Friday, July 11, 2008

Meet Willie

Wille has been with me for almost a year now. Last April my grandmother left me her 2000 Ford Taurus (14,000 miles), which I’d intended my daughter to drive when she turned sixteen the following January. After several months of practice driving with the Taurus, however, she decided she’d really rather drive the 2001 Accord. It became clear when I started working on clearing the property at the farm that I would not be able to do that with a sedan, so I sold the Taurus and bought a pickup. Jenna called it “Willie.”

Willie is a half –ton Silverado, who is rather plain and who has developed the personality of a not-too-bright-but-eager large dog. I wanted as simple a version of a truck as possible, and that turned out to be a challenge. Texans apparently want their trucks to be equipped like a Lexus. I wanted simple. What I wanted, I learned, was a “work truck.”

His paint job is called “silver birch.” It is the common color of about half the pickups of any brand on the highway, and doesn’t show dirt so much. He has an AM-FM radio, but no CD player. He has a rubber floor, not carpet. He has only one row of seats. He has a trailer hitch and a spray-on bed liner that is amazing. You have to roll up the windows and manage the door locks manually. He is really tall. Melinda says he looks arrogant. She doesn’t really like him very much. I have discovered that he has a taste for some varieties of country western music, although he listens to NPR on occasion as well. He wants a gun rack and some step bars on the side, but so far I have denied his requests.

Willie isn’t much for ornamentation. For a while he had a small, metal Texas flag on his tailgate to provide a splash of color and to help me identify him more quickly in a parking lot. But the adhesive gave out after about nine months. Now he sports a magnet decal for the 1-26 Infantry, the Blue Spaders, Taylor’s unit, under his gold Chevy emblem.

The manual crank-up windows have their advantage, though. For one, they provide exercise at every drive through establishment I frequent. Also, you can roll them up or down as fast as you want. I once drove our old 1989 Suburban through a gas station car wash and absent-mindedly forgot to roll up my window after punching in my secret car wash code. When I saw the pulsing water moving inexorably toward me, spewing high-pressure hot water, I pushed the up button on the electric windows. No matter how hard I pushed, the window rose at the same slow pace. Before it was half way up, I was being pelted in the face by hot car wash water. As soon as the window was up I looked around to be certain no one else had seen that. I’d never want anyone to know I was that, uh, absent-minded. I was wishing for the old fashioned crank up windows. Now I have them.

But absent-mindedness works the other way as well. Sometimes it makes you wish you had the electronic features. Take the door locks, for example. Other than the remarkable stretching exercise they provide when you reach across the truck to unlock the passenger door, which is just out of reach really, they have some real disadvantages.

Each time I visited the farm last year I took photos to show Melinda when I got back. This kept her up to speed about the place and proved I was actually working. In December I’d taken a photo of the field near the house, freshly tilled and planted. In January I returned and the wheat was beginning to arise from the red earth. As soon as I came to the field I hopped out of the cab with my camera, left the engine running, ran to the back of the truck in the cold wind without my jacket, snapped a couple of photos and ran back to the cab. It was locked.

One of Willie’s not-so-simple features is OnStar, which comes free for a year. I love those commercials where the OnStar representatives save the day for people. The phone number was on a decal right there on my window. I retrieved my phone from my blue jeans pocket and called OnStar. I explained my situation, gave them my name and password, and they assured me they’d have me in my vehicle in no time.

Me: Great. Thanks.
OnStar: There. That should do it. Is your vehicle unlocked now?
Me: No.
OnStar: Ok, Mr. Creech, let me try again. How about now?
Me: No. I think there’s a problem. I don’t have electronic locks.
OnStar: Oh. Then I can’t unlock it. I’ll dispatch roadside assistance.

So I spent the next hour standing outside my truck in the January wind waiting for someone to drive the 35 miles from San Antonio to unlock the truck. I was 150 yards from the house, with no key (it was in the truck with my jacket). Eventually the guy pulled up, took out his Slim Jim and opened my door in less than 30 seconds. That’s encouraging. Good thing I lock it up when I leave it.

Willie is strong, works hard, and likes to help. We have hauled equipment, like the Outback Billy Goat and the scary Vermeer wood chipper, taken the lawn tractor to the John Deere dealer for several repairs, made multiple runs to the Wilson County dump, and carried dozens of loads of brush to the burn pile in the field back of the house. We have transported two hundred cement blocks to my backyard in Houston to build a raised garden bed. My son is borrowing him today to bring home material to build a fence.

Willie prefers Hwy. 90 to I-10, gets nervous if he goes faster than 70 (likes 60 better), and enjoys the rural Texas practice of "throwing your hand" at other pickup truck drivers on back roads (rather than the urban practice of acknowledging other drivers with one's digits.)

Willie does have a drinking problem. He consumes more than I’d like and his habit is rather expensive these days. I try to keep him off the road as much as possible. He has not been to the farm since May, but I have promised him a trip next week. He’s looking forward to it.


Kat Creech said...

How does one write a short story (perhaps novel) about a truck?...
That's impressive. We should all watch out, this could turn into a country song.

Robert said...

I'm contacting Speilberg about rights to the script.

Crae said...

There is a song "I Love My Truck." I too have a truck (antique 1992) that I wouldn't trade a million dollars for. If you live in Texas, you gotta have a truck.

lance said...

Willie sounds like a distant cousin to my '96 truck, Scrappy. Scrappy is also a "work truck", and named as such because my son thinks it would better serve humanity as scrap metal.

Hint: To avoid muscle pulls while attempting to unlock other door, utilize the KToss method, the act of yelling "Keys!" and then promply tossing the keys to your passenger before you enter your side. WARNING: Execution of this technique outside of daylight hours may result in small bruises and abrasions. Proceed with caution.