What's Bugging You?
The creepy-crawlies around — and sometimes on — us

Breaking Away
Todd Anderson keeps Paralympics cyclists rolling

Tugging at Red Sleeve
In the footsteps of Apache chief Mangas Coloradas

Tales of the City
Las Cruces Oral History group is the talk of the town

Living Through the Droughts
Lessons from a one-eyed cowboy

A Spiritual Home in Nature
Sharman Russell's new book about pantheism

A Sense of Place
Guggenheim-winning photographer David Taylor

Columns and Departments
Editor's Note
Desert Diary

High Desert Humane Society
Tim McAndrews
Keith Walden
Top 10

Business Exposure
Celestial Cycles
The Starry Dome
Southwest Gardener
Ramblin' Outdoors
40 Days & 40 Nights
Duck Races
Guides to Go
Henry Lightcap's Journal
Continental Divide

Special Section
Arts Exposure

Joseph Wade
Arts News
Gallery Guide

Body, Mind & Spirit
Anger is Your Friend

Red or Green
Dining Guide
Café at the Kumquat
Table Talk

About the cover

  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e    August 2008


Farewell, Old Friend

Ol' White drives off into the sunset.

An era closed in June: I bade goodbye to a dear old friend and companion — my pickup, Ol' White. Had him for 23 years.

What is it with country-men and their trucks? And it's not just trucks; we men seem to get attached to everything we own. We tend to give things names, and then it's only a matter of time until the "thing" takes on a perceived personality. That was certainly true of my truck!

Remember, Davy Crockett had a long rifle muzzleloader that he fondly called Old Betsy.

My truck didn't always have a name. It was too new for the first 10 years or so and we hadn't experienced enough life together yet. But along about 1996, when I started writing columns for coin, I decided to name him.

A friend of mine had a beat-to-hell, old white 4x4 Ford pickup that he called "Old White," and when he sold the dilapidated, worn-out truck, I decide the name needed to go on. So I started calling my Ford "Ol' White," dropping the "d."

By that time the truck had a myriad of surface scratches, a dent on the roof from a dust devil, and just a slight patina of rust here and there. All that added up to jump-start the truck's personality.

And if nothing else, Ol' White had personality: He was tenacious, loyal, sturdy, unfailing, reliable, uncompromising and completely trustworthy, to name just his more important traits. In the 23 years that we rode together he never once let me sit. Oh, there was the battery incident, but it wasn't the original battery so it doesn't count; more on that later.

I remember that day in 1985, driving past the Ford dealership in my 10-year-old Dodge van that at the time constituted my "huntin' wheels," and spying those 10 identical 4x4 Ford F-150 pickups all lined up together in a row. I pulled over for a look-see.

It turned out that they were indeed all identical, except for the colors both inside and out. I immediately fell in love with the black one with fire-engine-red interior. Right then and there I got a bad case of wantitis, and headed in to see a salesman. From there it was home to convince the missus, which was no easy chore!

After her approval, I prayed for a week for God's okay and guidance, then it was back to see what could be done — only to be mortified that just three trucks remained and none were black! There was a sky-blue one, a bright red one and an ugly white job. The salesman was providentially tied up for about the next 30 minutes, so I was left standing there pondering which to take. While praying fervently for the Lord's will to be done, I wished in my heart for Him to give the go-ahead for the red truck.

"Which one will be best for me?" I remember praying, and every time the answer seemed to come back, "The white one." I pleaded, "But Lord, it is ugly and I don't like white! Why not the red one?" But the answer in the deep, dark recesses of my mind was always the same: Take the white one.

The rest is history. Of course, I didn't know back then that I would be moving to New Mexico within the next three years. Though boring, white is the perfect desert color: it doesn't fade or blister from the hot, bright sun; it hides dirt and scratches well; it hides blemishes and reflects the heat and sunlight. Black would have been just the opposite and red would blister and fade into oblivion! Whew! I dodged a bullet back then!

Space doesn't permit me to share all of our adventures together, but permit me to share just two with you. The first is about the .35-caliber bullet hole over the right door window up in the roof. I was just back from a day of bear hunting and it was dark out. I stuck the rifle into the cab so that I could see what I was doing, and let the safety off so that I could unload the cartridges. BLAM! The gun went off and I was shocked and bewildered. What had happened? I didn't remember my finger being on the trigger.

I expected to see either my windshield or door window blown to smithereens, but it wasn't so. Careful probing on the outside of the roof revealed a huge hole in the roof, however, and a small hole in the interior. The former was easily fixed, but the interior hole was left as a constant reminder to never, ever let my guard down and certainly never unload a gun inside a vehicle!

As it turned out, the rifle's cocking piece was badly worn. When I left the safety off, it allowed the firing pin to fall on its own.

Another time in the early spring, I was parking the truck on a lonely spot far from the highway. It was before dawn and cold, blowing and snowing. An inner voice suddenly said, "Go back to the highway!" Over the years I've learned to heed that voice as the still small, voice of the Lord that the Good Book talks so much about, so I started up Ol' White and back we went. I figured maybe I was avoiding a windblown tree that would have blocked my path out later on.

Parking within a hundred yards of the pavement, I hiked on in to turkey hunt. I didn't get back to Ol' White until 11 a.m., whereupon I endeavored to start the engine, only to find the battery was completely dead; it wouldn't do anything!

If I had parked at my original spot, I'd have had a long, cold walk out. Instead, as I stepped on the highway a truck pulled up and inside were two out-of-staters who readily agreed to use my cables to jump start us (me and Ol' White). The engine shakily rumbled to life and we headed on to town, although we bucked and lurched the whole way. My mechanic declared that the battery had a dead-short and it was a miracle it had ever jump-started! We readily agreed that it was the Lord's angels who had got me going.

I sold Ol' White in June; I had finally bought a new truck three weeks earlier. I just got old and tired of the manual shifting and the annoying rattle or two. Besides, even though the old fella had never let me down, I had become leery of taking him out of town on a long trip — Murphy's Law, ya know, along with that other law of averages.

It was a hard parting. Next to their dawgs, men's trucks are their most prized and beloved possession!

When the new buyer came to take Ol' White to his new home, the guy quietly stated, "This is the nicest pickup I have ever owned."

Ol' White is gone, but all of those good and bad memories will be forever with me.

As always, keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may the Forever God bless you too!

Larry Lightner writes Ramblin' Outdoors
exclusively for Desert Exposure.


Return to Top of Page