I go back to my alma mater for Homecoming every couple-three years. I had a great, life-building experience at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, an engineering school on the outskirts of Terre Haute, Indiana, and I like to visit and remember. I usually park in the student lot next to my old dorm, in part because I like its location, but also because I like to see what the kids are driving these days.
This is always the highlight of Homecoming weekend: the bonfire on Friday night. It’s enormous. The school has to file an environmental-impact statement on it with the EPA, and contact the Terre Haute airport so landing planes can be rerouted around it. When it lights, it gets hot fast, pushing the crowd back. If it rains, even a downpour, the heat evaporates the raindrops well overhead for a 100-yard radius.
Normally I head home after the bonfire, my sons sleeping in the back seat. But my girlfriend’s son is a freshman in high school this year, and is already thinking about college. So we got a hotel room and rose the next morning so I could show him the campus in daylight. He’s seen his older brother’s Indiana University experience; I wanted him to see what the small-school experience might be like. We came upon this truck first thing.
Here’s an unusual shot: me at work, photographing a curbside classic. My girlfriend brought her DSLR along for the weekend. And then immediately after shooting that shot, my camera’s battery died, and I borrowed Margaret’s camera to finish the shoot. But this gives a pretty good idea of what engineering students drive today: nicer, newer cars than mine, in many cases. Check out especially that WRX next to the truck!
But back to this truck: it means business. During my 1970s kidhood, when I visited my grandparents in rural southwestern Michigan, trucks like this tended to stay on or around the farms. The row of roof-mounted lights were always a sign that this truck worked for a living. The farmers usually had an F-150 with some fancy-dancy trim – maybe a little woodgrain Di-Noc on the tailgate and a chrome side strip, maybe an extravagant AM-FM radio in the dash – for taking the wife into town for Saturday dinner at the Beef and Brew.
From afar, I figured that this belonged to someone who lived nearby, because any drive of more than an hour in this thing has got to be punishing. But the license plates and the mud flaps bear witness: someone drove this all the way from Montana. That’s a nearly 24-hour trip to Terre Haute! And oh my goodness, the gas this thing had to guzzle. I’ll bet the trip’s fuel costs rivaled Rose-Hulman’s shockingly steep tuition — $41,865 this year. Ok, maybe not, but the drive still had to put a serious dent in the wallet. The frequent fuel stops were probably a blessing for the driver’s saddle-sore bottom.
Zooming in on some of the details, it’s apparent that this truck started its life in Minnesota. I have to tip my hat to the owner(s) for keeping this truck alive and whole for 45 years in big snow country.
Not that this is a showroom-fresh creampuff. That’s some well-earned patina right there. When it comes to patina, I can normally take it or leave it; what really blows my skirt up is that lightly-driven classic that shows the slightest signs of use but is all original. But this truck’s body integrity is impressive, and I bow deeply to it.
Black vinyl seats, manual transmission, four-wheel drive. Now that, my friends, is a truck that will put hair on your chest.