The Princess and the Pickup

A couple of years before he passed away, my Dad bought a battered 1994 Ford pickup from a mechanic in town. Someone had dropped the high-milage truck off for repairs and, when he couldn’t come up with the $1800 to pay the bill, he left the vehicle with the mechanic in lieu of payment.

Dad bought it from him shortly thereafter, but as the Alzheimer’s quickly advanced, never drove it much. It was meant to be a firewood-hauling, deer-hunting truck. But for the last year or so it has just been sitting under a tree at the old place.

Both rear wheel wells are rusted out. It has numerous other dents, dings and rust spots. And on one of my trips home after Dad’s passing I noticed the windows were down and the poor thing was being rained in. I found the keys and rolled the windows up and evicted several species of wildlife.

Mom and I talked about her selling it or donating to someone. But dealing with it was well down the list of issues to be handled around the old homestead.

Then a few weeks ago we lost an engine on one of our cars (the Saab). We were already a four-car family with five licensed drivers, thus making driving a bit like musical chairs, one person is always the odd man out. And with two girls off at college–one in Waco and another in Norman–losing another car was simply not going to work. So . . .

Female Offspring Unit #2 (the Sooner) and I drove through ice and snow to Wilburton on Monday to check in on Mom and take possession of the old beater. My brother had replaced the battery a few months ago and when I tried to start it, it fired right up. But could I get it back down to Dallas?

A look under the hood revealed that most of the belts and hoses had been replaced when Dad bought it. It was parked on grass but I could see no evidence of any fluid leaks. Headlights, blinkers and brakes seemed fully functional as well. The tires needed air but the tread looked fine.

There was just one problem. The speedometer and odometer weren’t functioning. I hoped the problem was just a fuse. Indeed, the 15-amp fuse responsible for several of the cabin electronics was blown. With a fresh one inserted, I was able to see the actual mileage on the truck for the first time . . .


Wow. And I thought my wife’s ’03 Expedition with 150,000 miles was long in the tooth. When I went to put gas in it, I discovered it had two gas tanks. I assumed this was the automotive corollary to a two-humped camel and a sobering indicator of what kind of gas mileage I could expect out of the V-8 rig clearly designed for towing.

There is one other thing about this truck I haven’t mentioned. My original intention was to drive it myself. I don’t put a lot of miles on a vehicle and thought I would cut a fine figure cruising alongside the numerous Jags, Bentleys, Maseratis, and Porsches that clog the streets of Colleyville and Southlake. I would park it in our Condo’s underground garage between one neighbor’s new BMW 7 and another’s Porsche Carrera.

But when FOU #2 heard about the availability of the truck, she piped up, “I want it!”

I thought she was kidding. “Seriously?” I said. “You want to drive that old rusty tank?”

“Yeah, it’s awesome.”, she said. “It’s a beast!”

After some additional querying, it became clear the child really did want to drive the thing up at OU. And I have become convinced enough of it’s road-worthiness to allow it. She spent most of the morning cleaning 10 years of dirt and grime out of the interior. As soon as the temps manage to climb above freezing, she’ll wash it but will need to be careful about using high pressure around the rust holes.

It’s a blessing to have the vehicle. But the best thing about it is that a little piece of my Dad’s legacy lives on in the driving of that old truck. You see, my father was the least image-conscious person I have ever known. I have never seen anyone less concerned about impressing anyone or earning style points.

Now in Norman, a 19-year-old former homecoming queen will keep his spirit alive behind the wheel of a rusty “beast.” Take that Lady Gaga.