By Tom Poland
My excursions along backroads always reveal two nostalgic sights: the rusting tin and decaying wood of crumbling barns and old pickup trucks beneath sheds. They’re going nowhere. Vines grow in their grille. Tires dry rot. A patina of dust covers hoods. Even saw a vacated bird nest cradled in an old truck’s side mirror.
Old trucks, they’re part and parcel of our American culture but there comes a day when the owner backs her beneath the shed, shuts her down, and walks away forever. Seeing a classic Chevy or Ford beneath a shed amounts to time travel, backwards. And that leads me to the conclusion that the owner died and the family hung onto the truck because Papa loved it so much. Dogs and trucks. We love ’em. Bury old Duke and park trucks beneath sheds. RIP.
I’ve seen vintage pickups stranded in fields. I’ve seen many an old pickup beneath a shade tree, as if the owner worked on it a bit and just left it there for eternity. I can show you a spot where the ghostly image of a white truck materializes in a pine thicket, but look closer; it’s a Freightliner, not a pickup. I’ve seen pickups resting on wooden blocks, their wheels missing like amputees on strange crutches. I saw a faded red pickup in Carolina with a Beware Of Dog sign where its large outside mirror once sat. Foliage cradled it lovingly.
I long admired an olive, rusty truck with a tree growing up through its bed. When early Georgia light struck that truck it glowed with a magical brilliance. “One day I’m going to photograph that old truck,” I promised myself. One morning I looked for my magical truck and it was gone. Vanished. A twinge of grief pierced my heart. Why did I wait. But driving country roads I’m never disappointed. I see blue ones, red ones, white ones. I’ve seen ancient trucks from the 1940s covered in rust. I saw a 1960’s white pickup with a blue passenger-side door, a make-do remedy from the body shop.
A lifetime ago I owned a white pickup. White sort of. It had been painted so many times it looked like a Dalmatian peppered with paint balls. It shook when it went 50 miles per hour, so I drove it slowly. Yeah, Mr. Speedster, that was me holding you up on that country road. I sold it, but someday I’ll get another one.
So reader, just how much do you love your old truck? West Virginian Albert Dancy Jr.’s last wish? “Bury me in my ’67 Chevy pickup.” At 50, he got his wish earlier than he wanted. A domestic quarrel involving his ex-wife and another man sent Dancy to Chevy Heaven. He rests in full camouflage in his beloved pickup with his Old Timer pocketknife and Remington rifle. That’s one old pickup folks will never see again, but others wait for you and me. Just drive out into the country. You’ll see ’em beneath sheds, a page taken right out of Americana, a scene Jim Harrison and Norman Rockefeller would have appreciated.
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