The Black Truck

by Eric Roper

1955: Molly’s Diner and Truck Stop – six miles from Ames, Iowa

Six men gather for their regular morning “confab” about chores on the farm.

“I saw that Riley’s dealership has a lineup of the new Ford trucks,” one observed. “He has green one, a kinda yellow one, one bluish and two black.”

“Don’t know why those black ones came in,” interjected another. “Lots of people in this town are superstitious about black trucks. Reminds me of a hearse. Especially with those two guys who died last week; crushed in a heavy baling machine. Wives almost had to share a hearse ‘cus of the damn economy.”

1990: Somewhere on Main Street – Stockbridge, Mass.

I’m headed back from Albany and spot a black ’55 Ford F100 with whitewall tires outside a small garage with a sign: “All stock / runs good / prized to sel / inquires within.” I’m thinking: “Maybe a vehicle for local stuff – take the wife and kids around town in a parade or two.”

Now, I’m kind of conservative. But occasionally I follow my impulses into something curious and unusual.

Go inside and this dude is wearing an engineer’s cape, coveralls and penny loafers – don’t get that last part, but what the hell. “Howdy,” I tell him. “Seen that truck sign – what’re you asking?”

“Got to get $2,500. All U.S. big ones on the cracker barrel.” Odd expression. Maybe he means barrelhead? “Take her for a drive – if ‘yer interested but not outa sight.”

I go, “OK” and do just that. It’s “three on the tree” – trucker for gears on steering column – which took some getting used to. I fiddled with the AM tube radio, first one I’ve seen in several decades.

Mostly I’m doin’ circles around his lot. But in my head, I’m seeing a small town parade. Maybe the truck is up front. Kids waving flags. The din of a band somewhere. Summer sun.

So I make a deal.

2018: Kent, Ct.

I’m sitting in the village, having my “sledgehammer – decaf” combo, reading the local rag. The most fun part is looking for things like impeachment with two e’s or Trump with a “q” at the end.

Town’s kind of a biker stop and three dudes – all leathered up – ask if my table’s free.

“Sure – them seat’s yours.” I hate heavy biker talk. Non-stop about exhaust pipes, saddle bags, Harleys vs. God-knows-what – you know the type. One dude’s talking about college stuff and says his only kid who made out decent was the one that could always find Waldo growing up.

My thing about conversation is to compliment people on tattoos –which, personally, I hate. But it never fails to stir some discussion. Since these dudes are all leather jackets and the like, instead I ask, “What’s your favorite lawn fertilizer?” Blank stares all around. So I’m figuring these dudes are all “mo, blow and go” hedgie/dentist types and don’t know fertilizer from bird seed.

Back to the rag, when I hear, “Oh My God, Oh My God – whose black truck?” I look up and there’s a heavy-set lady with big owl-type glasses.

I pipe up: “Mine.”

“Perfect for our Yankee Magazine fall cover,” she says.

“No way, I’m a Mets fan,” I tell her.

“No, it’s a country–type magazine, nothing to do with sports. Do you have a dog?”

“No – it’s lost,” I say, growing a bit tired of the situation.

“Oh My God, Oh My God,” she says. “That’s terrible, did you put up flyers and call all around?”

“No, she passed.” And then the woman started that Oh God business again.

She goes, “Well we can find a dog and just want to photograph it in the back of your truck with a picnic basket.”

I’m thinking this lady must be nuts or what.

“It will be great, a real country scene,” she said, growing excited.

“No people,” I tell her.

“Don’t need them.”

An empty truck, picnic basket, dog and no people don’t add up to any picnic I ever heard of. Just makes no sense. Plus, I still hate the Yankees!


Eric R. Roper is a lifetime learner, avid reader and lover of old trucks, particularly the one pictured above which had been his regular weekend buddy for almost 20 years.