Gwen Petersen: In a Sow’s Ear 3-17-14
To greenhorns, newcomers and tenderfeet planning to settle Out West: Be advised that a car is a car, but a pickup is a way of life to a Country Westerner.
Should a rancher or farmer find him or herself in to a Big City shopping mall’s parking lot, he or she is apt to experience a slight feeling of distress in his/her soul as he/she gazes at the zillions of automobiles. Somethings wrong! Then the light bulb goes on. There are NO pickups in sight! No vehicles with an open back-end bed full of mystery items, bail strings, and a dented toolbox. And frequently carrying a smiling cow dog as well.
Country kids learn to drive right after they learn to walk. Sitting on a stack of boards, they drive to the fields, the mailbox, the corrals, and from the front door to the back door. By the time a ranch or farm kid is old enough to read, he’s driven a rut to the school-bus stop at the county road.
Newcomers: Please do not panic the first time you see an apparently driver-less pickup maneuvering itself along a country road. As the truck draws closer, and you prepare to leap to safety, you’ll suddenly note a pair of barely visible eyeballs shining over the dash. The owly orbs belong to a skinny kid (or sometimes to Grandma) as he or she steers the outfit.
In summer, any parked pickup becomes the site for a social phenomenon called “pickup palavering.”
Country men gather like flies around a tethered pickup and face inward around the tailgate and sides of the truck — elbows resting on sides or end panel, hands dangling loosely over the edges. This stance puts the guys in perfect position to stare into the bed of the truck. Studying truck beds facilitates universal world and local problem solving. Friendly banter ping-pongs pleasantly back and forth.
Tall men have no problem viewing truck-bed interiors. Short fellows may have to use the one-armed cling position, hooking an elbow over a side panel and hanging on. Often, the shorties can only eyeball a rear wheel.
Some palaverers prefer not to dangle hands, especially if the weather is bitter. Keeping their paws in their pockets, they use the chest-and-stomach-leaning stance, a position that still allows a view into the truck bed. Always, one of the gathering stands with his back propped against the truck, arms folded across his chest, his gaze on the horizon. (As with a gaggle of geese, one gander keeps watch).
Useful tips to help you understand Westerners bonding with pickups:
Question: When do you borrow another person’s pickup, chain-saw or horse?
Answer: Never, unless he or she originates an offer.
Question: What does a rancher or farmer do with an old pickup if he buys a new one?
Answer: Old pickups never die — they’re parked in a pasture and started up once in awhile …
Question: Do ranch kids drive it?
Answer: Yes, indeed. They may drive it around the ranch and if it’s still running come fall, they can use it to drive to the school bus stop.
Question: Do ranchers and farmers name their trucks?
Answer: Certainly. As part of the family, an old pickup earns a name associated with its color or characteristics such as Old Blue, Old Greenie or Old Clank and Rattle.
Question: When do country pickup owners repair, paint, fix or renovate their vehicles?
Answer: Never. If the door handle falls off, the driver uses the other side-door for egress and ingress. If the springs poke through, he throws an old horse blanket over the hole.
Question: When does a country pickup owner use a garage to shelter his truck?
Answer: Never. In cold weather, he might plug in the head-bolt heater to an extension cord strung out a block or so across the barnyard.
Some of the statements above might be slightly exaggerated, but not by much … ❖
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I have been rather preoccupied lately and haven’t been writing my editor’s note. So, for those who have called and emailed to make sure I’m still on this Earth, I’m still here.