My nephew’s daughter recently paid $40,000 for a pickup truck.

That’s $38,500 more than I gave for mine … but I can understand the attraction.

I have loved pickup trucks since about 1962, when my grandmother’s brother, Ferd Clifford, took me for a ride in his forest-green Ford F150, with the three-speed manual transmission, steel dashboard, and that amazing, top-of-the-world view I had never experienced in a family car.

In 1977, after my beloved 1965 Ford Falcon station wagon finally died, I decided that what I really needed was a pickup truck. Then, and now, I loved to go to auctions, flea markets and yard sales, and it is hard to get an 800-pound printing press or an oak fireplace mantel into the trunk of a car.

First came the red, 1960 Chevrolet El Camino, an odd truck-car model with column shift, bench seat, and truck bed, but with the sleek lines, chrome and fins found on the cars of the period.

Next was the 1975 Chevy ¾-ton pickup, with its huge engine, dual gas tanks and bolt-on passenger step, which the original owner – a farmer from Paxton — added to help the missus climb aboard. Although the bed developed rust problems, that beast could pass everything but a gas station. Several co-workers borrowed it to move and haul stoves, mulch and concrete blocks.

A car reentered my life in 1982, when I got married. Laurie had a 1980 Ford Mustang, so “Ol’ Blue” was sold. But within a few months I missed having a truck. This time, I bought a 1953 Chevy for $300. Driving it was like driving a tractor (three-speed, no power anything), but it was a lifesaver. I used it to haul lumber, bricks, stone, ladders and debris during the five years I spent restoring our house on Buchanan Street.

Eventually, it, too, bit the dust. Then came the 1978 Ford F-150, a plain-Jane, former farm truck with manual transmission, manual windows, no radio and the bomb-proof “straight-six” engine. I paid $800 for it, drove it nearly 15 years – including two trips to Virginia to go backpacking – then sold it for $500.

My present ride is a 1998 Chevy S10, one-owner, low mileage pickup, that cost $1,500 six years ago. It’s small and it drives like a car, but I couldn’t get by without it. I’m always hauling something home or hauling something somewhere else. It has paid for itself, many times over.

A recent article at Bloomberg.com notes that pickup trucks just keep getting bigger. Since 1990, they have grown in weight by an average 1,300 pounds. The largest weigh almost 7,000 pounds – or about three Honda Civics. The average new truck costs nearly $50,000. And last May, for the first time, Americans bought more pickups than cars; five of the top 10 top-selling vehicles in the United States were trucks.

And for the first time ever, I was trendy. Unbelievable.

Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at irishhiker@aol.com.

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