I was driving up Clear Creek toward Stan Schlueter a while back, stuck behind this gal in a big pickup truck. She was not from Texas, bless her heart. I could tell by the way she handled that truck.
A Texas woman knows how to drive a truck. She is not timid about driving it, either. If she doesn’t know how to drive it, she doesn’t drive it until she’s mastered her fear of the beast.
This woman clearly was terrified of the pickup under her command, and I can’t say I blame her. Driving any truck requires a lot of self-confidence and exceptional depth perception. It requires the driver to acknowledge that he or she drives the truck, the truck does not drive him or her. The woman ahead of me was letting the truck drive her. She was toodling along at about the speed of smell and I could see through the dark tinting on the back window that her head was swiveling faster than an oscillating fan in August. I practically could hear her cussing her husband for having bought the thing in the first place. I’m guessing circumstances were such that she was forced to drive it against her will this one time. And I imagine her husband got an earful of exactly what she thought of that truck.
But this is Texas, and in Texas, you need a truck. You can’t haul sod, furniture, dogs, tools, watermelons, goats, barbecue pits, heifers or trash to the dump without one. A pick up truck is not so much a macho status symbol as it is the most versatile vehicle ever made. There’s very little a pick up truck can’t do except maybe fly to the moon and I assure you that’s probably been tried.
Texans and their pickup trucks share a sort of symbiotic relationship. Texas was made for pickup trucks and pickup trucks were made for Texas.
I’ve heard some folks call SUVs “trucks.” They are fine automobiles, don’t get me wrong, but whether it’s an itty bitty Kia Sportage or the Fordasaurus known as the Excursion (which I like to call the Ford Excessive), it just is not, not, not a pickup truck. And I seriously doubt an SUV inspires the same sentimental feelings in its owner that a pickup elicits in its owner.
My father owned a 1965 Ford pickup in a color that was originally called oyster, or some kind of color describing a dull, gelatinous shellfish. That pickup was his life-long love, outside of my mother and his brindle Jersey heifer, Rosie. Daddy drove that truck every day for nearly 40 years.
He tried to teach me to drive it. It had a column shift and I’m not good with a standard. My father patiently instructed me through all my start-stop-start-stop-cuss-repent-start-stop driving lessons. He eventually gave up. I never did learn to drive a stick or a column shift.
That truck moved us from San Marcos to San Angelo; from San Angelo to Greenville; from Greenville to Commerce; and from Commerce to Oshkosh, Wis. Then it moved us back to Texas for good. That truck moved me to Austin College, Texas A&M, back home to Tyler and on to Dallas. It was with us in hard times and good times. That old pickup truck was a member of our Family.
Once, the administration of the university at which he was a journalism professor told him his old truck just didn’t present the right “image” for the school. So Daddy converted the engine to run on propane since it burned cleaner than regular gas. After all, that was an environmentally responsible and progressive thing to do, right?
They left him alone after that.
When I was younger I had a hard time dating. I just couldn’t bring myself to go out with a fella who didn’t drive a pickup truck. I genuinely believed that if a man didn’t have a pickup, he probably couldn’t wire a ceiling fan, change a tire, pull a calf out of the mud or re-roof a house. And if he couldn’t do any of those things, he probably wouldn’t make a good husband. My college sweetheart proved that point for me. He drove a beautiful Chevy Silverado pickup truck, but the boy couldn’t tell a sparkplug from sparkin’ and I eventually had to let him go.
Fortunately, I’ve evolved in my thinking since then. Plenty of people drive other vehicles, know lots of very useful things and they are productive members of Texas society. So when I found myself newly single and dating again nigh on four years ago, I made a conscious effort not to judge a man by his ride and it paid off. The fact that the man who is now my husband drives a truck had nothing to do with how we connected. Not at all. No, I grew to love Frank for himself, for his intellect, his kindness and a whole host of other grown-up, mature positives.
That, and the fact that he has a really hot motorcycle.