A 2002 beige Chevy Silverado 1500 with 4WD, an extended cab and short bed is the first truck I ever drove. Thirteen years ago, in the middle of the same field where I learned to ride horses, my mom put me in the driver seat and told me it was as good a time as any to take the wheel.
As a child I was stubborn and staunchly opposed to learning how to drive. I couldn’t imagine the use in driving when we had perfectly good horses and everything we needed in a five mile radius. Whenever we would drive to the farm with the field we would pass a reservoir, and on the other side of the reservoir was a little wooded island. Every time I saw that island from the back seat I would watch silently but in my mind I was busy plotting: when it came time to get my driver's license I would run away on my horse to that island and live out the rest of my days on blackberries and sunshine. It seemed easy enough, I figured. I would just need to get saddlebags big enough to fit enough berries to tide me over for winter and the rest would work itself out. As one might deduce from reading this, I lived a deeply idyllic and privileged childhood.
I don’t know when my vision shifted (read: became somewhat realistic) but I remember that all of a sudden I wanted to see everything and that my newfound desire erased any fear that had kept me rooted in place. I remember rolling across that field as fast as second gear would take me, right past one of my mother’s friends who tsked disapprovingly and said “Is she old enough to be doing that?” and my usually rule-abiding mother grinning wickedly and laughing as we rolled right on past. Something about horses and freedom always seemed to put my mother in that mood. My mother, a woman who respects laws and institutions, loses all constraints when it comes to a good adventure. At some point when I was still living at home, our neighbor’s acres of open field behind our house were sold into development, and the construction of a new road and a few dozen houses began. My mother and I would take the horses to the field and watch as the landscape transformed from an old American farm to extreme upper class suburbia. I drew her attention to the newly hung No Trespassing sign near the creek where I used to catch salamanders and crawfish with my friends. A brief shadow passed over my mother’s face but was quickly replaced with her wicked grin. “Sometimes we ask forgiveness rather than permission,” she had said.
We don’t catch crawfish in the creek anymore and it’s been years since I visited the field where I learned to drive, but that old truck has been in my family ever since, right up until this morning when it was towed away, probably to be picked to pieces and sold for parts. It had accrued a good 300,000 miles on it and the cost of repairs this year had already equalled what a newer, more fuel-efficient vehicle would cost me in payments. A few days before, part of its brake line had blown - on the highway in the pouring rain going downhill at 50mph - and it was sheer dumb luck and the emergency brake that kept me and the other drivers safe. Or maybe grace.
I don’t live on a farm anymore. I don’t have an excuse to drive a truck like that. Every now and then it has come in handy, helping friends move and such, but it hasn’t towed a horse trailer or hauled hay in years and was usually just putting more fuel waste into the world than necessary.
The man driving the tow rig - Jeff - was waiting next to the truck when I pulled up in my rental. He nodded at me, sweat already beading his forehead in the Carolina morning sun. I handed him my keys and he handed me a check in return. I drove the rental to the edge of the parking lot and began to film the truck being loaded up, wanting to wallow in the nostalgia of the moment and memories passed. It was hot and hard work for him, and I begin to feel a little uncomfortable watching this man I did not know do his job while I sat still. I lowered my phone and reflected.
That truck had provided me with such opportunity. It had gotten me to jobs and classes, competitions and family events. It had been my ticket out of town when I wanted a break. I’d laid in its bed and stared at the stars. I’d read books in my boyfriend’s lap or taken naps between shifts. I loved its dimpled side - my mother’s doing - and its tenacity under duress, but most of all I love the memories I have that it was a part of. Those memories are not attached to the truck. And furthermore while the truck was the actual physical thing that provided me those opportunities, it was my family’s love and privilege that provided me with the truck itself. Hopefully it, or the summation of its parts, will provide somebody else with opportunity as well. And as for me, I stopped filming before the truck was loaded and just drove away. It didn’t make sense to sit there and watch - no matter how nostalgic I was feeling. That old truck was a symbol of the selflessness of the people I love and the lengths they will go to be supportive, and it is with that cushion of community that I drove out of the parking lot, not wanting to miss whatever window of opportunity awaited me down the road.