I know it’s silly. It’s an inanimate object lacking any feelings or emotions. It’s a machine; a tool. Still, parting with my old truck was hard. I had it for nearly 15 years and we traveled almost 230,000 miles together. I bought the Tundra, what I call a Baby Tundra since the newer ones are much bigger, with only 15,000 miles on it.
I’m a bit shy of 5 feet tall and it was the first big truck that fit — where my short legs reached the pedals comfortably. I added a topper on the back and had my “house on wheels” for my work as a wildlife biologist.
Since Muggle, my Australian shepherd, is just more than 13 years old, my truck adventures were mostly also Muggle adventures. One of my early puppy photos is Muggle lounging under the truck to escape the heat of the afternoon.
To have a little extra space for Muggle, who, at 75 pounds, is very large for his breed, I added a little tent extension that would bungie cord to the back of the truck, encasing the topper back panel and the truck tailgate. Not only did it give just a bit more space, but it also allowed for air flow while keeping the bugs out. I added a ramp to make it easier for both dog and human to get into the tent/topper combo.
When he was just a couple years old, Muggle hopped into the cab of the truck and let out a yelp. He landed wrong and it must have hurt his leg. From that time on, he hated the truck. The downside to having a smart dog is that he also has a good memory and his distrust of that truck persists to this day. He is fine with getting into my car; he only sees the truck as his enemy and it’s only the cab since he is fine with going up the ramp when camping.
If we were hiking and he realized we were almost at the truck, he’d take off and do a really good game of keep-away where he’d stay just out of my reach. No amount of coaxing or scolding would get him to jump into the truck or come close enough for me to grab him. It is funny now in hindsight, but he was very exasperating at the time.
I realized pretty quickly that I’d have to get him on leash before he knew we were headed for the truck.
To this day, that is the only way to get him into the cab of the truck. Now, though, he lacks the ability to jump that high so the only way to get him in the truck is to pick him up. That’s one reason why Muggle is retired from fieldwork. He now enjoys leisurely walks in the neighborhood but I sure miss having him along with me out in the field.
I’ve sung the stuck truck blues a few times in that truck. I recall being pulled out of the muck twice but there likely were a few more times.
More recently, just this past winter I sung the stuck truck blues due to snow. I attempted to drive through the borrow ditch, a distance of only about 12 feet, to get to the prairie on the other side where the snow was only a couple inches deep. It would be easy cruising if I could just get through the hard-packed snow in the ditch. I almost made it, too, but got high-centered about 6 inches shy of the other side.
In the two hours it took to dig under the truck to get enough clearance to move again, not a single vehicle passed on the adjacent gravel county road. On the plus side, I managed to get through to the prairie and that became my access point — and also used by the rancher — for the rest of the spring until the actual access route cleared.
The topper had a bit of a rise on the back which allowed me to load a bicycle upright and lean it against the bed platform. I use the bike in lieu of an ATV. I had storage bins under the platform for gear and supplies. It was a cozy set-up. In some particularly busy field seasons, which typically go from early April through August, I almost spend more nights in the back of my truck than I do at home. While it wasn’t the Ritz, I was always plenty comfortable thanks to the Memory Foam mattress I added a few years ago.
The comfort level was strained when doing winter work and temperatures dropped a good bit below zero. My ancient Coleman heater made it reasonably comfortable but camping when it gets dark by 4:30 p.m. and not light again until 7 a.m. the next day, made for a very long night.
I took the truck on our final trip together just before Thanksgiving. Initially about 3 inches of snow blanketed the ground and then, when that melted, it was a mud fest. Conditions were more like a spring thaw than late November. I was glad to have the old truck, though, since I’d lament getting the new one so muddy on its first outing. Such field conditions are typical and I’m sure the new wheels will go through plenty of muck. Here’s hoping I get another 15 years out of the new one.
Amber Travsky earned master’s degrees in wildlife biology and exercise physiology from the University of Wyoming. She runs her own environmental consulting company, as well as a martial arts school. She authored “Mountain Biking Wyoming” and “Mountain Biking Jackson Hole,” both published by Falcon Books. She is the tour director and founder of the Tour de Wyoming bicycle tour, which crosses the state every July.