Hawkins Outdoors: A pickup with a history and a future

Mar. 12, 2013 @ 11:14 PM

That day, when he read the classified ads, he felt compelled to phone. At the other end was an elderly woman and he asked, “Ma’am are you sure?”

It was a 1979 model Chevrolet and she said her husband had bought the truck, new.

For a dozen years the truck was parked in the outside shed beneath the pecan tree, collecting dust while the rust atop the tin roof collected rain, sun and more rust.

“First come,” she said.

An hour later, he turned down her drive and he could see the tan colored truck with the white bumper, as she had described it. He insisted on giving her more than she’d asked for. She insisted she had no need for the money.

He shook her hand and she pulled him tight, huggins his neck, and the next day the truck was towed to his house.

The bed of the truck was scarred and scratched and the outline of a dog box was evident still.

“He had bird dogs for as long as he had the truck,” he recalled her saying.

Inside the truck, the cab and seat told the story of a man who hunted and fished and wore long pants in the summer and loaded wood in the winter and his dog, Jenny’s, muddy prints were still on the floor.

There were spent cartridge shells in the gap behind the seat and there was a calendar with an English Setter, on-point, taped to the dash. Beneath the lip of the seat, a high-lift jack was positioned and in the glove compartment, were leather gloves, a knife that would no longer open, and lengths of leather shoe laces, coiled neatly and dry to the touch.

Above the visor was a map of the state, a menu from a defunct BBQ joint and the wing feather from a wild turkey.

The seat was worn and the dash dry and cracked, the brake pedal worn in the left lower corner and the knob from the passenger window handle missing.

It took seven trips to an automotive supply store and advice from a friend who tunes motors and two new tires for the front before the truck was ready to crank.

The first few trips with the old truck were like dating a girl for the first-time — cordial and polite and easy on the curves.

Eventually, the truck became familiar and when he drove from here to there or around the way, he became the truck and it became part of his life in the outdoors.

There were fishing poles and tackle boxes and a johnboat and coolers and buckets and spilled drinks and boxes of fried chicken and stringers of fish and shovels and muddy boots in the spring and summer. T

here were camouflage chairs and heavy coats and wild game and tree stands and evidence of puppies that chewed and waders and decoys and axes and chain saws and sacks of groceries, in the fall and winter.

Between fishing and hunting and the occasional Sundays when he drove the truck to church, there were log chains and flat tires and split firewood and lumber and things were hauled away and brought home and the tailgate served as a table and a place where hands were shook and lies told and the sun was seen setting and rising again, often.

The truck is a four-wheel drive and the hubs are locked by hand and he learned that she pulled to the left when her front axle was engaged.

The truck was a friend when she started on cold and frosty mornings and she cooled him with the windows down and the music loud and the smell of fish on his hands.

The truck was where his wife sometimes rode beside him; where great dogs drooled on the passenger door; where his kids learned to keep a bottle of cola nestled between their legs while eating moon pies, and laughing with excitement while chasing game, seeking a setting sun, or watching the shadows grow.

And the truck was where he ended a day or began a day and where he napped between the beginning or end, too.

The truck unlike him, did not age; instead the truck persevered. When the day came that the truck became a once-was, again he parked the truck.

The days became weeks and the months turned into seasons and the truck had rested too long.

When a young fella called on day, he said, “First come.”

There was no need for the truck to be towed. Instead, he closed the door of the cab and reached inside to touch the hand of the new man behind the wheel.

He looked him in the eye and said, “The turkey feather has been above the visor and the knob is still missing since I owned her. Take it easy on the curves, just like a first date and she will stay with you longer than you can turn the wheel.”

Enjoy your time outdoors.

Contact Jason Hawkins by email at hawkinsoutdoors@msn.com.