The pickup deserves its own praise on National Agriculture Day

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By Linda Ireland

March 20 is the first day of spring, and it's also National Agriculture Day.

And that means it's an appropriate time to salute our local farmers.

I could write volumes about tobacco quotas and foreign imports and the need to buy American, and how our farmers are struggling to keep the rest of us fat and prosperous.

But I'm not going to do that.

I've decided it's time another icon of American self-reliance and rural independence received some appreciation. And I don't think farmers will mind at all.

It's something near and dear to each and every one of them.

It's the pickup.

The pickup truck - indispensable on the farm and romanticized on the open road - has been glorified in country songs, "There's something women like about a pickup man," and "I love little baby ducks, old pickup trucks, slow movin' trains and rain."

It's the first, and true love, of many men, despite its faults.

For instance, it will never be known for its blinding speed, great gas mileage or maneuverability.

Pickups are also the bane of short people who suffer indignities just to climb into the cab, and then can't see over the steering wheel when they get there. For years, my tiny mother placed cushions behind her back so she could reach the steering wheel in Dad's old Chevy. She couldn't pull the seat forward because Dad had so much gear stowed behind it.

As pickups get older, they get contrary, balking on cold mornings and refusing to shift gears. For some strange reason, this endears them to their owners. About this time, the pickup will be named. Something cute. Like Tallulah or Tinkerbell.

At that point, it's no longer "just a truck."

One of the first signs that a pickup has turned into something more than just a hauling machine is its refusal to start for anyone except the owner.

"There's a little trick to starting her," the owner will say. This includes turning the key to the appropriate angle and jiggling it, tapping the gas pedal exactly eight times (no more, no less), and intoning the magic words, "Comeonbabycomeonbabycomeon."

Oddly enough, that is also one of the reasons that farm trucks are seldom stolen, regardless of where they are parked, even when the keys are left in the ignition.

A few other reasons are:

- They have about 20 miles before they overheat, break down or run out of gas.

- Your top speed is 45 mph.

- There is always a little trick to getting the door open.

- It is difficult to make a quick getaway with all the fence tools, grease rags, ropes, chains, boots and loose papers in the cab. (Not to mention all the receipts and maps that fall on your head when the visor is pulled down.)

- The gearshift is a pair of vise grips.

- Thieves don't dare mess with the mean-looking German shepherd in the truck bed.

- The radio is always stuck on a country station. Car thieves hate that. But none of that matters to the truck's owner.

Even when it is held together with prayer, primer and duct tape, when the gas cap is replaced with a rag, and when the field mice start nesting in the glove box, the pickup is a thing of timeless beauty.

And the next time you're turning that ignition key and praying for old Tinkerbell to start, you tell her I said that.

I hope it helps.

-Linda Ireland is editor of The LaRue County Herald News, Hodgenville.