My first truck was a lot like my first girlfriend; "high-maintenance" could describe them both. She (the truck) was a classic old red International with big wheel fenders, springs popping up through the seat cushions, and a one-station radio that made country-and-western songs sound even sadder than they really were. She shifted hard and took two good men to steer her around a corner. I put a lot of energy into the darned old thing, but kept her running strong and looking good. Somehow she made me feel like a man. It would take another decade before I could truly say the same about a woman. Lucky for me, I'd bought her (the truck) from the gas station that sponsored my baseball team and they felt a little guilty. So almost every weekend I'd roll her into one of their bays, pop the hood, and try to coax her into giving me just a few more miles. By then that truck knew more about me than my mom did, and when she finally quit for good I felt a little lost, like a best friend gone.
It's kind of hard to explain it to somebody who's never had this kind of relationship with a machine. In some ways, finding the right truck is like looking for a mate. You have a picture in your mind of that perfect "something," but won't really know what it is until you see it. And then when you do there's nothing that can keep you from your dream. That's the obsession phase, when your dream truck is all you can think about, and your friends start rolling their eyes every time you open your mouth. (Pssst. These people aren't really your friends?lose them immediately.) Then there's the honeymoon period when your new truck can do no wrong. Men show up to work early for the first time in their lives during this phase. But time takes its toll, and the blemishes start to show: the first scratch, the first dent, the first time she hesitates -- even a little. Then things get worse. She seems tired and unresponsive all the time, and starts to sag in the rear end (I'm still talking about a truck here). Then one day, out of the blue, some late-model filly catches your eye and it starts all over again. Men who wouldn't even look at a woman other than their wives get whiplash checking out the new model trucks.
But there's nothing like your first. Sliding behind the wheel is a rite of passage in a society that has made heroes of trucks, and a minor industry out of country songs about them. This is the telling of the great American story as seen through the windshield or rear view mirror of a truck running headlong into the night?nd the cruel truths you discover behind its wheel. Love and commitment, loss and redemption, escape and homecoming, freedom and independence, and dirt-tired hard work?these are the themes played out in our minds, and I lived and loved them all in the years I owned that truck. Other trucks came at other times and meant other things to me, but you never forget your first love, and I'll never forget my first truck.