Ol’ Blue

blue 0920On my 22nd birthday — yes, birthdays had been invented, even back then — my grandparents traded me for my present. They took my car away from me — a car they had sold to me for the promise of always wearing my seatbelt — and replaced it with their pick-up truck, a vehicle I had been quite covetous of.

They bought the truck new in 1980 to haul a fifth-wheel camper trailer from their house just outside Monte Vista to a summer trailer park just outside Creede. It was their version of a second home, about an hour away from their first home.

They let me borrow the truck at least once during my college years, where I became the envy of all my friends and learned very quickly that for whatever reason, it was much easier to back into parking spaces in tight, tiny parking lots.

By the time I graduated and got my first job, at the Gunnison Country Times, my grandparents must have been over the fifth wheel trailer and no longer needed the pick-up. So it came to live with me, for that same promise: to always wear my seatbelt.

I loved my truck, a blue Chevy Scottsdale three-quarter ton whose chief fault was that it didn’t come with four-wheel drive. Alongside the backing-into-parking spaces lesson, I soon learned not to park diagonally on Gunnison’s slopey side streets during the winter unless I wanted to wait for some kind soul to come along and push me onto the road.

My truck took me everywhere, which doesn’t mean terribly far, although I did drive to assorted places for sporting events, often Grand Junction to the northwest or Denver to the northeast. One February I went to Grand Junction with a bed full of snow, and trailed water everywhere for a weekend as two feet of snow melted out completely in the warmer Junction weather.

At some point, 10 or so years later, I decided I might need a different — and by different, I mean additional — car for leaving town, which I did a lot more frequently back then. It my have been a gas-saving issue: the truck never got more than 15 miles to the gallon versus the 33 mpg I got from the used Geo Tracker I bought.

I still drove my truck around town and for things like gathering firewood, although at some point I started buying bicycles and didn’t drive either vehicle very much. Lynn and I dispensed with the wood-burning stove, so wood gathering was no longer required, although I did use my truck for work, which was now at Pat’s Screen Printing, hauling screens to the car wash to reclaim them so they could be used for new prints.

Outside of that, it felt like I was mostly driving it if my bicycle needed to be ferried to my bike shop — or if it was raining and Lynn needed to come get me and my bike. There were also the friends who periodically asked to borrow it.

There are many reasons to own a pick-up. They’re cool, is one. You’re sitting up that much higher off the road, and there’s plenty of room for you and your dog. They handle pretty easily, although Lynn has never cared for driving them. They come in handy for hauling stuff, which is not only useful; it makes you very popular.

As I got my new-to-me-and-not-very-used truck, my mother asked, “Why on Earth would you want a truck?” And who do you suppose was the first person to ask to borrow it? I had one friend, a very good borrower who always returned things in better condition than he received them, who seemed to have need of a pick-up once, maybe twice a year. A couple others borrowed it, along sometimes with me, here and there.

But it felt like I was down to driving it five, perhaps six times a year. Having three cars, plus three bikes, seemed overmuch. The truck got parked out back, where it would be mired in snow for months on end.

Then my Geo Tracker, my “new” car that was 27 years old (24 of those with me), faltered. My mechanic left a message on our phone (back in the landline days): “Lynn, tell TL he needs a new car.” But while I was off buying my Nissan Leaf, he fixed my Tracker.

I certainly didn’t need three cars, plus Lynn’s, so I put the Tracker up for sale. A young woman I knew called about it, and when Kylene came to look at it she brought her fiancé, who looked right past the Tracker at my truck. I decided I wasn’t really using it, and Wes was so smitten, the cars went as a package deal. Which made me happy; my two cars would still be together.

Only it turned out I had more use for a truck than I thought. I could manage screen reclaiming in my Leaf, but it required careful packing and led to the possibility of grubbing up the newest car I’ve ever owned (now plenty grubbed up). And we were getting ready to move — everyone ought to be able to recognize the value of a pick-up when moving.

So I bought a very used mid-size pick-up that was nonetheless 20 years newer than my old, now ancient, truck. I’ve used it for a lot more than screen reclaiming, particularly now that I’ve taken to buying lumber to feed my new bookcase-building hobby. The “new” truck (with 238,000 miles on it) also came with four-wheel drive, which came in handy several days this past winter.

All was reasonably well, then, although the “new” truck doesn’t accommodate Oz terribly well and Lynn would rather not drive it at all (it’s got quite the clutch on it). I figured it would get me through until the electric pick-ups that are supposed to start coming available this fall are actually available and possibly affordable.

Until last week, when the young couple called. Change of life plans: they are headed to Alaska (to caretake a lodge on the otherwise uninhabited side of a remote island — ewww): did I want my truck back?

Lynn said yes right away; after thinking about it for a day, I told them yes — but I’ve already put a call into my mechanic to have him look my old truck over and tell me if it’s worth putting some money into.

In the meantime, we now have four cars sitting in our driveway. Wes and Kylene brought it over Sunday, and it was still clear my truck had gone to a good home as he pointed out what I could do to dress it up here and there, and how with new wheels, brakes and some replacement underneath it ought to run great. Wes clearly appreciates it on a level I never will.

I haven’t driven it yet, except to move it to an out-of-the-way spot, but sliding behind the wheel was a familiar, comfortable action. It just feels like coming home. Wes appreciates my truck for what it was and could be; I just love it because it’s mine.

Our future together is still tenuous, and hinges on what the mechanic has to say, but for the moment Ol’ Blue is back in my driveway, and it feels like home.

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