Rendered Fat Content


" … fifteen hundred pounds hauling a bedload of air and leaves blown in there late last autumn."

I possess no more than glancing knowledge of PickEmUp trucks. For me, they serve as an annoying presence on the road. They goad me from behind before leaving me in their dust and coal smoke. I've borrowed my share from brothers-in-law to haul the odd load of yard prunings or to move a few bed-fulls of grape skin mulch from a winery, but always with an alien's eye, the driver's seat too impossibly high a perch. The steering wheel positioned inconveniently right between my eye and the windshield, a patina of dust and grit priming dashboard and jockey box. I'd crawl between destinations feeling as though I was piloting The Queen Mary through narrow channels, the turning radius of a mile-long coal train, gun rack in the back window.

These ungainly vehicles have become an unlikely symbol of masculinity.
A man and his PickEmUp seems as iconic as a boy and his dog. They seem to be everything a vehicle should not be: fuel inefficient, inconvenient to park, mostly defined by their wasted space. They usually haul loads of air and leaves blown into the back bed late last autumn. Farmers and ranchers couldn't get by without 'em. The typical suburbanite needs one about as much as they need gills to breathe, but there they seethe in great and growing numbers, thumbing their noses at necessity. They seem more vanity than vehicle, a statement of adolescent arrogance in city traffic. "Take that!," they seem to say, disqualifying their own proclamation.

Drive one and you might begin to understand why their drivers seem incapable of observing speed limits. From inside the cab, the rest of traffic might just as well be a hundred miles distant. One sees the tops of the surrounding cars. They idle at a steady ten miles per hour over any speed limit and require constant vigilance and an insistent foot on the brake to rein in their feral intent. Unattenuated, they move through rather than with traffic, and few drivers seem capable of maintaining the necessary attenuating attention for long. They are here, but mostly gone already, heading who knows where. They scare me. Especially when I'm behind the wheel.

I've borrowed one this week to haul supplies as I work on the outside of the old house. I feel every bit the rube behind the wheel. I clearly do not know that I do not really know how little I understand about operating a PickEmUp. When I step down out of the cab into the Safeway parking lot, shoppers seem to sneak a peek to see what sort of shit I'm tracking around on my shoes and PickEmUp drivers glance at me as if I might be a member of their fraternity, quickly concluding that I'm not as I stumble the remaining distance down onto the asphalt like an inept skydiver bungling his landing. I've parked in the far distant periphery of the lot, a defense against having to back out of a tight spot. The Muse insists that they're just like driving a grain truck, a vehicle in which she first learned how to drive back on the family farm. I call her The Grain Truck Granny when she's driving the beast, peeking up through the steering wheel and confidently threading needles with the impossibly wide body. I creep along like a pledge unlikely to make the cut for selection into the fraternity, which is just fine with me.

I apologized to my son-in-law for calling his PickEmUp a piece of shit, a description which generally goes without saying when speaking of PickEmUps. I deeply appreciate his naive willingness to loan me the beast, the back quarter of which overhangs the diagonal parking space it currently inhabits on Main Street. He confided that this one features the same engine as a Corvette, which might be another way of saying that Corvettes have a truck engine under the hood. The PickEmUp's responsive after a fashion, though I seem so impossibly distant from the traffic flow and the road that I would probably be the very last person to ever know. It's three quarters of a ton, fifteen hundred pounds hauling a bedload of air and leaves blown in there late last autumn.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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