Mountain Manís Best Friend

William A. Schaffer

No, this isnít about owning a faithful dog. Dogs go out for a sniff around, and come back bearing ticks. Sometimes, on their prowls, they make the acquaintance of skunks, and return all fragrant from the encounter. Certain of my neighborsí dogs have a penchant for barking at odd hours of the night, and for no discernible reason. Dogs have to be walked, fed and occasionally bathed. 

A mountain manís best friend is his pickup truck. I never owned a pickup before moving to the mountains, yet as soon as the papers were signed on our house, back in 1988, I felt this void in my life. I filled it with a 1985 Nissan King Cab. Itís mostly brown, with what can only be described as a sort of sunburned hood. It has a moonroof, which a favorite niece of mine once tried to force open, leading to a permanent gap, and permanent leak, between the glass and the seal. A few years ago a member of my family (I wonít say who) hit a deer. The deer ran away, leaving behind a crumpled bumper, which gives the pickup a somewhat wry expression.

The back of the driverís seat of my truck doesnít stay upright, the way it should. Instead, it keeps trying to recline onto the tiny rear bench. I tried to get a new seat, or have the release catch fixed. Finally, I solved the problem by wedging a plastic bucket behind the seat. That, plus an assortment of tow lines, signals, tarps, and other items, holds the back firmly in place.
My truck has an AM-FM radio. But you pretty much have to be close to the station for it to pull in a good signal. This is probably because the antenna is a little, stubby rubber-coated thing that looks cool, but doesnít seem to have much pulling power.

Thereís no right outside mirror on the passenger side. I thought the truck wouldnít pass inspection, but it turns out that no mirror is required in that position. I thought about getting one installed, but when I found out the cost, I let that idea slip away. 

When the truck is locked, you canít unlock it using the keys. Thatís OK, though, because the window at the back of the cab doesnít lock. You can open it from the outside, and if you have long arms, you can unlock the door from the inside.

My pickup has two 4WD gears, though only the top one seems to work. The truck is great for carting tools and pipe down a steep, rocky track to where my water supply begins. And the 4WD feature allows me to turn around and get back up the hill when my maintenance work is done.

About the only time I take my truck off the mountain is the two or three times a year when I visit the landfill. That doesnít mean that my sons and my daughter-in-law donít use it from time to time. When they do drive it, they sometimes seem to denigrate its ability to get smartly up Highway 17 from the valley. I have never noticed anything wrong with its performance.
A few times a year some one asks me if my pickup is for sale. When I first moved up here I was told that pickups decline in resale value to a pointóI think it was $2500óand then never get lower. Or was that for Bonneville convertibles. I canít remember.

Anyway, I always decline to enter into negotiations. Itís not as if I consider the truck to be a member of the family. It doesnít have a name, for example, the way the truck in Bridges of Madison County was called ďHarry.Ē I think thatís a silly thing to do. A truck is just a tool for getting stuff done.
But the one thing that I most admire about it is that it never fails to start on the second try. Even if itís been sitting next to the garage for a few months or more, neglected and alone. It always cranks up and goes with the second turn of the key.

The other day, I loaded the truck with stuff for the landfill. I vaulted lightly into the driverís seat, and turned the key. The engine seemed to burp a couple of times, and then was silent. I turned the key back, and then tried it the second time. Only a single burp.

OK, After a little help from some cables, the truck started up nobly, on the first try. I went to the landfill, and the truck behaved perfectly. To appease my truck, I filled it with premium, at an outlandish cost.

We went up 17 like a thoroughbred. ďAttaboy,Ē I said, and patted the dash. Then manís best friend and I headed home.


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