Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ode to a Farm Truck

Many folks around here have a "farm truck".  As in our case, this is often a truck that used to see "road duty" but at some point just too many things start to go wrong to make it road worthy so it gets relegated to perform various hauling chores on the farm.

Our farm truck is a 1984  4-wheel-drive Toyota.  We purchased it about 15 minutes after we moved to Spencer.  In March.  During a flooding rain.  Nobody with any intelligence moves to Island Run in Roane County in March except us!  Access from the east is a river ford.  Access to our place from the west is a steep and often muddy county road.  Prior to our move from suburban Lexington, we thought it would be a grand idea to purchase a truck so we would have a good vehicle for our new life in WV.  We located a imposing beast of an old truck that we lovingly named "Bubba".  It was an 1982 one-ton 4x4 Chevy truck with dual rear wheels. We parked Bubb in front of our house and worked on him a bit getting ready for our big move.  Well, suffice it to say, Bubba lost his mojo, mostly related to the transfer case and other associated parts that are integral to having 4 wheel drive, during the first attempt at climbing the steep muddy hill on our county road on moving day.  We realized to our horror that we would be basically stranded with no vehicle access once Don's son went back to South Carolina in his big NEW truck.  His dramatic rescue of our move is a story for another day.

Anyway, we trotted down to one of the few car dealers in the area and found a 12 year-old Toyota truck on the used lot.  The dealer, after being informed that if we couldn't try out that truck for the weekend we'd be sleeping in his showroom until Monday morning, happily let us try out the truck for as long as we wanted to make sure it would suit our needs.  Well, that was 16 years ago and the truck, now 28 years old still graces our yard and it's not even up on blocks.

Our truck is not without issues however.  Shortly after we purchased it, we took it to a local guy to reinforce the frame where it had rusted through in several places.  A common problem in that era Toyota apparently, since he had a pretty thriving business doing those repairs.  The last registration sticker is from 2004 which closely correlates to the last oil change.  We just add a bit of oil here and there along the way.  We repaired numerous rust holes in the rear fenders (and passed inspection) by riviting aluminum flashing over the holes.  Once spray painted with near matching paint it looked pretty good.  Now, years later, both fenders flap in the breeze.  No worries either about the annoying problem of the truck bed filling up with water since it has numerous gaping drain holes.  Rubber mats from the good ol' rubber plant here in Spencer keep larger things from falling out the bottom.  There is no (functioning) muffler and the clutch and brakes pedals have to be pumped prior to application, requiring a bit of advanced planning to accomplish some basic driving tasks like shifting gears or stopping... that is once you get it started.

I've considered writing a checklist for starting this truck much like pilots do.  The procedure is as follows:
1. Open the door to see if the key buzzer makes a sound indicating there is maybe enough juice to turn over the engine.
2.  Find spouse since this is a two-person operation. Station one person in the drivers seat.
3.  Find can of starting fluid rolling around behind the seat. (Maybe this should be step 2).
4.  Pump the clutch until there is adequate pressure so that the truck can be put into neutral.
5. Undo hood latch.
6.  The ground crew removes the air-filter cover, sprays starting fluid into carburetor, replaces the air cleaner cover, runs for cover and yells "OKAY hit it".
7. Truck crew turns the key and if it doesn't start, repeats step 6. If it starts, proceed to step 8.  If clicking sound is heard, proceed to step 11.
8.  Pump gas pedal furiously, hoping all the while that someone actually remembered to put a bit of gas in the tank.
9.  If it starts up, signal driver to exit the cab as quickly as possible to escape the cloud of oily smoke until you're ready to drive away.
10.  Close hood.

If clicking sounds are heard, start here:
11. Get out battery charger.
12. Plan something else for the next few hours and remember to plan ahead next time.

Despite it's obvious shortcomings, our old Toyota sees a fair amount of use. It will probably will serve us well until one day after we turn off the key, it dies in its sleep.  It is sad to think that one day we will never hear it's familiar starting rumble or see it enveloped in a cloud of smoke again.

Apparently cats LOVE trucks too!


  1. This is all more than I can comprehend because I can barely drive a stick shift. Will this truck make it to your old house?

  2. It travels "the run" and actually does fine once it is started. You just have to plan ahead for a few operations. We try to use it or our ATV's for visiting the girls. You're welcome to take a ride anytime :-} Aunt Martha got a farm tour in it a few years ago.