The Stockman's Pickup

One thing is that the oil gets changed a little more regularly now that the speedometer cable gave up the ghost and the needle lays quietly over against the 120 mark. He changes it now like the forty-year-old chore tractor, every spring and fall, whether it needs it or not.

Other than that, the livestockman's pickup suffers a not-so-benign neglect. The difficulty is that he expects it to be loyal and dependable, demanding little or no attention, something like his wife. But the pickup is just a machine, with none of the human capabilities for evening the score.

It started out as a flashy embodiment of someone's American dream, with a two-tone paint job, tires with white lettering and lots of chrome. It was lovingly washed every week and various small gadgets and accessories like compasses and fuzzy dice were added. But after a few years, the owner began to be attracted to certain new models and as soon as the payment book was under sufficient control, he traded "up," as he was pleased to think. After four months on the dealer's lot and a series of hard bargaining sessions involving the need of a heavier back bumper and a good spring-loaded livestock trailer hitch, the machine fell into the hands of its final owner.

It hasn't seen a water hose or a can of wax since.

About half the chrome is gone. What remains is loose either at the front or back end, depending mainly on where the rust has gotten the best hold. The tailgate has been used in a shed for the past three years to keep the salt and mineral blocks up off the damp concrete floor. There is no longer anything resembling a muffler.

The bed has developed a double pot belly due mainly to the way the sledge hammer, posts and various fencing tools have been thrown in over the years. It didn't help that the truck was enlisted to haul away the big concrete chunks left over when the barnlot waterer had to be dug up and reinstalled a few years back, or that it regularly hauls home three tons of protein pellets in the bag.

Every winter the bed becomes home to a pile of snow and twine strings from pasture feeding. These build up and accumulate all winter and spring, spending the last three months rotting at different rates depending upon rainfall and temperature. The composting ends when he pushes the twine out to make ready for the year's first fencing job.

Also found back there are a few ends of livestock marking crayons, a half dozen or so plastic syringes, a hog nose holder and an empty box of hog rings. Two hitch pins, seven pop cans and three styrofoam cups roll around. A few empty feed bags, a small watering trough, and a half full jug of iodine round out the inventory. No spare tire.

The right hand outside mirror hangs limp against the side of the door where the heifer he had tied to the back bumper lunged over to get away from the vet. The glass shattered and fell out and the black mirror background stares blankly back at the driver whenever he looks that way. She left a good-sized dent in the door too, but it still opens so no harm was done.

Inside the cab, you can tell what season it is by the smell. The cloth upholstery that the original owner paid good money for has a big stain in the middle where a wet, half-dead newborn calf rode home at two o'clock one stormy March morning. The heater control is connected to nothing in particular and rather than putting in a new cable, he has taken to turning the heat on and off under the hood each spring and fall. For fine tuning, he uses the window, the one on the driver's side that still has the crank on it.

The dashboard has a crack in the plastic running from back to front, and pointing to the stone chip in the windshield which has a crack spreading over to the right hand side. These cracks serve as division lines approximately, for on the driver's side the dash is full of tools, everything from a side cutters to a hog ring pliers as well as a fencing pliers and hammer and even a crescent wrench and two good markers, one red and one orange.

The other side, which forms a sharper angle with the windshield, is stuffed full of receipts and bills. There are invoices from the vet, from the elevator, from the parts supply house, a few offers to join record clubs and one envelope unopened with the word Giveaway on the front.

The glove compartment contains every cab card and insurance voucher from the last ten years. On the passenger floorboard rest a pair of five buckler overshoes with one buckle missing and a rolled up pair of striped coveralls.

He has leaned on this truck to look at a healthy ewe nursing twins and to admire a really superior boar. It just simply has never occurred to him to turn around and admire the truck. His mind doesn't work that way.

Jim Van Der Pol farms and raises hogs near Kerkhoven, Minn.

Home Page

News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 1999 The Progressive Populist