card.”

Shark, being a confident and self-reliant gal, got her load of mulch without incident.

Still, I did worry a little about Shark being on the road with my venerable 2000 Dodge Ram pickup, which has 187,000 miles on it and won’t pass inspection. Maybe, I thought, it’s time to buy a new truck. (Used, but new to me, I mean. We don’t buy new vehicles.)

The other incident that got me off the fence was my reluctance to trust the old Dodge for a two-hour round trip to Canonsburg, Pa., to bring home an odd homemade bookshelf that Honey bought for $5 at a yard sale. I strapped it to the roof rack of her Toyota RAV4 and made the trip home on back roads. It only nearly fell off once.

Having no reliable truck, I realized, meant I had no truck at all. Suddenly I felt naked. Wait, that’s not the right metaphor, because men generally don’t mind being naked. I felt impotent. No, forget that. Let’s just say I felt inadequate, and that’s not a good feeling for a manly man to have.

It’s been a long time since I shopped for a vehicle, so I did what I used to do: made the rounds of the local auto dealers.

“I want a work truck, four-wheel drive, long bed, under $20,000 with no rust,” I told the Dodge salesman.

“I wish I had one like that, too,” he said wistfully.

The man at the Ford lot didn’t have anything, either, but he let me test-drive a newer truck that met most of my criteria except the price tag: $38,000. Our first house cost less than that.

I came home discouraged. “Nobody has a truck for me,” I told Honey.

She got on her phone, did an online search, and found 15 within 200 miles.

So, for the next hour I went through her list and emailed inquiry notices to half a dozen that looked promising. I really didn’t expect to buy anything with low miles. When I was young, it was a miracle if a vehicle made it to 100,000 miles. Today, a well-maintained truck can have 250,000 miles and be worth a look. The problem we in West Virginia have with older vehicles is rust. State inspection is a stickler for rust in the body, and you’re not allowed to patch with body putty anymore. Rust on the frame is a worse problem.

Honey liked a red Dodge she found up by Lake Erie. It looked perfect in the dealer video, but an honest salesman said there was rust around the fenders, saving me a long trip to look at it.

A white 2019 Ford F-150 with 134,000 miles, under $20K, with few high-end features, a real work truck, was way over in Chillicothe, Ohio, but looked perfect for me so I made the day-long haul there and back to test drive it. I knew Ford was building trucks with aluminum bodies, but somehow I had never thought about that in connection with the rust problem. Duh.

I liked it, bought it, fetched Honey to drive me back over, and brought it home.

She doesn’t like the white color. “It won’t be white much longer,” she predicted. “I wonder how long it will take you to trash it?”

“No, no, I’ll keep it nice,” I said, meaning nice for awhile. The Dodge will remain my daily work truck around the farm for as long as it keeps running.

Who knows? I might even take it to the shop to get those dashboard gauges working again.

(Fred Miller’s third book of stories, “A Dead Carp on Shadyside Ave.” is $10 and available locally at Calcutta Giant Eagle, Pottery City Antique Mall, Museum of Ceramics, Frank’s Pastries, Davis Bros. pharmacies, Connie’s Kitchen restaurant, and the Old Ft. Steuben gift shop.)

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