hold these truths"
"Going once! Going twice! Sold to
the man in the green shirt for $200!"
As I was driven down the auction-block ramp I had
a good feeling about the heavy-set man named Wylie
who now owned me. I soon discovered my new
home was located in the shadows of Cape Canaveral
where the nation's space program, still five years
away from landing a man on the Moon, was creating
a mighty economic boom throughout central Florida.
Life consisted primarily of transporting Wylie to
his job at the Kennedy Space Center. I had
no complaints -- he drove me with care and
meticulously attended to my every mechanical need.
The boredom of the workweek commute was offset by
Wylie's one true passion -- auctions and flea
markets. He was a skilled bidder and rarely
did a weekend go by that I didn't carry a load of
"junk" home. And then the real fun
would begin as we searched for "little
treasures" amongst others' discards. A
week later we'd be off to the flea market again,
this time to offer our newly discovered treasures
"Bang!" My right front tire blew.
We swerved off the road, coming to rest in a
culvert. Neither Wylie nor I were hurt but
our load was strewn all about us. After
picking up and re-packing everything, we
eventually reached home. As Wylie looked
through the broken items I heard him utter in a
very knowing tone, "Well, well . . . what
have we got here?" One of the items we
had purchased was a large, ornate picture frame.
It had cost all of fifty cents and Wylie had
thought that if he were lucky he might get as much
as five dollars for it at the flea market. The frame was now shattered but Wylie had noticed
parchment paper with old style script now exposed
behind the frame's faded painting. Hidden for
nearly two hundred years was an original copy of
the first printing of the Declaration of
Independence! Only two dozen were known to
have survived. Instantly a wealthy man,
Wylie and I continued for several more years to go
to auctions and flea markets together. Few
people knew the story of his good fortune, and
that's the way we both preferred it. Wylie
could have bought a dozen shiny new pickups with
all the latest creature comforts, but he still
My third home was with a farming couple.
John and his wife Nancy lived on acreage outside a
small town in western Georgia. Sooner or
later in its life nearly every pickup truck is
destined to serve a tour of duty on a farm.
My time had come and soon I was carrying all
manner of "farm things". John and
Nancy were a very social couple. One of the
things we most enjoyed was visiting with our
neighbors. One in particular was our
favorite. He always greeted us with a broad
toothy grin and often as not he would say, "I
like your truck, but when are you going to get a
back bumper for it? One of these days you'll
need a push-start and you won't be able to do
Christmas Day 1976 was a Christmas I will never
forget. As John, Nancy and I traveled the
countryside exchanging Yuletide greetings, we
stopped to visit our favorite neighbor.
Suddenly I realized he was standing behind me with
a tape measure. "I've decided on your
Christmas present," he said. "I've got a
piece of wood that's just the right length, so I'm
going to make you a bumper in my workshop."
Knowing he had been away much of the year and was
about to start a challenging new job up North,
John protested that our neighbor was far too busy.
"On the contrary," he responded.
"Working with wood is relaxing. When I
retire maybe I'll be a carpenter and build houses.
But that's a ways off and I've got a lot of things
to accomplish before then. Come by my
workshop tomorrow and your new bumper will be
The next afternoon my new bumper was mounted.
After twenty-plus years of waiting I finally had a
back bumper -- but not just any bumper. You
see, the town we lived next to was named Plains,
we and the neighboring farms all raised peanuts,
and the man with the toothy grin liked to be
called "Jimmy". If you look at my
bumper carefully you can still see the initials
"J.C." carved in the corner. Over the
years many a foot has rested on that bumper -- and
I've had a few push-starts too. To everyone
else it's just a piece of wood. To me it's a
sacred treasure -- made especially for me by
President-elect Jimmy Carter.
Nearly thirty years had now passed and I found
myself whirling in what seemed like an endless
downward spiral. I was bought and sold far
more frequently now. Although still regarded
as handsome in design, the condition of my body
had deteriorated badly. People purchased me
strictly on the reputation of my unfailing
Flathead V-8. I had never known what work
really was before. I found myself migrating
endlessly around the country. In Ohio I
transported heavy machine parts which pushed my
cargo bed nearly to the pavement. In New
Jersey I carried freshly caught fish from pier to
market. And in Utah I worked on a cattle
ranch, hauling everything from bales of hay to
manure. Work was my only existence.
One owner even erased my one last bit of pride --
my pretty orangish-red color -- when he painted me
a very non-descript off-white.
Humiliation was everywhere, but never so much as
during the two years I spent in North Dakota.
My owner was in fact another doctor, but life was
much different this time. I was used mainly
to haul trash and do all the "dirty
work". Ironically this doctor too had a
three-car heated garage, but it was not mine to
inhabit. Less than ten feet from where I was
parked, its warmth seemed a lifetime and a world
away. During the winter I was left outside
without even so much as a canvas cover to protect
me from the relentless snowdrifts that often lay
piled atop me for months on end. To make
things worse, one of the vehicles housed in that
garage was a shiny young Ford Ranger. The
arrogance that "pint-size" oozed when it
passed by me was unbearable. There was not
even a hint of respect for a family elder, nor was
there any recognition of what being a real truck
is all about.
More than once I found myself asking why that
Alaskan earthquake had so cruelly taken Doctor Dan
and shattered my life. Oh how I longed for
my doctor, or to go to the flea market with Wylie,
or to see the toothy grin of that neighboring
peanut farmer. But this would never be.
I had resigned myself to simply exist, endure the
drudgery and hope that I might soon know a
A Twist of Fate
The downward momentum accelerated.
Eventually I found myself on the West Coast and
living in what could only be described as the
slummiest of one of Los Angeles' most badly decayed
neighborhoods. My already dented, scratched
and heavily oxidized paint now suffered the final
indignity -- I became a billboard for graffiti.
I found myself an unwilling partner in all types
of illicit activities, including several armed
robberies and multiple drug deals. It was
almost a blessing when, after over 200,000 miles
of unfailing service, my trusty V-8 threw a rod.
I was parked in a partially collapsed garage. In
time the garage was boarded up and I was forgotten
No light entered my lonely world, and mercifully
my life appeared to finally be drawing to a close.
I was now nothing more than a dust-caked home for
all manner of rodents. I had grown oblivious
to their continual gnawing of my upholstery.
Weeks turned into months turned into years.
Time ceased to exist in my world of near total
darkness. And then without warning, in a
twist of fate too bizarre to comprehend, the same
force that had taken away my comfortable life with
Doctor Dan thirty years earlier became the
catalyst for my rebirth.
On January 17, 1994, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake
rocked the greater Los Angeles area.
Tragically sixty-one people lost their lives, and
yet ironically I reclaimed mine. As I lay
beneath the debris of the fallen garage which had
obscured me from daylight for so many years, I
heard a voice say, "Hey, isn't that a '53
Ford pickup over there under all that wood?"
The voice continued, "I've been looking for
one of these. Would this make a great beach
Cruiser or what!" "Right on,"
another voice agreed. "It's abandoned.
Go for it, Eric!" The friendly
soft-spoken voice belonged to Eric, a young Civil
Defense volunteer who was helping with efforts to
locate and rescue earthquake victims. As he
departed he said, "I'll be back for you in a
few days. Count on it." I was
petrified. Dare I believe that in such a
surreal twist of fate, I was the one that he would
Soon my rescue was complete and I found myself at
my new home with Eric. A small bungalow, one
could see the trappings of a surfer's life
everywhere. Posters capturing the grandeur of
Oahu's thirty-foot North Shore winter waves and of
surfers traversing the Bonzai Pipeline decorated
his garage walls. Eric set about repairing
my broken rod and rebuilding much of the rest of
my engine. When he turned the ignition, my engine
purred -- and my heart purred too. "I haven't
got the money to make you look all pretty and
nice," he said, "but you can be sure I
will take good care of you." And then
he added, "You know, my grandfather had '53
Ford pickup just like you, except that it was red.
He was a doctor until he was killed in the Great
Alaskan Earthquake before I was even born."
I don't know for a fact -- and a hardened pickup
like myself would never admit it -- but I suspect
if one had looked closely one might have seen a
teardrop or two softly falling from my eyes.
If only he could share the secret I now knew.
"Pack your bags. We're going to
Hawaii!" I couldn't believe the words.
Eric had landed a job shaping surfboards in
Haleiwa, an historic town on Oahu's North Shore.
"Shipping a pickup to Hawaii ain't exactly
cheap," Eric added. "But I
wouldn't think of going to Paradise without
you." And so yet another chapter of my
life began. Weekdays were marked by early
morning trips to either Waimea Bay or Sunset
Beach. Following a day of labor at the
surfboard shop, we often made by a similar trip
back to the Waimea or Sunset after work. On the
weekends it was off to wherever the waves were
breaking. From the North Shore to the
leeward coast, we could honestly call every beach
on the island our home.
Life on the North Shore was wonderful, but it was
not all play. Eric still expected me to earn
my keep. However considering all the
disgusting things I had hauled in my life,
transporting surf equipment could hardly be
described as work. Longboards, shortboards,
windsurfing boards, kite-surfing boards,
skimboards, bodyboards, and believe it or not,
even a snowboard or two -- I carried them all.
My life was one of unparalleled bliss.
Life couldn't get any better -- or so I thought.
"How's Maui sound to you?" Within a week
of asking the question, Eric had placed me on an
inter-island barge headed for the Valley Isle.
He had been invited by a friend to join in
cultivating a small produce farm near the tiny
village of Hana, located on Maui's remote east
end. There Eric and his friend raise taro,
bananas, papaya and a variety of tropical flowers.
Although populated with tourists by day, Hana's
evenings offer a soothing tranquility matched by
few places on Earth. But as sublime as
"Heavenly Hana" is, Eric and I live for
Friday mornings. Loaded with vegetables,
fruit and protea, we head for Central Maui before
the crack of dawn. By early afternoon Eric
and I have completed our produce deliveries and
all that remains in my cargo bed are Eric's shiny
waxed surfboards. The weekend is ours!
Sometimes there's a swell on Maui's South Shore
and we're off to Wailea or Makena Beach.
Other times we head for Lahaina or Kaanapali.
And still other times we go to Kanaha Beach in
Kahului to watch the latest craze in surfing --
kite surfing. But without a doubt our
favorite spot is Hookipa Beach located just beyond
the little plantation town of Paia on Maui's
magnificent windward coast. Board surfers
and wind surfers alike are drawn from around the
planet as they seek the chance to ride Hookipa's
near perfect waves.
These are truly the Golden Years. As my
beloved surfer navigates the curls I wait
contentedly. I feel the soft sand on my
tires and the bright tropical sun brings me
warmth. I breathe the salt air deeply and I
care little that it continues to take its
never-ending toll on my aging skin. Beauty
truly is more than skin deep, and my heart is
content as never before. "Neat
truck!" I hear beach passersby exclaim.
"Man, I wish I could find one of these"
is the typical response. Neat truck.
It's been nearly a half-century since I first
heard those words -- an intriguing half-century.
But now here on the beach, waiting patiently for
my surfer, it has all been worth it. Two
surfboards in my cargo bed and another resting
against my fender -- Heaven is mine.
The End --
Cruiser Art 1999-2013
(Note: This Auto Biography is included with each
Ford Pickup print)