In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
I Miss Farm Trucks
Apr 06, 2014
I grinned to myself last week when I heard a familiar "clunk-BOOM-rattle-rattle" from outside the shop door. It was a long-time customer slamming the door on his farm truck. The sounds were an unmistakable combination of the clunk of the sprung door banging up over the doorsill, the hollow boom of the old, hollow-sounding 1970's door hitting the doorstop, and the rattle-rattle of the fringe of rusted out metal that laces the lower edge of what's left of the door panel.
There aren't many "real" farm trucks left. Most farmers justifiably took advantage of several years of good grain prices and retired those old pickups they'd been nursing for a couple decades. I'd say the majority of farmers in this area now drive pickups less than five years old, with no visible rust, and a towel or blanket on the driver's seat to keep it "nice" for at least a couple years.
That's far different from the traditional farmer's truck that used to pull into our dealership. The driver's seats were upholstered with duct tape, the radio antennas were loops of baling wire, and their dashboards were memories somewhere under years of receipts, scale tickets, and QuarterPounder wrappers. The passenger side of those trucks came in two versions: one version had mud all over the seat from the farm dog that always rode there, and the floorboard was nearly level with the seat due to layers of feed bags, seed bags, extra coats and coveralls, and at least one or two leaky hydraulic hoses. The second version had a "clean" floorboard, but only because gaping holes in the flooring kept debris from accumulating, and provided a self-cleaning waste receptacle for donut wrappers and other wadded-up wrappers from the local convenience store.
I could go on and on about farm trucks---their exhaust systems, or lack there-of; their paint jobs; the wondrous clutter in their beds and toolboxes. I understand that there comes a time when safety and economy require that even the most beloved farm truck be retired, but farming lost something when everybody started driving XLT Deluxe Cab Premium Super Whiz-Bang pickup trucks.
So I was glad that my customer--who owns a $60,000 pickup decked with every possible accessory the salesman could think of, plus a few the customer added after he got it home--kept "Bertha," his beloved farm truck. Bertha has a special place in his shed, and still helps him check cows on occasion, or make a trip to town, just for old times sake. In his words, "The new truck is nice, but Bertha has personality."
And you know exactly what he means.