It’s a Wild Ride, so Hang On

What you see here is a 1979 Chevy Super Six truck, formerly owned by Greg’s grandfather, and given to Greg by his mom in 2008 or so when we decided to move to the farm. It’s not old enough to look like a classic; it’s just old enough to look old. Its lines are plain and spare, lacking the truck-on-steroids look of modern designs. Even the color is an understated slate grey. But all that is gold does not glitter, and people who know about trucks find this one strangely exciting. Older men see it and spout fond recollections of trucks they owned once and wish they owned still. Our trusted mechanic back in Krum, who restored the truck to good running condition, praised it in glowing terms I didn’t understand in the slightest. Greg’s friend Joey enthusiastically pressed on the hood, demonstrating the strength and durability of the steel body. Apparently they don’t make them like this anymore.

After sitting inert in our driveway for the past several months, the truck is now fully operational again, thanks to a new starter installed by Greg. Course, the windows are now stuck in a halfway down position, leaving the interior exposed to precipitation and cats, but that’s a repair for another day.

I’m not sure what that drill’s doing there, but Greg knows what he’s doing.

Today I needed to take Emilie to the equine center to work with her horse, and the truck was the only vehicle available to me, so I got to renew my acquaintance with its “three-on-a-tree” transmission. The layout of the gear-shifting scenario is something like a capital H, and after three years it’s still not exactly second nature to me. The bench seat doesn’t come up far enough to accommodate my five feet, two inches. The first time I drove the truck, I started out perched on the edge of the seat so my feet could reach the pedals, but the mammoth effort required to push in the clutch caused my rear to slide backwards. For a while I tried to stay at the edge of the seat by clinging for dear life to the steering wheel while shifting gears, but this proved too exhausting. I ended up in a semi-recumbent posture, with my upper back pressed against the seat back to provide necessary stability, and my head so low I could barely see over the dash. Once in a while the gear-shift knob came off in my hand.

But that was long ago and I’m now pretty well used to the truck’s vagaries. A throw pillow behind my back keeps me from sliding or reclining, and I manage to get from Point A to Point B without too much trouble. Occasionally a man in a truck of comparable vintage will raise his hand to me in the laconic salute of country people. We understand each other, he seems to say. We drive old trucks.

There was a time when the thought of driving a vehicle like this would have paralyzed me with fright. By nature I am not a risk-taker. I am not quick on my feet. I don’t like embarking on any course of action without feeling reasonably certain what the outcome will be. Also I don’t like doing things I don’t already rock at. But that’s sort of limiting, isn’t it? We can’t all rock at everything, especially when we’re just starting out. And security is just an illusion anyway. Life is risk. Sooner or later you have to take the gear shift in your hand, press down on the clutch with all your might and main, and go for it.

Another function for the truck: providing an outdoor perch for Emilie.

3 comments on “It’s a Wild Ride, so Hang On

  1. Lo-Ra Dick says:

    My family only had one car, and at the age of 16 I wasn’t getting a chance to learn how to drive. So, my boyfriend took it upon himself to show me how in his old 1974 chey pickup. With a shift on the column and a clutch you had to stomp, you best be quick cause the engine would try and die if the timing wasn’t just quite right. And then there was the manual steering, unless you’ve experienced it why bother to explain. God help you if you had to start on a hill! But that’s the truck my boyfriend always showed up in. I shake my head at Taylor Swift’s spiteful lyrics “I hate your stupid old picup truck you never let me drive”. My husband always let me drive that old truck, but we learned a lot about patience, love, and starting out.

  2. mountainlaurel says:

    Lo-Ra, what a great story! I can just see the two of you doing that. Greg taught me to drive a standard after I had decided I just couldn’t learn. He made it clear that I could and would learn and didn’t quit till I had.

  3. Jaye Denman says:

    I recall learning to drive a stick shift car back in the long-ago days of my youth…the foot-twisting gyrations required to prevent the engine from stalling at a red light on a hill…trying to get the just-right balance of the clutch manuever and not let it defeat me or me, it. I learned to do it, but never to like it. Consequently, when I began choosing my own vehicles, I opted for automatic drive.

    I salute you for your perseverance!

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