The Yellow Pickup: The Life of a Pasture Truck

A few of you will know what I mean when I say that this hard-worn truck is an unforgettable asset.
A few of you will know what I mean when I say that this hard-worn truck is an unforgettable asset.

Learning to Drive

Some people think they've owned a truck for a long time if they've had it for five or six years. I grew up thinking if a vehicle was newer than me, it was "new".

Such was the case with our pasture truck, a yellow 1974 Chevy pickup.

This truck was used for everything off-road - building and fixing fences, hauling sick calves, hauling mineral and salt blocks, checking pregnant cows, and anything else that required driving in the pastures and fields.

My siblings and I all learned to drive in this truck, while checking cows. Sometimes, while Dad drove, we held sick newborn calves on our laps, cuddling the snot-nosed darlings all the way to the house or barn, and never minding the "guacamole" they left on our jeans. We learned to read the signs of a calving first-calf heifer, and the more serious signs of a cow who needed help. And as I said, we learned to drive.

We learned how to deal with the truck's starting idiosyncrasies, how to drive in a corn field without shaking our teeth out (you angle, dropping diagonal tires, and so rock along instead of wrenching your guts out with an all-four-tires slam into each row), and how to hear when the engine wasn't running right. We learned about estimating how much fuel was left without the aid of a working gauge. We learned how to change tires, and check the oil frequently. The pickup's tires were designated by how many patches they'd had...fewer than five was still "new".

The first time I got in a car that worked right, I felt overwhelmed by having nothing to do, nothing to watch...no secret ignition ritual (hold the shifting lever a particular way, pump the accelerator so many times so hard, being careful not to overdo and flood it...). We learned to feel, not see, when we had found reverse or a different gear, as the indicator was usually too dusty to read, if it worked at all.

But, for these reasons, we learned to appreciate the truck. True, it was not cushy. True, it smelled like too many miles of dust and cattle, sage brush and sunsets, held memories of cuss words and burnt oil. True, it was not reliable, and we rarely pushed it over 30 miles an hour (what need was there, in a winter corn field?). But it had personality. And I'm convinced it liked it's job.

It doesn't go out so often now, and has certainly earned a long rest. But I'm convinced it will continue to watch over the fencing equipment and cattle as long as it's allowed.

It continues to gain personality. The starting ritual is even more intricate now, involving an extra button, and requiring an excellent ear for pitch.

Now That's a Work Truck!

This is the good side. Almost no dents. As you can see, it has finally gained a set of tires worthy of it - aircraft tires, which can't be punctured by cactus and rusty nails.
This is the good side. Almost no dents. As you can see, it has finally gained a set of tires worthy of it - aircraft tires, which can't be punctured by cactus and rusty nails.
This side has been used to convince a few uppity cows to change their course. May have met with some stationary fence posts, too. And one tractor axel.
This side has been used to convince a few uppity cows to change their course. May have met with some stationary fence posts, too. And one tractor axel.
That seat's been slid in and out of a few more times than the cover was designed for. This is the replacement cover; the original is long since gone.
That seat's been slid in and out of a few more times than the cover was designed for. This is the replacement cover; the original is long since gone.
See what I meant about the instrument panel? We drove by faith, not sight.
See what I meant about the instrument panel? We drove by faith, not sight.
The glove box used to be a problem, leaping into a passenger's lap whenever we drove over a clump of sage brush. Not any more.
The glove box used to be a problem, leaping into a passenger's lap whenever we drove over a clump of sage brush. Not any more.
I guess this windshield could gain you a ticket. As I said, it's an off-road truck, and it makes it more interesting when driving into the sun. Anyway, you should have seen the windshield this one replaced. It had endured softball sized hail.
I guess this windshield could gain you a ticket. As I said, it's an off-road truck, and it makes it more interesting when driving into the sun. Anyway, you should have seen the windshield this one replaced. It had endured softball sized hail.

A Wish for Others, January 2010

As soon as I get the chance, I'll be adding some cute pictures of this year's calves, faithfully checked by and possibly hauled in this old yellow truck. The first few are being born this month, though the majority usually don't calve until February.

'Til then, here's to hoping more kids get to drive something with personality. On-the-job training, you might say.

Cars with Personality

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Comments 8 comments

Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder

More good memories! :D I still remember cleaning the spark plugs on a weekly basis and making new gaskets for it from cardboard boxes. Then there were all the trips in snow storms to pull calves.


Jarn profile image

Jarn 6 years ago from Sebastian, Fl

They just don't make 'em like they used to. I grew up with my dad driving a 76 Chevy Caprice, one of those full sized iron-bodied station wagons. It was powder blue, but the diesel engine died shortly after dad bought it. A couple gearhead buddies of dad's replaced it with a Chevy flathead. 5 liter V8 and 400+ horsepower, that sucker roared like a monster when you put your foot down. We called it Frankenstein.


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 6 years ago Author

Ivorwen, Dad still saves big pizza boxes in order to use them for making gaskets. :)

Ah, yes - pulling calves. How well I remember the night my favorite, Jesse, was born. His mother prolapsed and ultimately had to be put down, and let me tell you, there's nothing like sitting in the snow in the dark trying to put a prolapsed cow back together. On the bright side, Jesse lived to the ripe old age of three (until we ate him). I'll never forget Noah and Sean trying to use him for bucking practice...he was so lazy you could barely get a crow hop out of him!


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 6 years ago Author

Jarn, that car sounds similar to a station wagon Dad had. Except his was a hideous green.

I have to admit, I long for the days of real metal, and dash boards that didn't break when you tapped them in freezing weather. My husband and I have gone through more cars in the last eight years than both my parents went through in all my growing up, because they just don't hold up.

Our '76 Jeep worktruck is sturdy enough, and that's why we love it, but it might leave you on the side of the road, looking for parts. :) Jeep = Just Expect Essential Parts.


"Quill" 6 years ago

Nicely written, brings back memories of the many old ones I have had...they have character to say the least.

Blessings


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 6 years ago Author

Quill, I'm so glad to have you! I've read several of your hubs, and really like your style. Thank you for the compliment.

I completely agree with your statement that old vehicles have character. There is more than one old car that I miss badly. But they finally fell apart to the point they were hard to find parts for, and had to be retired.


LiftedUp profile image

LiftedUp 6 years ago from Plains of Colorado

ButterflyWings,

There is a feeling in driving a piece of history that you do not get when maneuvering something new (though I'm not sure I can claim to have driven all that many new things!). My first school vehicle was my dad's 52 Chevy pickup truck, and while I was not thrilled at the time to drive it into the school parking lot, and find a place alongside all those shiny cars other kids were driving, I am thankful, and a bit amazed, that Dad actually let me drive it. He cherished it until the end.


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 6 years ago Author

Lifted Up,

Fortunately, I never felt this way about driving most of Dad's old vehicles. To this day, I love the '69 Ford Galaxie I drove to college, and I enjoyed the '53(?) 6X6 military truck he used to haul grain. As you say, it was neat to drive a piece of history. Regarding the Ford car, he always reminded me that it was Space Age technology, being built the same year we landed on the moon. :)

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    ButterflyWings117 Followers
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    Butterfly grew up fourth generation on a farm on the Colorado Plains, where sky and dreams were both huge.



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