The following article by David Strange was originally scheduled to appear in The Courier-Journal on 25 May 2014. However, due to scheduling conflicts they will not run it in the paper until June 1. It is archived here with additional information for your reading enjoyment.
At one time in Bullitt County, it seemed that everybody had a truck. It might have been the second vehicle, or the third, or just an old junker used for the occasional odd job.
But most everybody had a truck; a pickup truck; a real working man's truck.
In fact, my brother used to tease me that, in order to live in Bullitt County, there must be a requirement to own an old pickup truck with a bale of straw and a dog in the back, and one headlight out. I would reply, "My dog rides in the front." He had a point, though. I had to admit that this pretty much described the truck that I, and many others, owned at the time.
But times have changed.
I didn't realize this until I recently needed a truck. While doing some yard work, I decided to get a truckload of mulch. Just a few months before, I had traded in my old truck for a new "crossover" automobile, like so many others have done. For about the first time in my life, I did not own my own truck. It wasn't a problem, I thought, because I really didn't use it much anymore. I "knew" that friends and neighbors had trucks and we were all happy to share. But when I called around, I discovered that all of my friends had sold their trucks too.
That's when it struck me. We had all become (dare I say it?) "citified".
"Surely not," I thought with dread. Nothing could be worse for a country boy ... even a pretend one like me, than to have to pay to have something hauled. Or even worse: buy pre-packaged mulch from a store so that I wouldn't get my new car dirty.
But sure enough, everyone I knew had either gotten rid of their trucks, or bought pretty city trucks with great paint jobs so fine that they couldn't really be used as a truck. I checked with the county clerk's office, where I learned that pickup truck registrations in Bullitt County have declined from nearly 5000 in 2003 to just 3126 in 2013. There's still a few out there, quite a few, actually. But it's clear by noticing the cars in the county that we are changing to more prosperous times.
The time was when it was a mark of pride to have a dirty truck. Some rocks or old brick to move? Just throw it in the back. Caught a mess of fish down by the river? Lay 'em in the back with the bait & tackle. Manure for the garden? No problem. Muddy shoes? That's OK. In fact it was almost a sign of respect to be wearing muddy shoes, and for the driver to say, "Hop on in! Heck, mud's no problem in my truck."
The old 1950 Chevrolet pickup truck that I once owned was a great example. That simple old junker might be my favorite of all the trucks that I have ever owned. Its old green paint was so faded and worn that the green came off on the wash rag….if I washed it. Waxing was pretty much a lost cause. The old 216 cubic inch in-line six-cylinder engine couldn't go much faster than 55mph, but it would always go. It wasn't much, and I knew it. The old leaky engine used a quart of oil each day between my home and work at General Electric Appliance Park.
But that creaky old clunker was built like a tank. Its sheet-metal was so thick that I think you could take a hammer to it and not dent it. It was great for "playing chicken" in rush-hour GE traffic; one look at that old hulk and everyone knew I had nothing to lose in a fender-bender.
And boy could it haul! One time, I picked up a truckload of surplus telephone poles and hauled them to the house to build a retaining wall. Those ten and twelve foot long, creosote-laden poles were so heavy and stuck so far out the back of the truck that the front wheels (you know, the ones that STEER the truck?) often lifted off the road, just touching long enough to keep it in the right direction. It was quite an adventure, but that old truck just kept on trucking along.
One of the first words my son learned was "truck." Of course, that is a story in itself. You see, he couldn't quite pronounce the word correctly. The "tr" would come out "f".
So... we were in church one Sunday, near prayer time, when he saw another child with a toy truck. "—uck!," my son proudly proclaimed. When I tried to hush him, he just thought I didn't understand, so he said it louder, "—uck, Daddy! –uck! --uck!!" Well, that was one of many days to remember as a parent.
Bullitt County today is a very prosperous county, the tenth largest in the state, with lots of fine new cars and shiny new show trucks. That's good for us all, and I'm glad of it.
But here's to the junker, the rusty old working truck, and to those who still have them.
Throw a bale of straw in the back for me!
Copyright 2014 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.