Godspeed You, Blue Farm Truck

Sunday I sold the blue farm truck for scrap. The front brakes failed, and repairing them would have cost more than that old truck was worth.

Which is fine. I knew this day was coming, and we had been shopping this winter for a new truck anyway. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little pang watching it being towed away.

As much as I don’t like to admit it, at times I can be very—perhaps even weirdly—sentimental about certain objects. For example, kept in the barn is a scruffy 7-Eleven-branded styrofoam mini-cooler. “What is this, and why do you keep it?” visitors will sometimes ask.

This is why: Several years ago, on vacation in Shenandoah National Park, I hiked solo up Old Rag Mountain. The plan was for Shel to drop me off at the trailhead, go do something she liked to do, and then pick me up after. It was a fantastic hike. On the way up, great boulders blocked the trail, and I had to scramble over them, the mountain dropping away and open space yawning beneath me. On the way down, in a ferny hardwood forest, I startled a shaggy black bear, who lumbered across the two-track in front of me.

I had brought too little water, though, and was ferociously thirsty. While waiting back at the trailhead, I decided to practice my mental telepathy. As one does. I fixed all my conscious thought upon Shel, wherever she was, and sent out into the universe one yearning thought: water. Then I waited. Shortly, she arrived, parked her little green Honda Civic, and got out. She waved, then from the back seat retrieved a styrofoam mini-cooler. And when I opened it I found, better than water, a six-pack of a local IPA.

So I hung on to that cooler. In the early days of the farm, it entered the rag-tag flotilla of coolers I used to keep my produce fresh at the farmers’ market. I use it now to bring popsicles and beer out to the crew on hot days with difficult jobs, like driving t-posts for stringing tomatoes. And every time I see it, I remember that good day long ago, and my good fortune marrying someone who knows me often better than I know myself.

But I was talking about the farm truck. I bought it used, fifteen years ago, after I left graduate school for good and was becoming a carpenter. As soon as I bought it, I realized a truck was the answer to a question I didn’t even know I was asking.

The truck was built for work—with a heavy-duty towing package and a no-frills interior—and I put it to work. It hauled tools and lumber and drywall. It helped me renovate a couple of porches, build my in-laws’ back deck, and install cabinets and pre-hung doors. After I became a farm hand, from time to time it delivered bumper crops of eggplant and winter squash to the CSA pickups. And then there was that one time it ferried a dead sheep into the city so that one of the interns could skin and dress it in the front lawn of his house. Which is a story for another time.

The truck really came into its own when we moved here, to our own farm. During the farmhouse renovation, it hauled loads of demolition rubble and construction debris to the landfill. Salvaged metal to the scrap yard. Stacks of two-by-fours and sheets of plywood. Replacement windows and bathroom fixtures, including a cast-iron claw-foot tub found on Craigslist. And then when the farm ramped up: Potting soil, wood chips, soil amendments, and straw bales. A brush mower, a disc harrow, and a three-point tiller. Nursery flats of transplants and crates of vegetables. And during one weird fall, caged feral cats to be neutered.

So, yeah, I had gotten pretty attached to that truck, not necessarily for what it was—an ordinary, base-model work truck built when Bill Clinton was president—but for all the good work we did together all these years. I’ll confess my heart broke just a little when, after that final, fatal breakdown, a hard-used man with a cigarette dangling from his lips came and hauled that old truck away.