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Michael Perry: A tribute to the truck bed trailer
ROUGHNECK GRACE

Michael Perry: A tribute to the truck bed trailer

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We have parked the pumpkins in the sun so they may cure. They — along with a winter’s worth of squash and a handful of gourds — are in the truck bed trailer that came with the farm.

You don’t see so many truck bed trailers these days. (Side note: Someday I will hire a statistician and a graphic artist and we’ll whip up a neat chart diagramming the exponential increase in usage of the phrase “these days” as it correlates to age. Just running the numbers on a napkin I’d say each additional year lived past 40 doubles one’s tendency to invoke them. I envision subcategories and crosstabs breaking down additional data points such as: location when uttered [“porch” and “recliner” likely rank right up there], associated physical manifestations [“shaking head mournfully, lips pursed”], and odds you mutter them while surrounded by people younger than you enjoying themselves.)

We were talking about the trailer. There used to be a time when we ran pickup trucks into the ground, then detached the cab, drive shaft, engine and front wheels. That left the bed, rear wheels and frame. Then, using a cutting torch and welder (and probably a come-along, a cheater bar and some swears), we trimmed and bent the frame in a manner allowing the front end of the rails to be pinched together until they formed a triangle set to receive a hitch coupler.

Consider that a simple overview, and use of the term “we” should in no way imply I ever did it myself, although I did fit ours with a wheeled trailer tongue jack after the fact and it has really saved my back.

I wonder sometimes about the provenance of this old trailer. If it arrived on the property as a shiny new truck that put in its time in service to the family who last farmed here. If it made runs to town for feed and salt blocks and maybe broke the speed limit a tad when the folks were trying to make kickoff at the high school football game after hustling through the milking chores. Or if it went on any dates, or hosted a first kiss.

Many of us country kids of certain vintage found our first romance in farm trucks, had our first breakups in farm trucks, and learned early how picking someone up for a date in a farm truck served as a screening mechanism of sorts, as only those partners imbued with a certain laissez-faire hardiness and possibly impaired sense of smell showed for a second date.

I wonder too about the truck’s final day of service. Of what happened that the owner finally shook his or her head and said, “Yep, it’s time to chop’er.” Did it blow a rod? Did the floor rust through? Did the kid ram it into a light pole while looking into the eyes of his homecoming date?

These days (there it is again!) the ethos of lease and trade-in and financing and whatnot has reduced the number of trucks driven to their graves, let alone repurposed as trailers.

To put it another way, rarely do we finish a vehicle off, unlike my brother John, who, after dragging my father’s Ford F-100 to the back forty scrap heap after it was finally wrecked and rusted beyond resurrection, shot it in the radiator purely out of respect.

We’ve used our truck bed trailer to haul firewood, pole barn junk, giggling city kids, and this year, a part of the harvest, currently finishing in the sun. A nod then, to whoever it was back in those days who built us a cart for these days.

An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio” (tentshowradio.com). Read more from Michael Perry at www.sneezingcow.com.

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