I bought the wrong truck.
Yeah, yeah, it looks tough with that big chrome grill and high off the ground, high lift, tough guy, "my truck is bigger than your truck" attitude. It’s the big bright white one with the 5.7 liter hemi, 4 wheel drive and a crew cab for all those red neck heavily armed NFL linemen that hang with me. Stand back. It’s a 2007 Dodge 1500 Ram Big Horn, with Big Wheels and a suspension lift kit so you got to stretch to reach the handle to haul yourself up into the cab way high off the ground. Later, after I buy it, I find out it’s about as tough as a marshmallow.
The Ram looks like don’t worry about the safe, this mother can haul the bank. Truth is, it can’t haul the safe. If I’d have done the math, I’d have known that. Actually they do the math for you. The plate inside the door says “seating capacity 6.” OK, me and the NY Giants defensive line. The plate goes on to say that “combined weight of occupants and cargo never to exceed 1232 lbs.”
Never? Say the average weight of the New York Giants defensive lineman is 300 lbs. I know it’s more than that and you’ve probably guessed that the Giants defensive line is not hanging with me in Montana. Never mind. So the total weight of us big hard men in the crew cab is 1725. I weigh 225 and if I get out of the truck it won’t be enough. Two of those linemen have to get out and walk before I can put a toothpick in the bed of this pickup truck.
We are in the baroque age of trucks. Your average American pickup now looks like a chrome barn on wheels, way bigger, higher off the road that it needs to be. One day some truck maker with more imagination and a smaller piece of the market than Ford, Chevy or Dodge, will risk a lighter, lower, smaller truck with way better aerodynamics that will get much better mileage, haul more and haul ass. But until then, this puffed up mask of American Male Macho whines, “don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me. Don’t put that big ol’ camper on my back or my wheels will fall off.”
You mean a half ton truck will only carry a half ton? Who knew?
In 1939 my Uncle John Logan (pic on the right) rode, pushed, carried, floated and hauled a little BSA 250 cc motorcycle from Fairbanks Alaska before there was a road. His partner from the trip was a 57 year old Alaska Sourdough named Slim Williams. Given an hour, an axe and a 8x10 foot square of canvas he could build a boat with that axe, shaping saplings into a boat frame and small trees into oars. And the boat would float him and the motorcycle across a two mile wide river. Uncle John shot 16 mm. color film of Slim doing just that in nowhere Yukon.
The film and motorcycle are safe inside the museum of Alaska in Anchorage. But I have the big prize. I have Uncle John’s diary, the story of his great adventure written in pencil night by night by the campfire. It’s a great story but it needs some local color, a little more detail the publisher says. So I am going to retrace John’s route, and the marshmallow is my weapon of choice.
Plus of course, a camper. I know, if I were a real hard ass, I’d do it by motorcycle. But at an age where most men with any remaining sense are creeping into rest homes and learning how to cheat at poker, I am not going to endure unnecessary hardship. Logan did that trip when he was 25. His partner Slim Williams, was 57 with forty years of living in the wild Alaska territory, running a 300 mile trapline in the artic winter, and driving a dogsled a thousand miles north to live with the Eskimos. In 1933 Slim drove his dog team all the way from Alaska to Seattle, put model T Ford wheels on his sled and drove his part-wolf dogs and sled on to Chicago for the World’s Fair. Where Eleanor Roosevelt invited him to the White House. So he drove his team to the White House where he made the case for a road to Alaska to President Roosevelt.
I’ve got to go to Alaska to research this story and I am going to take more than a canvas and an axe. I don’t care what the plate says. The marshmallow is going to carry a camper on its back.