By on July 18, 2012

Eric’s a pretty decent bloke. A retired teacher and UK import, he’s been living on our little block since 1968. Always quick with a wave or a clap on the back, he and his wife were first at our door to welcome us into the neighbourhood, gift-basket in hand. Since then, he’s been the consummate gentleman, nodding attentively when I’m describing my plans for the place, never intrusive, respecting our privacy but always politely interested in how we’re doing. The perfect neighbour: Fred Rogers could take lessons.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t care if he was a semi-reformed axe-murderer with a peacock-sanctuary in the backyard and a penchant for three a.m. amateur bagpipe practice – he’s got a pickup truck.

Greater love hath no man than this; that he lendeth his pickup truck unto me. Yea, may his days be filled with the light of grace, just as I have surely filled the bed with this old couch, and some lawn trimmings, and these two dead cedars, and assorted.

As many of you know all too well, home-ownership is a never-ending stream of minor improvement schemes, referred to as “projects”, or the “honey-do list”, or, in my case, “Oh What The Hell’s Broken Now?”

However, a fumble-fingered DIYist such as myself has little need for full-time pickup truck ownership. Much will fit in the capacious boosted-lego-wagon, and really, anything too big for a Subaru wagon shouldn’t really be attempted by Yours Clumsy. At least, not without help.

Once in a while though, I find myself faced with a heap of debris that can’t be simply flung over the back railing carefully placed into our well-managed compost heap. And, at the same time, there are those slightly more ambitious projects that require materiel too ungainly to strap to the roof of a compact car.

In such times as these, I have but to wander next door and find out when Eric doesn’t have a golf game to go to. He’s only to happy to hand over the keys and, for a few hours, suddenly I’m possessed of an honest-to-goodness truck.

When I’m driving my car, I’m usually race-prepped: seat bolt upright, elbows at my sides, looking through the corner, eyes always shifting, rev-matching on the downshift and generally pretending I look like a rally car driver and not an enormous toolbag. Climbing into Eric’s truck has an entirely opposite effect.

There’s no cool to be had here: the damn thing’s full of bears! The bench seats are spongy and redline’s at 4 grand. The interior is an unrelenting sea of greyish plastic with panel gaps you could lose a schnauzer in, and the air-conditioning ran away to join the circus about four years ago. Stick the column-shifter in D and off we toddle, windows down and crackly tunes coming through the feeble stereo.

Avian editorializing aside, this thing is great: such an honest, unpretentious machine. It’s Sheriff Andy Griffith in two-tone teal-on-grey. Just ease back in the seat, stick your arm out the window and try to stay out of the way. I wonder why all these folks are in such a hurry. Must be something real important.

Me? Well, I’ll get there when I get there. We’re moving fast enough to have a little breeze going on this hot July afternoon, and the dump’s just down the road a-ways. Just watch out for those who want to dive in front – these brakes aren’t exactly about to stand the Chev’ on her nose – and keep on truckin’.

Yard clippings get shovelled off into the green-waste pile and that old couch (a bit of a college relic) gets bunged into the general refuse pile. A few other folks are unloading trucks or utility trailers while big, steel-spiked front-end loaders wait impassively to crush and compact everything up for transport to some far-off land-fill. No time to muse on the unsightly byproducts of consumerism – off to the hardware store.

As you’d expect, the Silverado’s got the turning circle of a bulk cargo freighter, but leave it a little further out in the parking lot and you won’t have a problem. Home Depot’s the usual Sunday-afternoon zoo, but we’re in-and-out in about ten minutes (pretty well a record) with 8-foot sheets of corrugated roofing secured for the upper balcony.

Back in the saddle and homeward, with a brief stop to put a few bucks in the tank as is only common courtesy. My father and I have been at this project since early this morning, so we’re both comfortably dirty, and I can feel a bit of that coming tiredness that leads to a genuine, untroubled sleep.

I’m no working man, and this isn’t my truck, but as I grasp the wheel with callus-free hands, it’s like feeling the well-worn handle of a spade, or some other blunt-purposed tool. Somewhere, far off in my genes, stir the shades of men who once laboured in the Irish bog, slicing turf with quick, curt cuts.

Tonight, I’ll dine well, out in the backyard where I can see the fruits of the day’s labour. I’ll have hung my hammer back up in the shed, stacked the leftover lumber neatly against the wall, gathered up wayward nails into an old plastic peanut-butter container.

And, with a hand-shake and a murmured word of thanks, the keys to Eric’s pickup will be handed back and once more hang upon their peg. Until the next time.

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35 Comments on “The Neighbour’s Truck...”

  • avatar

    Great story, thanks!

  • avatar

    Nice to see a story about a pickup being used as a…..pickup. Around here, most pickups spend their days parked in residential neighborhoods and are used as Cowboy Cadillacs. Forget about anyone loaning you one….you might gets some dirt on it or something.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Well, after the demise of the RWD V8 2 door in the 80’s, the pickup sort of took over that segment, those buyers did not want to buy no downsized FWD 6 cyl POS.

    • 0 avatar

      A by-product of regulations with all the best of intentions to try and wean the public away from what regulators saw as inefficient and unnecessary large automobiles while preserving the Needed utility vehicles so many blue-collar professionals rely upon.. all naive to the ways in which consumer’s tastes in cars and dealers’ tastes in money could collude to take the utility vehicle and make it the new super-large RWD V8 2-door.

  • avatar
    C. Alan

    As the only guy in my family who owns a 3/4 ton truck (in my case a 1999 Suburban), thanks for buying some gas.

    And to my father-in law, thanks for letting up abuse your silverado for a month when we were remodeling the house. FYI, this was pre-suburban.

  • avatar
    Silent Ricochet

    Great Story Brendan! I got a Red 1990 Chevy Silverado 1500 K Pickup as my first vehicle, passed down to me by my grandfather who worked for GM for over 20 years as a mechanic. The truck, although over 16 years old, absolutely refused to quit. Sure the paint was a little faded, the bed didn’t drain to well, the engine took a few cranks, but once it got on it’s feet, it wasn’t gettin knocked down. I definitely understand where the relaxed attitude comes into play with these trucks. I was a hyper and energetic 16 year old boy, and sitting in the driver seat had some magical calming effect; like the one I’d get sitting in the passenger seat as a boy. God damn I wish I still had that truck, I had to sell it though because my commute to community college was over 35 miles and that rumbling 350 V8 didn’t exactly sip gas..

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Learned to drive on an International Harvester pickup truck when I was 13 while working on a ranch. Then I was given my very own pickup, an unlicensed 1949 Chevy with a bunch of fence posts, barbed wire, a posthole digger, a fence jack and a box of wire staples in the back together with an assortment of hand tools useful in fixing fences. My job was to drive the fence line and repair breaks in it and replace fence posts as needed. Both the IH and the Chevy had 4 speed floor shift with an ultra-low, unsynchroed “granny” first gear which you never used unless trying to start a heavy load on a steep grade.

    Neither truck had four wheel drive, considered generally unnecessary.

  • avatar
    Ex Radio Operator

    There has been a pickup of some description parked in my driveway since 1974. None were “Cowboy Cadillacs”. The real Cadillacs were in the garage. They were all that manufacturers “work truck”. Electric nothing. Rubber floors and manual transmissions. Just an honest tool waiting to be used as intended. And they have been, a lot.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    A pick-up doesn’t need to be a stripper to be worked. I can tell you from experience that heated leather seats, Bose sound systems and power windows doesn’t affect a PU trucks ability to haul or tow one bit. Some of the stuff I’ve hauled and towed with my GMC 2500HD I wouldn’t dare try with that truck.

  • avatar

    God, I want a pickup truck so badly

    In the next year or two, I will own a house (at least that is the plan) and then I will have my excuse to buy one…counting the days until then

    Oh, and it will be as basic as they get (although hopefully with A/C, summers in PA get pretty hot)

    • 0 avatar

      A Pick-up is a must have for a new home owner that is a “do-it-yourselfer”. I will never be caught without one. Buy one that runs good and isnt a cream puff and you will never worry about door dings or scratches from the brush hanging out the back. Be patient and find one from an older gentlemen with maintenance records and they will run forever. I bought my 89 ram 3/4 ton 4×4 from an old guy with 74k original miles for $800. Drove it for 5 years, waxed it, put a used plow on it and just sold it for $4000. Replaced it with a 97 Ram 3/4 ton extended cab with plow from an older gentlemen from western Mass. for $4800. It has 78k original miles and people allready have offered me $7000 for it but I think I will keep this one for a while.

      • 0 avatar

        Not really. I traded my Ranger for a Harbor Freight folding trailer, and I’m happy with the choice. If you haul stuff every day, then a pickup is perfect – but if you’re doing a project a week or a project a month, the 10 minutes it takes to unfold and attach the trailer is inconsequential. Also,.you get to drive that’s better for kid-hauling and commuting the rest of the time. Also, the trailer is around $300, as compared to $3k for a used Ranger.

      • 0 avatar

        Unfortunately a folding trailer cannot handle 1.5 CY of top soil or 2 yards of mulch. I pretty much have to pick that up each spring for my yard…

      • 0 avatar

        @jjklongisland: Or, you could just get that delivered for the nominal fee that would be required. As a general rule, things that happen once or twice a year over the course of a day or two aren’t really grounds to own a large pickup, in my view. But if you do use it routinely, go for it.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Here in the suburban midwest, every other house has a pickup truck for just this home-ownership purpose. I often think of trading mine in, as it hauls air most days, but then there comes the time when I need it. A truck. Not a small SUV or roof carrier on a sport sedan. A truck. And nothing else will do. So I keep on keeping it. And lending her out to anyone who asks.

    You capture the true essence of a pickup well, Brenden. Plain, simple, honest.

    I too have a British neighbor (neighbour?) and he bought a pickup as well. Only he went all JC Whitney on his. Chrome capped everything. Covered it in louvers and shields and flaps. He laughs, “I just had to, mate. It’s so bloody American, this thing. I eff’ing love it! It’s brilliant!”

    While our approaches are different, can’t say as I disagree.

  • avatar

    I too have pickup truck lust. I also fit the fumble-fingered DIY mold, but I enjoy it anyway (until I being uttering strings of curse words that is)

    My “perfect” garage would include a basic, 2wd Toyota truck,preferably pre-Tacoma and no “Pre-Runner” nonsense here. Basic truck, with air and a stick. For under 4000, I could leave it parked and not worry about it, yet have it when I need it. In my area, they are tough to find, as everyone believes they need 4wd and being in the Rust Belt, anything pre 1995 WILL have rust issues.

    But I want one!

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Excellent story Brendan. When you’re using a truck you’re on a mission; not driving, not commuting, but on a mission. Hardware store, home improvement store, hauling furniture, a trip to the dump, you’re on a mission. Sometimes the mission is to drive for two hours to look at a piece of construction equipment. You get respect from the sellers because you showed up in a truck. Sometimes your mission is to haul your grandpa around because he wants to look at something at a farm and ranch store. Lord, I miss doing that.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s the best way I’ve seen it put. My most recent pickup experience was helping a friend and his girlfriend move out of their apartment – the furniture and totes they needed to move would have taken at least two trips in my 850 wagon, or even my grandfather’s Sable, so we borrowed my buddy’s uncle’s ten-year-old extended-cab Sierra. It had a few options – power windows, seats, mirrors – that I found pointless; all I expected from this noble tool was less than 45 degrees of steering slop in each direction, some brakes, adequate power, and a tinny stereo, and it passed all of those modern-truck qualifications just fine.

      I was surprised to find a CD player, but popped in a burned disc of pre-’80s country and western, hung my arm out the window (all too rare an occurrence in a modern car, after all) and kept to the speed limit. No problem.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    I have a complex relationship with pickups and full-sized SUVs. I realized a few years ago that I cannot be trusted with new/newer pickups and SUVS. I am ham-handed. When I wrecked a brand new Jeep Wrangler and tore the door off of a new Jeep Grand Cherokee, I threw in the towel. Nice cars? Any day of the week. I can keep them immaculate.

    So I traded for an incredibly, disgustingly battered and beaten 84 Ford F-150 with the storied 300 six. I have used it and horribly abused it for six years now, but unfortunately I have replaced the wheel bearings four times and now it needs new spider gears in the rear end because of the heinous overloading I have dumped on it.

    So I replaced it last week with a very nice 84 F-250 with the big and thirsty big block 460, and a 1986 Chevy one ton (with a tommy lift tailgait) with the even thirstier big block 454. Both new trucks were purchased for a song. Nobody wants to drive trucks like this everyday with gas prices where they are, nor do I. But if you use them only for what they were made for, they are fantastic. The days of trucks and full-sized SUVS used as daily commuter vehicles are over, thank god. So it really doesn’t matter what they cost in gas when you only drive and tow a tandem-axle trailer 20 miles to get 8 yards of compost, or ten yards of bark mulch or 10,000 pounds of granite boulders.

    I drive Miatas everywhere else.

  • avatar

    My favorite bumper sticker:

    Yes, it`s my truck, No I won`t help you move

  • avatar

    I’ve got an ’02 Ford F250 Super Duty 7.3 Powerstroke to replace my ailing 4.3 liter 1990 Chevrolet 1/2 ton longbed 2wd. Since owning those trucks, I’ve discovered friends I didn’t know I had :) .

    I have a rare 1971 GMC Sprint ( El Camino clone ) that I’ll be restoring soon, so that 90 Chev has to go.

  • avatar

    I am a wannabe farmer so I think I would have to move to a condo if I lost my truck. Simple little S10 and it has been so good it no longer owes me anything.

  • avatar

    Great article. I have a neighbour with a gray late 90s Toyota T100 with a cap on it. Really rare truck and it’s pretty much rust free, at least on the top part of the truck. Not sure what the frame looks like since he drives it in Maine winters. I’ve used it a couple of times but he drives it. Can’t blame him I guess.

    For my other truck purposes, I spend the $19 at HD or Lowe’s and rent their truck (if it’s available). I don’t see the point of owning a truck myself, but they do come in handy sometimes so it’s good to know someone with one.

  • avatar

    I have a small truck that carries/tows heavier loads than most full size ones around here.

    It is not fun to drive, not fast, doesn’t handle the road well and not comfortable. However, it is SO useful I wouldn’t get rid of it, especially since all I have to pay is fuel and minimum maintenance.

    I wouldn’t use it as a daily driver, I have a car for this.

  • avatar

    I miss my F150.

  • avatar

    That Chevy seemed pretty radical in 1988 when it was launched. It made the contemporary Ford and Dodge seem positively ancient by comparison, which of course they were.

    To me the last “real” (1/2 ton anyway) truck was the 1993 Dodge – it had a lineage that went back to the late 60’s/early 70’s and it still had a solid front axle. I’d love to have a half-ton 1993 Ram regular cab/short box with a 318 just for some fun and to do the occasional chore or two.

  • avatar

    20 years ago if you wandered into ANY local pickup dealer and asked for a truck with a vinyl interior and rubber floors, light on the options aside from AC, they’d point you to the two dozen W/T’s sitting around in the front.

    Today you ask for a W/T, they walk you 1/4 mile to the back lot and show you last year’s model sitting under a tree they keep on hand so they can advertise their low low prices.

    If you want a W/T, you will need to go to the big boys who are used to selling white trucks.

  • avatar

    Great story, largely because it starts to explain why the multitude of pickup drivers in my area are so slow. We usually come up behind them in our “yuppiemobiles” (aka, a Honda or Subaru), get very frustrated when they are looking at fields and generally doddling massively, then watch them get annoyed when you feel the need to pass them. Oh rural living. It has its amusements.

  • avatar

    Ahh…how this makes me miss my old Dakota.


  • avatar

    My neighbor is the best; he let’s me borrow his diesel F250 whenever I need it, which isn’t much actually…

  • avatar

    DUALLY 2000 4 DR 4X 4 FIFTH WHEEL 7.3 TDB DAILY WORKER VERSE 2000 4DR 7.3TDO (Turbo Diesel Biofueled) 6spd manual RWD week-ender YES I Own a few diesels after I learned to make bio-fuel from waste with better performance-more miles per gallon- clean burning monster torquer! My Week-end I can burn up tires on, thats the only polution she creates if I’m not careful or next to a ‘Vette. Used to be gas-a-holic but after they stuck a turbo on a diesel, I was changed. Every yr at Sebring keep wishing people are NOTICING what others have done with Diesels. Ford & Carter Washington along w/Rudolph Diesel believed Soybeans-peanut oil would replace ground extraction of OIL. I’m angry GM & Std Oil have destroyed American dream of diesels ruling the roadways,YET In S.W Florida elite’s drive shiny Ford’s & Duramax’s since they travel & see world’s hybrids are Diesels! Yes-I’m thinking of getting Audi’s RSR-TDI-BUT ITS HARD TO GIVE UP MY BED WHICH MAKES MONEY NO MATTER WHERE I GO

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