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You can't farm without a pickup.... some farms need five

Posted 9/1/2017 5:30am by Kinley Coulter.

truck trÉ™k/ (noun) - a large, heavy motor vehicle used for transporting goods, materials, or troops.

     If someone told me that they were going to confiscate all but three of my earthly possessions and I was still expected to farm with only those three items… I wouldn’t hesitate about what to choose to keep: my tractor, my skid-loader and… last but not least… my faithful, trusty pickup truck. These three, indispensable tools are the 'Atlas’ shoulders' that support all of the rest of our farming operation. When Rebecca asked what I was going to write about in this week’s essay, the eyes of my mind wandered out of the dining room to the somewhat motley row of pickup trucks parked in a neat row outside of the farm house here at Coulter Farms. When we were new to farming, I used to wonder how a farm could need more than one pickup. Now, I know. Having 5 pickups guarantees that one is always running and available for service.

 'The Gray Truck'


     The first truck that would like to acquaint you with is really the only one fit to take out in public. Popularly known as ’The Gray Truck’, (for reasons that should be intuitively obvious to the most casual observer), this mighty pickup is a 2016 Ford F-350 Crew Cab XL with a honkin’ big 6.7L Powerstroke Diesel engine. Doesn’t that sound impressive? Direct Injection? Oh, yeah! Twin intercooled turbos you say? Brrrr...I get goosebumps just thinking about it. This 3 1/2 ton work horse hauls our farm market staff and a 32’ gooseneck trailer loaded with our farm’s produce about 1,000 miles per week to our three farm markets in the DC area. Most of our fellow farm market vendors have a dedicated truck for market. We have decided to use this truck 3 days per week at the farm as a pickup and three days as a farm market truck. It makes us feel a little better about tying up so much money in sheet metal that it gets used every day but Sunday. The trip to DC has to be made with a highly reliable truck, because if we break down on the way to market… we lose a market, which is an unthinkable catastrophe. Breaking down on the way home is a little less painful but it’s no picnic. Stranded on the side of the road, in the dark, as six lanes of traffic roar past, in the sweltering 95 degree heat, with a trailer full of perishable milk, cheese, meat and ice cream? No, Thanks! The rest of our trucks have a variety of jobs that are important but not nearly as ‘mission critical’ as the gray truck’s work.

 'The Green Truck'


     Moving down the truck line from ‘the presentable’ to ‘the, frankly, disgraceful’… the next truck in the line is a well worn 2012 F-250. This truck is pushing 140,000 miles and was retired from the DC run last year after 500 round trips to market. Designated: 'The Green Truck,’ it has well earned its retirement work here at the farm. It might be pulling a 13’ wide hay mower or a gooseneck trailer full of firewood one day and then have 4 heifer calves and some 5 gallon buckets of calf milk in the back of it the next. The family would occasionally like to use this vehicle for personal purposes but the back seat and the bed of the truck are usually chock full of tools and supplies and a variety of debris that might come in handy for farm work but which leave no room for car-seats or groceries.

 'The Blue Truck'
   

     The next truck of note is a 2005 Chevy pickup with 240,000 miles. Known, affectionately as ’The Blue Truck’… this is the nicest truck that is allowed to be driven in pastures. Driving in pastures is a messy and lowly job because the truck will, for sure, come out of the pasture spattered with brown ‘fertility.’ Our rule of thumb is that any truck worth more than $1,000 will not be asked to muck around out with the bovine deposits. Unfortunately, the blue truck is on the wrong side of that thin brown line and is often invited to volunteer for hazardous ‘pasture work.’

 'The New Ranger'

     The last two pickups are both Ford Rangers. 'The New Ranger’ is a 1994 model… older than all of my children, but newer than the ‘old ranger’. 'The Old Ranger' is a 1991. It was wrecked once and later wrecked again… then, it was finally rolled over by a young married man in the Church. He traded it to us, with no title, in exchange for a little bit of backhoe work we did at his house. The windshield is half smashed out of it; the doors mostly close, but not really, because of the twisted frame; and you can see the grass passing by under your feet through the holes in the floorboards. After 10 years of service on the farm, to its credit, the ‘old ranger’ still has 3 of its original 5 transmission gears and mostly ambles around the farm at a modest 10 mph. It’s not much, especially when rain pours in through the vacant half of the windshield… but, it totally beats walking and it can haul a surprising load of fence posts for such a tiny truck.

 'The Old Ranger'

     My son thought it would be only fitting to pay my written respects to those trucks that paid the ultimate price in service to our farm. Every farm has a pickup graveyard. ‘The Black Truck’ was our first farm truck and bravely endured the battle blast of our early farming years. Today, when a tractor is stuck (and why did you need to get that close to the mudhole?), we pull it out with another tractor. Back in the day, we only had one tractor and when it got stuck, we were stuck.  So we got out a heavy chain and asked the black truck to march into the fray… and asked to perform many other life threatening jobs, as well. ‘The Gold Truck’ was our first diesel truck. It died a long, expensive death… after an anguishing year of $10,000 in repairs, we finally abandoned all hope and pushed it into the woods. ’The Nissan Truck’ served a short tenure here… Its frame rusted through, and on the way to the shop to have the frame welded, the engine blew up. Oh well, at least we didn’t waste any money fixing the frame.’The old dump truck’ and ’Tom’s old Truck’ are quietly watching the farm's seasons come and go from their own, protected, quiet vantage point in the woods. It’s hard to walk past these old friends, in their humble, neglected resting place and not stealthily pat them on the fender as I go past… fondly remembering their long, faithful service to me.