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Bacon Bits -Real Trucks Don't Eat Unleaded Gas

by John U. Bacon

It's true: the body never lies. And I know this because I start sweating, breathing deeply and tingling all over whenever I'm inside a pickup truck.

Yep, that's right, nothing gets those magical hormones pumping faster than a good ol' American truck.

With all due respect to other forms of arousal, the pickup truck far surpasses Kim Basinger for consistent thrills (or, perhaps for you, Mel Gibson). For one thing, our chances with a truck are much better than with a movie star. For another, it's never the wrong time or place to hop in a truck; your performance behind the wheel actually improves after a few beers (or I think it does, because the truck never objects); and the damn thing always takes you home on the first night. I do not find myself saying silly, regrettable things to a truck, and after several years of contented companionship it doesn't say, "I need more space."

A truck actually transforms the driver. At 31 years old, I still look more like Opie Taylor than Clint Eastwood. I get carded for buying whole milk. But I hop in a truck and I'm overcome by an irresistible urge to ramble through forests, chew Redman tobacco and fly over rows of buses. Sure, I usually settle for ambling over parking stones and chewing a stick of Juicy-Fruit, but the truck gives me the option. That's why I'll lie, cheat and steal like a drug fiend simply to get behind the wheel of one.

I'm just as crazy about riding in the back of a pickup. I've hooted and hollered standing in the bed, four-wheeling from Beale Street in Memphis to logging roads in Michigan, which are like roller-coasters supervised by a sloppy legal department. I remember leaning over the cab with my buddies, giving the Rebel Yell while we were cruising 50 mph on two dirt grooves. I remember all my friends ducking for no apparent reason on one of the more perilous descents, and then noticing that my cowboy hat had fallen off. I remember looking back to see it dangling on the branch behind us, the one that missed decapitating me by about four inches. I remember peeing my pants, just a little bit. I don't do that anymore.

The truck's natural seductiveness transcends economic and generational lines. My father is a 63-year-old pediatrician whose work on juvenile diabetes has been published nationally. He dreams not of the Nobel Prize or a MacArthur Fellowship, but manning the wheel of a K-Whopper down I-94, eating at truck stops and talking on the CB.

My mother does not share my father's vision. When they received a sizable tax return a few years back, my dad thought it the perfect opportunity to appease his appetite and get a Dodge Ram pickup.

Mom thought otherwise, suggesting instead a Steinway grand piano. After a long and heated debate, they compromised by purchasing a baby grand, with a gun rack mounted on the side.

Sadly, the visceral thrill of truck driving is being threatened by the Banana Republic Syndrome: the more rugged a product is, the wimpier its buyers will be.

Pickup trucks are for picking things up. So why are suburbanites who pay someone to pick up their trash buying trucks like mad? Most of the current truck buyers could just as easily fulfill their hauling needs by getting a golf-cart with tire chains.

Instead, they buy the next best thing: a dinky little truck with bucket seats, tape deck, a king cab, short bed, and air conditioning. Then they take it to the grocery store, buy chardonnay and brie, and wax it a lot.

Let us be blunt: a real truck has a functional bed, not a King-Cab in the backseat or a "Camper's Cap" over the bed. A real truck has a bench seat, not buckets. A real truck does not have a CD player, nor vanity plates, because Real Truck drivers don't care what anyone thinks of them. A real truck is high off the ground (can you imagine Clint in a low-rider?), but not so high you have to pole-vault to enter it. A real truck is not called "Big Foot."

One does not go drive-through banking in a real truck, nor to a cocktail party. You never worry about scratching or dinging a real truck (it's no pretty boy), and a real truck, of course, doesn't eat unleaded gas.

You can tell you're in a real truck because you inexplicably start saying things like "Gotta pick up some six-penny ardox nails" and "Just throw 'er in the back," even if the cargo in question is your mother-in-law.

But, above all else, a real truck doesn't dump you for your best friend, like I just know Kim Basinger would.