Lessons learned on gravel roads

How I came to love pick up trucks so much probably lies in the way in which I learned to drive.  I grew up in eastern Iowa amongst some of the richest soil that God blessed Earth with.  Mile upon mile of mostly flat prairie that had been plowed under and replaced with hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of acres of corn and soybean fields interrupted by occasional rolling hills, all connected by gravel roads.  One afternoon while riding with my father on those gravel roads he stopped our truck, asked me to sit on his lap and while he controlled the accelerator pedal and brake, I steered.  It was a simpler time to be sure…in the late 1970’s and I was probably around eleven or twelve at the time.  At first I was terrified, not wanting this responsibility nor wanting to crash.  I learned how to counter-steer when the truck started to fishtail.  How to keep the tires in the “path” and not in the loose gravel along the sides of the road…and how to get over when you met a big old John Deere hauling a disk towards you.  While all of these lessons were unnerving I grew to love driving trucks.

“Truck One” was my Dad’s truck.  Fairly basic.  It had an AM/FM radio and shifter on the floor.  I drove this truck on my very first romantic encounter with a young lady from a neighboring town named Becky (the girl…not the town).  I won the girls affection and attention for a few short-lived months.  Truck 1.  Car 0.

Dad’s truck. I treated it like it was my own.

“Truck Two”.  I had turned sixteen years old and the first car of my own to drive was a pick up truck.  If I’m remembering it correctly it was a 1972 Chevy LUV.  Basic transportation.  Rusty.  Needed new brakes.  Manual stick shift and no power steering.  AM radio.  Would hold exactly three high school sophomores.  Dad and I bought it for $800 as a “project” for him and I to work on, grinding out the rust, filling the holes with Bondo putty or cutting sheet metal and riveting it to the body then spraying with gray primer.  After a $99 Earl Scheib paint job it was sold.  It was a safe and reliable means of transportation.  Truck Two was tough to drive and ride in and a pleasure to get rid of.

I found out quickly that I didn’t like sanding and grinding rust off of metal. I must have had a grayish pall during my sophomore year since I was constantly applying primer to this heap.

Here’s that same 1972 Chevy LUV after A LOT of sanding, Bondo and a $99 Earl Scheib paint job. Firecracker Red.

 

“Truck Three” came in 1987.  I had my first full-time job. I was making $300 a week and was rolling in money.  Literally…rolling in dough.  Single and wanting a new, more reliable vehicle (one that would start when I wanted it to start) I traded in my 1975 Ford Maverick and bought a brand-spanking new Madza B2000 pick-up.  Small four cylinder engine, stick shift, heat, bench seat and no radio (though I added one in the months to come).  A short time later I took out the future honorable Constance Sue Ripley in this truck.  After the vows were spoken (and not to be taken back) the Mrs. admitted that she wasn’t exactly beholden to me at first glance. “You showed up wearing cowboy boots and driving a truck…”.  Its a good thing that I still had a full head of brown wavy hair back then or else I still might be single.  Dead serious.  Anyway…romance won out.  Truck 2.  Car 0.  I also took Connie to the hospital in this truck when Jordan was born.  Cold, dark and windy in the predawn hours of a December morn…bucking snowdrifts along the way.  Sturdy and reliable we eventually traded in Truck Three on a minivan for a growing family once Kid Two came along.

Truck Three was my first new “car”. No radio or AC. Bench seat. But it was all MINE

 

Truck Four was my Dad’s truck…again.  This time around it was for a drastically different reason.  My folks were moving off of the farm and didn’t need their truck.  A 1999 Ford F250 three-quarter ton with a V10 engine.  I bought it because we needed a another vehicle at our household.  Dad had kept it in awesome condition and it gave me considerable consolation after his death.  At times, while driving it, I could hear him speak.  I know that sounds stupid, but that truck helped me some days when I missed him a great deal.  I eventually sold that truck to my brother who still drives it to this day.

Truck Five was my nicest truck.  Purchased brand new in 2007.  It had many nice things that I didn’t have in most of my early trucks.  Air conditioning.  AM/FM radio with CD player.  Crew cab so that we could fit the whole family and go on vacations.  ABS brakes, power windows and door locks….all pretty standard stuff but for a guy who remembers using the hand crank to roll down his windows on a hot summer day it’s almost an extravagance to have something like power windows.  We moved all three daughters out of our house and to college in these last two trucks.  I started officiating basketball and baseball games in these two trucks.  I’ll tell you something….a truck makes a great umpire vehicle.  Just park it, drop down the tailgate, sit down and get your equipment on for the game.  I really loved Truck Five and didn’t see an end to its service to our family but things change.  We’re empty-nesters now.  No kids to ferry about (and no grand-kids on the foreseeable horizon…).  Warranties expire and things are going to need fixed or replaced eventually.  We usually keep our cars and trucks until they die or cost us too much to keep up.  I debated for several months on what I should do, if anything.  It seems to me that you’re either making a monthly payment on a new vehicle or paying to have the older one fixed.  This is why I reluctantly traded in Truck Five on a new car.

Ed…my 80+ year old neighbor said that my Silverado looked like a fire engine. What a great compliment!

Our new car has so many features in it that I may have to hire an eight year old to show me how to use them all correctly.  A six speaker music system that’s pared through Bluetooth with the ITunes on my phone (good-bye multiple CD’s in my armrest!!).  It has Sirius radio for several months!  Instead of a gear shifter it has a dial near my arm rest that I turn to select a gear.  It has a back up camera.  I can call folks while driving. It doesn’t have keys and I push a button to start it.  While the engine is half the size that I’m used too its turbo-charged and very responsive.  I actually have to “think” to use this car because its so simple to drive.  I’m not saying that its idiot-proof…but its a big step in that direction.  It’s also a really sharp looking blue.  Electric Blue….to be sure.

This car is too nice for me. Sporty and fast…it’ll take some time to get used to it. Maybe listening to some Johnny Cash while driving it will help

I’m going to be honest…I got a little misty when I turned my truck in.  While most folks view their cars and trucks as purely utilitarian objects I’ve come to love each and every one of my trucks.  Each time that I’ve driven them they take me back to a time in my life.  A first date.  Going to basketball practice.  A time in our garage working with Dad on a repair.  My last date as a charming single guy.  A trip to the hospital with a very pregnant and uncomfortable spouse.  Moving our kids around.  Road trips and vacations.   A time when I could still sit on my Father’s lap and steer his truck around those winding gravel roads of my childhood.  I miss many things in my life that shiny new buttons and whistles will never, ever replace.  I guess I’m still just that farm kid at heart.

The Ripley boys after a day of painting.  From left to right.  Brian, Dan, Me and Dad

 

 

Rusty screws, new neighbors and a First Place Winner

Its been a dramatic and event-filled summer here at the Palatial Estates.  Here are some notables that didn’t get their own blog but warranted an honorable mention by yours truly.  We jump all around the spectrum today so I hope that you’re warmed up, ready to read and mentally fortified to take this all in.  YOU’RE WELCOME America.

  • This is my first vehicle.  A 1972 Chevy LUV pick-up truck that Dad and I bought together.  80% rust.  The only things that didn’t have rust on them were the brake peddle and steering wheel. Four cylinder engine.  Four on the floor which required the middle passenger to move their leg one way or the other when I shifted.  Crank windows.  Manual choke and steering.  The horn was a button on the dash beside the AM radio.  I installed a secondhand  8 track player and TWO 6X9 tri-axial speakers that rolled around behind the seat when I whipped kitties in the gravel.  IT.  WAS.  AWESOME!!  On a rare half-day from school me, Scott Carlson and Gary Kelting would squeeze into the cab and head off for Northpark Mall in the big city of Davenport.  Scott brought his boom box and a collection of cassettes.  Foreigner, The J. Geils Band, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts sprinkled in with some Back in Black by AC/DC.   Not good times…EPIC TIMES!!  I was 16…my buddies 15.  I didn’t know any better.  Remember that for later…
I found out quickly that I didn't like sanding and grinding rust off of metal. I must have had a grayish pale during my sophomore year since I was constantly applying primer to this heap.

Rusty but reliable I found out quickly that I didn’t like sanding or grinding rust off of metal. Dad taught me how to do light body work and basic mechanical things.  It was mine to fix up.  I must have had a grayish pallor during my sophomore year since I was constantly applying primer to this heap.

  • We tore off our old sunroom and put in its place a brand spanking new one.  We love it!  I christened it with a nap shortly after its completion.  Its also good for drinking coffee in during the morning and beer in the evenings.  Who knew?!
  • We tore down our old tool shed, displacing hundreds of crickets and spiders, and had a new one put up.  As a result I had to get a tetanus shot after being assaulted by a piece of plywood with a rusty screw protruding from it.  The nurse commented several times that she’d never heard a scream as shrill as mine.  True story.
  • We’re getting new neighbors for only the second time in fourteen years.  Our neighborhood doesn’t turn over that much.   When you live next to eye-candy like me you won’t want to leave.  Just sayin’.
  • I have just about everything ready for my Halloween costume.  On Monday October 31st you’ll see it on Facebook and remark “he apparently has too much time on his hands…” or you’ll high-five the nearest person shouting “THAT’S WHAT I’M FREAKIN’ TALKIN’ ABOUT!!”  I play to win.  Everyone else is dressing for first runner-up.
Here's that same 1972 Chevy LUV after A LOT of sanding, Bondo and a $99 Earl Scheib paint job. Firecracker Red.

Here’s that same 1972 Chevy LUV after A LOT of sanding, Bondo and a $99 Earl Scheib paint job. Firecracker Red.

  • I kept a 1972 Eisenhower silver dollar in my pocket for the last two baseball seasons.  For most of my Little League and 3 on 3 basketball league games the initial possession is decided by a coin flip.  Hundreds of games have been started with the flip of that coin.  Hundreds of hours spent in my pocket during the last two summers.  I gave it to a young girl on the final night of my season who had volunteered to keep score at her brothers games that night.  I’m guessing that she was around the sixth grade.  Her brother and his teammates gave her crap all game.  She took it like a pro and didn’t let them get to her. As I gave it to her I told her how many games I had started with it and that I wanted her to have it for helping out all night long. Her face lit up as she whispered “wow”.  I hope that she keeps it.
My second car. A 1977 Ford Maverick. Did you know that Mavericks OUTSOLD Ford Mustangs for a few years? True story.

This is my second ride, a 1977 Ford Maverick. Automatic transmission, power steering and two more cylinders but still no good radio to blast ZZ Top or Billy Idol until $240 later and a trip to Radio Shack.  Did you know that Mavericks OUT SOLD Ford Mustangs for a few years? True story.

  • After the 2015 high school baseball season I made a decision to take a season away from working varsity baseball games.  I was getting home at 11:30 at night, getting up at 5 the next morning and repeating the process.  It also seemed like every night one of the coaches chose to act like a prick.  I decided to step away and only work USSSA kids baseball games and local sub-varsity games.  It went so well that I’m getting away from varsity baseball altogether.  The money is about the same while the time away from home is much less.  A final note about that high school season in which the coaches were edgy…I received two post-season recomendations…which is a nice acknowledgement that I was, in fact, doing a good job.  Go suck an egg Coach!
$40 of pinstripes and blue spray paint, along with some free wire hubcaps and the old Mav is looking slightly less "Church Lady-ish". That's Scott Carlson in the background being Scott Carlson. The Maverick got me through high school and college.

$40 worth of pinstripes and blue spray paint, along with some free wire hubcaps and the old Mav is looking slightly less “Church Lady-ish”. That’s Scott Carlson in the background being Scott Carlson. The Maverick got me through high school and college.

  • I realized that I sound great singing any Dwight Yoakam, Trace Adkins, George Strait or Diamond Rio song while driving my truck.  I’m quite talented that way.
  • I’m part of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization, pairing men and women with at risk kids. (I’m a “Brother” in case you’re scoring at home).  My little brother comes from a love-filled, single parent home.  Dad’s not in the picture, hasn’t been for quite a while.  My Brother is quiet.  We’ve been together almost two years. He doesn’t know some of the basic “guy” stuff so I’ve set some goals that instead of just going to movies and such we’d work on some of those things…basic “dude” stuff.   Today we washed and waxed my truck but not before turning on some classic rock on the garage radio (its a rule…you gotta have the tunes rockin‘)  then grilled some burgers with him setting up the briquettes, doing the seasoning and grilling.  He’s almost fourteen, stands close to six feet tall.  Too old to be a child.  Too young to be a man.   I made him work.  I made him learn.  He had fun.  Summers drawing to a close very soon.  I hope to get in some more stuff with him before its gone, though today…today was a good day.
This is Logan. He's my Little Brother. Today he waxed my truck (loved it). Grilled us burgers (loved it) and made my nine year old Silverado a lot shiner.

This is Logan. He’s my Little Brother. Today he waxed my truck (loved it). Grilled us burgers (loved it) and made my nine year old Silverado a lot shiner (which I love…)

I'd imagine that there's some coy way of using waxing old trucks and manual labor towards helping a young person become a better person...but I'm not the guy to figure that one out.

Old Red’s lookin’ sharp

I like shiny. Shiny is good.

I like shiny. Shiny is good.

  • Did I mention that I taught him how to clean up chrome rims?  If not…here’s proof that I did.  I figured that since I enjoyed cleaning up my parents car and truck when I was Logan’s age that he might just like it too if someone taught him.  He did.

I’d imagine that a better writer would find some coy and thoughtful way to wrap up todays blog, using an analogy to mirror the similarities between working, learning, having fun and maturing from kid to adult….but I’m not that guy.  I only wanted to help out a kid like the many  folks that have helped me out somewhere along my way, getting me to where I am today. Blessed I am.  A blessing I try to be.

Until next time, God bless you and yours.

R