When I was a sophomore in college, my parents sent me back to school in a silver Mazda pickup. They’d obviously considered the choice, and now that I look back at it, they were smart: I could move all my crap with it, I couldn’t put more than two other people in the cab with me (although I did haul quite a few people around in the back, in less-than-optimal comfort) and I made a pretty good second income moving people around the neighborhood between semesters. My father was kind enough to give it to me as a graduation present after college, and I think he knew that it would come in handy.
I had to sell it sometime around 1997 or so when the amount of oil I was adding each week eclipsed the amount of gas. Two little men showed up in a lowered teal Nissan and drove my little truck away to be chopped, bondoed, and painted primer gray. Since then, I’ve forced the cars that followed to fit the mold of all-purpose utility vehicle: I stuffed four sheets of plywood into the hatch of my CRX with four bags of ready-mix cement—you’d be surprised how much a Honda will hold. The year I bought the Scout, I hauled the debris of my basement demolition project to the dump in multiple pre-dawn trips. I think the Tortoise probably bore the brunt of my ambitions, though: hauling recycled brick in the trunk across Canton, sheets of drywall on the roof rack—hell, every stick of wood that went into my rowhome, and every bag of cement.
The Jeep has been great for moving building materials around, but where things like yard waste and carpeting are concerned, it’s not big enough and I can’t wash it out with a hose. And given the amount of garbage we’ve generated since we’ve been in this house, I think I’d be broke if I tried to haul it all myself. Our good friend Dave finally got tired of being shanghaiied into helping us haul trash for the umpteenth time, so he lent us Clifford the Big Red Truck on Wednesday.
When switching to a vehicle the length of a schoolbus, the technique of pre-visualization comes in real handy. Simple operations like navigating a parking lot take planning and nerves of steel. One doesn’t simply make a lane change, especially with a bedful of yard waste flapping around by the tailgate. Turning a corner brings one much closer to the folks in the opposite lane than they’re usually comfortable with (however, the look of terror on their faces is always good for a laugh.) The amount of respect one commands while driving such a truck at the rental office, though, makes up for any inconvenience. We rented the largest tiller at the garage, a 14-horsepower hydraulically powered beast, and within 15 minutes had turned over a 10’x20′ patch of grass into arable dirt.
After four trips to the local dump, the piles of leaf bags, small brush, elm bark, and construction debris all disappeared, and our yard began to look presentable again. In a final trip to the Lowe’s we picked up a shiny new grill to replace the hand-me-down that fell apart last year and assembled it in time to cook three filets to perfection last night.
This afternoon, I reluctantly turned the keys back over to Dave and we said our goodbyes to the Big Red Truck. I think after the Jeep’s time is up we’ll have to look into a pickup of our own, but I have to thank Dave again for letting me dream for a few brief, wonderful days.