The one I fell in love with—a 1976 Ford F150 Super Cab.
This is the one. The one I learned to drive. The one whose tailgate I caved in. The one whose starter failed countless times in parking lots, but never on the back roads. It hauled firewood, mulch, canoes, and countless apartments full of junk. This is the truck that my father owned, but I loved.
It had a four-speed transmission, power steering, power breaks, and an extended cab—which the guy on TV made it longer by puling effortlessly on the tailgate. How clever. Did it collapse the same way? I was ten, and I wanted it.
Dad had bought it for his tree business so there were no extras. Pick-up trucks in the days before the SUV were utilitarian. Everything was optional. Dad opted out.
There was no AC. If it was hot, you put the windows down or you rode in the back with the dogs. Cold? Wait until the engine warmed and turn on the heat. Seat warmers? We would use old seat cushions from hunting season. The Lava Buns brand worked the best. And there was no radio.
Between here and there we talked when we drove. If my grandfather or my uncle were with us, they would tell stories about York County and childhood. If I was with the guys from the tree crew, I was privy to the kinds of filth—that when repeated later in the school year—would earn me the awe and respect of the 8th grade school yard, and the wrath of Sister Anna. If it were only me and Dad, I would be subjected to his stylings of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. His truck. His rules. My penance.
Dad had others over the years—newer, smaller, sportier models that had better curb appeal, but the green Ford was my favorite.
When I moved to Seattle he offered it to me. “Take it across country,” he said.
I didn’t. After working all of those years, I denied the Ford one last road trip. I was too proud. I wanted to start fresh and leave home behind. And now that I see it sitting next to what once was the Big Trout Inn on 144, I feel that I let it down.
There would have been back roads, dirty jokes, and renditions of “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Midnight Rider." Gas was cheap. We would have made it.