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The Pickup Truck

December 13, 2011

Few things are more iconic in the South than the pickup truck. If you are to believe the movies and TV shows set in the South, we all drive old rusted out, smoking, rattling Chevrolets or Fords. Nothing could be further from the truth. Besides the tradition, we have a few logical reasons as well for owning these four-wheeled treasures.

I want to begin by setting the record straight about our collective fleet of “pick ’em ups.” While quite a few of them may have some years, and many miles, under their belts, the Southern truck is most likely well maintained and clean enough to transport the preacher’s daughter to the Varsity on a Saturday night. We use our trucks for everything from commuting to our jobs at the bank or construction site, to attending a family wedding, even hauling raw chicken manure and sheet rock.

We drive more makes than just Ford or Chevrolet, GMC and Dodge are other quite acceptable marques. While some of our brothers and sisters have been lured in by the Siren call of the likes of Toyota and Nissan, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a foreign truck.

Before you jump on me, I know those fine trucks are assembled right here in the good ole’ US of A and I know many parts on my truck are foreign made. Humor me, my personal opinion falls under the heading of “Brand Loyalty.”

What make and model of truck a Southerner drives can be strongly influenced by family tradition. Disputes have erupted and reunions have been disrupted just because Junior bought a Ford when all his daddy had ever owned was Chevrolets. If you don’t believe me, go to a NASCAR race and soak in the palpable tension between the Ford and Chevy fans.

While I am on the subject of NASCAR, they have a healthy truck racing series, which demonstrates the popularity of the vehicle in the South.

My first truck was a Ford Ranger, which aggravated my father to no end because he had always been a Chevy man. For some reason, I preferred Ford and MOPAR (Look it up if you don’t know) cars and trucks and held a completely unfounded disdain for those “bow ties.” Dad and I eventually reached an understanding, albeit an uneasy truce, about the subject and I eventually compromised with him by purchasing a GMC.

As any good Southern boy knows, the only difference between a Chevrolet truck and a GMC is the badge. I didn’t really own a Chevy, but it was close enough for Dad. Funny how the mind can rationalize something as irrational as blind brand loyalty.

My original decision to by a truck was based on two points: The first was a cathartic revelation that it was a dumb idea to own a car as a status symbol. The second was purely practical – If you own a house, you need a truck.

In a previous life, I worked at a large Southern bank, headquartered in Atlanta. During my tenure there, I saw many people who made less  money than I did, driving all sorts of nice and expensive cars. It dawned on me that another person was no better, or no worse, than I just because of the car they drove. Besides, it was an open secret that the “old money” in town drove full-size, late-model Buicks. Not some fancy BMW, Mercedes or Porsche.

Why compete? Just drive what you want, need, or can reasonably afford.

Then one day, having spent quite enough time trying to figure out how I was going to get that sheet of plywood back from Home Depot when all I had at my disposal was a Plymouth sedan, I opted to buy a small truck.

Made all the sense in the world. It could haul building supplies, three people if they knew each other really well, and it drug my carcass back and forth to work in relative comfort.

It was worth it. If for no other reason, to not look like a nimrod by standing in the building supplies parking lot scratching my head as I tried to figure out how to get a refrigerator in the trunk.

This is where I should tell you a little secret that we Southerners know about trucks: Unlike cars, they are designed and built to be work vehicles that transport heavy loads around day after day. If the are used primarily as people movers, the can last a very long time.

Alas, that old Ford started giving me some serious problems at about the 250,000 mile mark and I was forced to get rid of it in favor of a newer model. I sold the Ranger and bought myself a late model GMC Sierra. It was a bit more fancy that what I wanted, but the price was right.

To tell the truth, I’ve grown to like the power everything, heated seats, and sound system. I remember the days when the only options available on a pickup was a heater and a radio. My, how times have changed.

My truck can do every practical chore your fancy car does. With the extended cab, I can even carry five folks in comfort. Cruse control, leather seats and a killer stereo make long trips a breeze. And did I mention I can bring home more chicken manure in one load than you can, even if you fill up the back seat?

Copyright © 2011 by Doug Couch and “Observations From A Southern Outpost”
All Rights Reserved

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