I have stated many times that I was raised on a farm near Moscow in the 50’s and 60’s, a period of time when change was so often and so much that it became the norm. To me a big change was the addition of the pickup truck as a standard part of every farmer’s equipment. I barely recall a 1949 Ford that Dad had in the 50’s but the one that always comes back to me in my thoughts and discussions with family and friends was a red and white 1961 three-quarter ton pickup.
Dad bought it from a business located in New Richmond that sold bottled propane and had bought the truck special ordered to handle the heavy loads of hauling bottled gas. It had the largest six cylinder engine and the lowest gearing a truck could have. It also had a 4= speed on the floor but the gearing was so low that anything past 55 top end was only when going downhill. This truck was built to haul large, heavy loads. The frame was built with overload springs on all four wheels and could hold a lot more than its listed weight. Shortly after the purchase the business decided to get out of the propane business and my Dad saw the need for a truck and he got it at a clearance price. A win, win for Dad.
This truck became the mainstay of our daily farming routine. Wherever we were working the truck was there to be used in whatever capacity we needed. When running equipment in the fields the truck hauled cans of oil, grease, gasoline, tool boxes and a tire jack (as there always seemed to be a flat.) In tobacco it hauled anywhere from plants for setting to tobacco sticks for housing. Weekly it hauled a load of ear corn to the Farm Bureau and bring home a load of feed for the livestock. There are so many more uses but I think you get my point. As important as the pickup came to our farm, they became a must for almost every farmer having the same or similar needs for them. The pickup became a standard in rural life and to the farmers of today they still are.
Until probably the 1980’s the pickup truck offered few if no extras. The red and white truck’s only extras were for work and that’s where the luxury stopped. A four speed manual transmission, no radio, no padded dash or seats, and it seemed like the thermostat was always stuck so one less luxury was heat. It was a bare bones pack mule. In those days when referring to a truck as a monster truck. it meant it could haul lots and lug through to wherever it was needed. Today of course the term has changed in meaning completely.
Today most trucks are owned for show and even serve as the family vehicle. Put some dirt in the bed of today’s trucks and the owners might pass out. Statistics show that only 17 per cent of today’s pickup trucks are used for farming or work purposes. As much as this is a surprising statistic I find myself also wondering why didn’t this trend toward creating a vehicle that shouts power and flash just by its existence continue? It is much more when dressed up more. I don’t think there is or has ever been a vehicle made that has served so many purposes and crossed the barriers from farm hand to a show vehicle and has stood the test of time than the good old pickup truck
When my Dad left the farm and moved to town the truck became mine. It stayed in use until approximately 1980 by which time it had served its purpose and did so beyond any expectations we had. There was a man I worked with in Batavia who had built a home near Big Indian Creek and had plans to build a stone fireplace and chimney. The stone he planned to use was going to come out of the creek bed and he was looking for an old truck he could use to haul all that rock up out of the creek. He said he needed a truck with the muscle to do it. I sold him the truck cheap and told Glen that I was sure Old Red would haul his stone out. I saw him a few years later and in conversation he said that he had built his fireplace and chimney. I asked if the truck worked out and he told me it worked way better than he had ever expected. He said upon completion he retired it. I was glad to know there was still one more chore left in it.
As much as I look at the awesome new trucks with their design and features, I still think back to the truck made to serve. From 1980 until 2000 I didn’t own a pickup truck and if I needed to move or haul anything, I had to borrow one and I never really liked doing that. So in 2000 I found a truck. It was and still is a truck that suits me. I own a 1992 Chevy Cheyenne half ton. It is red and has a radio and heater and comes with 139,000 miles on it. For my needs it has fit very well. I might use it once a month but if I need it I have it and feel secure knowing there is a pickup in my drive. Be it a workhorse or a show horse, we all need to do the one same thing. Respect it!
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and likes to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.