Manhood, Pork Chops and Freedom

My love is in the throes of buying a truck.

This is not an action to be taken lightly, and has, actually, taken a month and a half of diligent kijiji viewing, dealer discussing, pondering and emotional wrangling to bring the thought to fruition.

A truck… is not merely a vehicle. There is so much more to it. Any South Shore, Nova Scotian male will willingly… eagerly, even… discuss the immense importance of choosing the right truck.

Is it a symbol of success? Of power? Of virility?

Or is it just a fuel guzzling, load hauling, durable piece of machinery?

My love talked to a dealer who said to him: “You better not bring your woman to see this truck.”

Being ‘the woman’, I was curious. Why, since I am quite fond of trucks, and dirt, and hauling, and various manly pursuits that occasionally take place in trucks… ‘does it have a bench seat?’ being the most important question…why should ‘ the woman’ not see this truck?

The previous owner left a pork chop under the seat.

One wonders, at times, if one has missed an important drive-thru experience in one’s life. The hamburger drive-thru. The coffee drive-thru.  The pork chop drive-thru. “Did it come with gravy? Or applesauce?” One wants to ask.

Trucks navigate the potholed roads of the manly world. A world populated by camo, flannel, and layout blinds that accommodate not only the man, but also his dog, his weapon of choice, his hip waders and his decoys, all of which must fit snuggly in the truck. In this world, the truck is scratched, dented, speckled with goose feathers and blood, smelling of wet dog, cigars and that manly essence that is a combination of oil, sweat and gunpowder. Kiss me, big fella.

Buying a truck is not just about make and model and horsepower and mileage. It is manhood itself. Manhood, concentrated into cab and truck bed and liner and frame and parts and undercoat and brakes and warranty and shocks and… “does it have a bench seat, ‘cause my honey loves the bench seat”… essential manhood.

I, as a woman, am a different species altogether … I see trucks as something much more poetic than just the vehicle for bringing home the kill.  Trucks, in my world, mean freedom. There have been three significant trucks in my life.

My sister drove a truck. It was brown. It was small. A man would say it was a 1992 Ford Ranger 4×4 Quad Cab, with rear spoiler and lift kit… but I would say small, brown, smelled like dogs.  I have no idea what kind of truck it was.

My sister’s truck was… brown. I don’t know what make, what model, what year… it was brown, and brown spelled ‘freedom’ to me.

I was a young mother… I’m talkin’ twenty seven years old with four kids, a husband who didn’t wash dishes or change diapers, and a dream that perhaps someday, somehow, someway I would eventually be my own self, instead of someone else’s self…

My sister wasn’t married, wasn’t breeding, wasn’t driving a mini-van full of week-old McDonald’s fries and enough sand from the beach to cause a minor ecological meltdown. I think we could have bred Piping Plovers in the sand accumulated in that van. She would arrive in my yard, with dogs, chocolate, and funny stories. (She would call my husband “Leland”. Not his name.) She would gather my children to her, and drive away with them to various adventures with cows, sheep, four-wheelers and boats.

My sister’s truck had a tape player, and the seat was covered with a sheep skin…  I mean a real sheep skin with skin on one side and lovely soft fuzzy wool on the other.  Only two people could fit comfortably on this seat. TWO. We were a family of six, with four of us not being fully able to wipe our own bums. The thought of driving off with only two… or better yet… just me… was freedom of a sort I never experienced. Being free, in those days, meant not having to cook supper because we ordered pizza.

My sis took my four to Lunenburg for the day, and we traded mini-van for truck, so she could take the four, and I could take… just me… and the world shifted.

It’s funny how vivid that memory is for me now, reflecting in my empty nest, how strange a day of with no children was back then. I didn’t particularly like it. Young children are like tentacles that grow out of your blood stream and suction onto every aspect of your life, leaving behind slimy trails and ink stains. Removing them means you can’t move right, your buoyancy is affected, you sink with the weight of what to do with the temporary freedom, and just end up pining for normalcy to return. And you worry. What if they get tired? What if they get cold? What if they fall off the boat and are eaten by sharks?

But this is about the truck.

Brown.

I drove around in the truck. With the windows down (it really smelled of dogs). I got on the highway, heading to Lunenburg to reclaim my spawn, listening to the tape player and singing along at the top of my lungs.

Annie Lennox. Walking on Broken Glass.

“Walkin’ on, walkin’ on, bro-ken gla-a-ass.”

For a woman used to “Sharon, Lois and Bram”, this was freedom. In my world, the music I listened to was either classic rock… my husband was permanently stuck in 1972, in every aspect of his life from the music he listened to , to his hair, to his belief that he knew how to ride a motorcycle… or children’s music, often sung by large purple dinosaurs.  Annie Lennox and the brown truck. Freedom. I can still remember how delicious it felt to see the highway open in front of me, and to pretend I could ride it forever. With Annie.

The second truck in my life was blue. It came long after the brown truck drove away. Blue was also little. Also smelled like dog. All good trucks smell like dog.

We bought the small blue truck because we had horses, and goats. I could fit twenty five bales on the back of that wee blue machine, roped and tied and praying the load wouldn’t topple somewhere in the middle of the highway. I only ever lost one bale. A hole in the pile discovered when we got home. Where it went, no one knew.

The blue truck was freedom, because my husband would never go get the hay. It was always me, with one of my daughters, driving wildly down the highway leaving whisps of hay, or occasionally entire bales, in our wake. I loved it. I loved that I was in charge, loved heaving the bales, loved laughing with my kids when we made my son throw the heaviest bales up to the loft. We could just barely squeeze three people in the front, if one was willing to straddle the shift. It was always my youngest. She was wee.

My husband sold the blue truck for $100 when the clutch went. The divorce came shortly after. I would have rather kept the truck than the husband.

The third truck is green. Scratched, dented and rusting through the frame. It belongs to my love, and it is freedom of a whole new kind. He lets me drive it, with the canoe on the back, with the boat on the trailer, with wood, dog crates, various dead animals that we submerge in gravy. There are never any children in the green truck, no fries, no “skin-a-ma rinky dinky-dink, skin-a-ma rinky doo”. It has a bench seat. So I can sit in the middle with my hand on his leg while we drive. It smells of dog.

Sadly, the green truck is on its way out. There comes a point in every good truck’s life when the rusting, seizing, grinding, and leaking of essential fluids means the end is near.

The new truck is silver. It smells new. No bench seat. No pork chops. I will learn to love it. Maybe I can keep the green truck, for my very own. I’ll turn it into a planter.

I’ll have to see if I can find the Annie Lennox tape.

Check out my new novel: That Thing That Happened, available for both kobo and kindle.

Finalist in WFNS Atlantic Writing Competition

Grub Street Endorsed

2 thoughts on “Manhood, Pork Chops and Freedom

Add yours

  1. Hi Libby.

    Marcia and I bought a truck that still smells new but is beginning to fill with sand and smell like a wet Labrador Retriever.

    The best part – It has a bench seat.

    Craig

    PS: I can forward this to a Ducks Unlimited friend for possible publication in one of their magazines if it is alright with you.

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