• Pickup Truck Rules

    Two years ago, I saw a bumper sticker plastered on the back window of a Ford 250. It said, possum: the other white meat. Amusing, to be sure, but this quip also represents the self-reliance and sense of humor of pickup truck culture. Here is a quick rundown of the other maxims that define this way of life.

    Rule Number 1: Do It; Don’t Talk About It. Experts are the folks who never give advice. If you are always telling someone how to do something, you probably don’t know how to do it yourself.

    Rule Number 2: Never Ask If You Can Help; Just Help. A friend was unloading lumber off of a pickup truck when a neighbor stopped by to borrow something. He asked if he could help, was told that no assistance was necessary, and then watched for 20 minutes as my friend unloaded his truck. You never need permission to help.

    Rule Number 3: Some Dogs Are Pickup Truck Dogs and Some Aren’t. Rabbit dogs (beagles) stay outside all winter, but Labs, good for bird hunting, are kept inside and ride in the pickup next to the driver. It’s not fair, but it’s a fact of life: Some dogs are pickup truck dogs and some aren’t.

    Rule Number 4: Saturday Is a Workday (Sundays Are Half Days). The only thing worse than working is not working. If you are not out of the house and on the road by 7 a.m., well, you aren’t working hard enough. And be careful about stopping for lunch—it slows you down.

    Rule Number 5: The Garage Is a Family Room. The garage is full of expensive toys (tools), and it has a kerosene heater for cold days and a small refrigerator for the coffee creamer and Labatts. It’s a good place to rehash hunting stories and catch up with neighbors. The first place to look for a neighbor on a Saturday is in the garage, not in the house.

    Rule Number 6: There Are Ford People and Chevy People. If you drive a Ford pickup, you don’t have much to say to those who drive Chevys, even if it costs you $3,000 to replace a $60 part due to poor engineering. Only flatlanders buy Nissans.

    Rule Number 7: The Past Is Present, the Future Is Tomorrow. Everyone and everything that has gone before still exists, like the long-departed bachelor farmers who used to attend covered dish suppers at the corner house, or the time Baldwin Brook overflowed its banks and changed course. The future is always a day away.

    Rule Number 8: You’re from Where? The universe stops at the town line. If you’re from the next town, you are a friend, not a neighbor. If you’re from two towns away, you are from “out of town.” If you’re from three towns away, you need a passport.

    Rule Number 9: Real Men Carry Pocket Knives. Your pickup has a towing strap, a portable battery charger, a come-along, and a toolbox just behind the cab. You can pull a tractor out of a ditch, loosen a frozen bolt, hang a door, fix a lawn mower, sharpen a chain saw, and start a fire with green wood. The only thing that can’t be fixed is your teenage daughter—the one who just got three new tattoos.

    Rule Number 10: Weather Means Business. Weather only matters when it affects your livelihood: snowplowing, sugaring (cold nights, warm days), haying, and planting. The rest of the time, weather is just conversation.

    Rule Number 11: Your Cheatin’ Heart. Go ahead and fall in love with Reba McEntire or any other country music singer, since Nashville is more than two towns away. The waitress at the Bog, the local watering hole, is definitely not cute—that is, if you wish to continue speaking in a deep voice.

    Rule Number 12: Hunting Is Not a Sport; It’s a Religion. Hunting is a form of pagan worship that is only allowed for two weeks in November. The rest of the time, you talk about it. That’s why conversations with people who don’t hunt are so short: There isn’t much else to talk about.

    Rule Number 13: NASCAR Is Not a Sport Either (see Rule Number 12). When NASCAR is on, the remote, the armchair, and the living room are yours. If you can’t get to a TV, you turn on the radio. That’s why they make big construction-site radios that are battery-powered: In an emergency, you can listen to NASCAR in the woods.

    Rule Number 14: Real Men Entertain in the Basement. That’s where you keep your hunting gear, your pellet stove, and the old dog-haired sofa that’s not good enough for upstairs. The living room is for women, the Christmas tree, framed graduation photos of the kids, and the bird dog (and, of course, NASCAR Sundays).

    Rule Number 15: The Country Store Is the Internet. The local store is a repository of every piece of gossip or news about heartbreak, illness, feuds, and coming events. To go “on line” in the country, just go down to the country store. To “log in,” just speak to the person behind the counter.

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