Ever see those ads for new pickup trucks … the ones with big honkin’ pick up trucks doing honkin’ heavy work, like pulling tugboats on trailers, or moving football stadiums on wheels? They talk about the truck being biggest in class, towing capacity, foot lbs of torque. They end with bug hunks of steel dropping from great heights, breaking concrete when they land, or with big hunks of steel turning over to show the trucks motto. You know the ones. Tough. Rugged. Unbreakable.

Ya, I don’t have one of those pickup trucks.

I have a small, older pickup truck. Quite a bit older.

Now, I love my pickup truck, don’t get me wrong. It is awesome. It does amazing things and has pulled some massive trailers full of hay. So from that perspective I have no regrets and only mild ‘big new pickup envy.” I think most of my envy comes with the age of the vehicle. Mine is now more than a decade and half old and its best days are behind it.

Here in my part of Canada we have snow and ice, and people just don’t drive according to the conditions, so we put mountains of salt on our roads. ‘Cuz you know, no one can afford to drive slower, especially in winter. And leaving a little earlier to get somewhere safer in bad weather … come on … don’t even think about it.

So my truck has a lot of rust. There is more rust than steel. I guess some people would refer to it as a rust-bucket. Just before I signed off Facebook and posted the photo of me under the truck working on one of many broken things it wasn’t an understatement. A lot of stuff goes wrong with this much rust. But when I look at the energy and resources that went into building this vehicle, (and my bank balance) I am determined to keep driving it.

Driving my truck is an adventure. I depart each journey with the expectation that I will be walking home. By setting my expectations low, I usually end up delighted. The truck makes a variety of horrifying noises, and as such I tend to listen to the radio fairly loudly so as to reduce my stress. Even “Rage Against the Machine” seems calming and serene in comparison to the magical mystery symphony emanating from The Ranger.

Recently I got a great load of scrap off-cuts from my neighbor. It is poplar that had been cut in 16-foot lengths. I usually take the chainsaw to lop off the longer pieces but forgot it this time. The truck bed is 7 feet. The tailgate adds another foot, so if you do the math, 8 feet of the 16-foot length is in the truck. The rest hangs off the back. As I loaded the wood in it actually teetered and rested on the ground. I suppose I could have ‘dragged’ it home, but it was snowy, therefore there was salt and sand on the road, and since I will probably be building beautifully attractive and high quality furniture which will grace my living room with this wood, the salt stains were to be avoided.

Once I got the wood in I was able to cinch the load down with ratcheted tie downs, so that the back end of the lumber was now off the ground. This looked great in principle until I got on the road. Then the cacophony of deathly noises began.

lumber breaking truck in half

On a new truck, one would assume that the box on the back of the truck was securely fastened to the frame. I’m pretty sure mine still is as well … hopefully it is … maybe it is. But as I drove I began to seriously question how sound this connection was. These new sounds were of a more critical, structural in nature than the usual sounds. Kind of like in a movie where someone is hanging on a steel beam, suspended high above the earth, after the earthquake. Or like the scene in “Castaway” with Tom Hanks in the water after the jet has crashed and the jet is tearing itself apart. In my case all that was missing was for the massive jet engine to come hurtling toward me as it sunk, nearly taking Tom Hanks with it.

I had a fairly good image of being on the cover of “The North Frontenac News” under the headline “Cidiot breaks truck in half by overloading it. No license required for idiots from the city to haul wood … THAT’S TOO BIG FOR THEIR LITTLE TRUCK.” It wouldn’t be the best thing to be known about locally, but at least I’d be known. Clearly running for the Green Party hasn’t been raising my profile.

On the drive home I drive on serpentine, country roads. Each bump created a new horrible, twisting, contorting, heaving, ready-to-snap kind of sound. Stresses were building. I was reaching the critical mass of strain. I drove relatively slowly so that it wouldn’t spread too far across the road when it finally gave way. I’m always conflicted … drive slowly and reduce the footprint when it finally goes, or drive faster and hope I can get home before it blows. So much conflict.

I am always excited when I round the last corner climbing up that last hill towards home. I know Jasper the Wonder Dog was sensing something was amiss with the load. He gave me that “Can you hear that? That doesn’t sound good” look a lot on the drive home. He looks from the front windshield to the back, where he can see the load which he doesn’t like, because he doesn’t like things following the truck, so he was like “Can you see that? There’s something on our tail!” when he wasn’t giving me the “This is gonna end in tears” look. Dogs can sense acts of nature before they hit, so it was only normal I would give Jasper’s looks of concern the respect they deserve.

The turn into the driveway was the worst because it the hardest turn we had taken, and well, obviously the stress had built up to the point where the truck bed was about to shatter into a million little pieces just as we turned in. I had visions of dumping the load across the road just as Greg Storring came around the corner in the honey wagon, with the ensuing sloshing and chaos leaving a lasting effect on our air quality. Call the newspaper!

But then I did it! I got it around the corner and into the driveway. Crisis averted. Disaster put off until the next trip. Never mind…

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Michelle’s Note: Thanks to our wonderful and generous friend LA for her recent donation to the tip jar. It was very much appreciated, especially at this time of year!

As I edited this post for Cam I couldn’t help but remark to him, “You are such a drama queen!” He insists that this is one occasion when he wasn’t overreacting!