THE PICKUP, AN AMERICAN STORY
The Vinyl Upholstered Bench of a Pickup Truck
The vinyl upholstered bench of a pickup truck is what a vengeful God made to tempt otherwise good men and women to sin. So it was probably Minnesota Lutherans that ripped out the bench and put in two bucket seats divided by cupholders. (As a Minnesotan I’ve learned to blame Lutherans for limiting my sinning: see Volstead Act.)
But God-al-mighty there’s nothing like driving up and down country roads on a summer early evening: the humidity at a pitch and a storm on the way. The pickup cuts through the water-heavy air like a swimming shark (if that swimming shark’s ass was also sticking to the black vinyl bench of the truck). And as you shift gears and push on the gas the bench shakes. So after making eyes, you unbuckle your partner’s seat belt and pull her over, putting your arm around her like you’re at the movies.
You know it’s love when you keep driving—looking for some place to pull over—and keep coming up snake eyes: it’s the laughing and the holding and the talking about what makes a stop inconspicuous or conspicuous for pickup truck sex.
—Tom McNamara, Co.Editor at The American Guide & owner of a Chevy C-10 1964 shortbed pickup named “Blue.” Submission for Steven Brooks’s American Pick Up project.
Images: Pickups of Washington State by Steven Brooks
About The Pickup, an American Story project: Since pickup trucks first rolled off assembly lines in the 1920s, industrious, hardworking Americans have recognized that, with a truck, they could do even more. During the last nearly 100 years, the pickup truck has become a symbol of American pride and ambition, capturing our hearts and imaginations. The evidence is everywhere. From Hank Williams to Glen Campbell to Taylor Swift, pickups are a longtime staple of country music. As the lyrics tell us, pickups are a faithful friend, a lover’s bed, and the target of a lover’s scorn. They are also a place to bond and build memories. Football-loving Americans are inundated with “Built Ford Tough,” “Chevy Runs Deep,” and “Guts, Glory, Ram,” emanating from their TV screens every fall and winter. Images of rugged men in blue jeans and boots, a long day’s work, then off to the river for fishing (cue the Bob Seger, the big dog, sunset, dust kicking up from the road). It all tugs at our macho, American heartstrings. So it’s undeniable that pickups are etched into our American psyche. It’s no wonder they have been the bestselling vehicles in the country for over 30 years. A pickup says, “I can do that.” Then it says, “I did that.” A pickup wears its dirt and scars like a badge. It tells our story.
I currently own my second pickup and it’s my daily driver. To kick off The Pickup, an American Story, I’ll share a story of my own:
I have a grown son who’s out on his own now. We didn’t always see eye to eye. We still don’t, really, but we get together every couple weeks anyway. We grab burritos or Cuban sandwiches and head to the water’s edge. I back my pickup truck into a parking spot and we climb into the back. In the open air, we sit and watch the gulls and boats, eat our food and make small talk. Invariably, we talk about music: how country music from the 50s and 60s was among the best American music ever recorded, and new country is the worst. Or maybe I go on about why Black Whales are the best band to come out of Seattle in a long time, and he tells me that when he listens to Sickbed Blues, by Skip James, he feels it in his stomach, and I know exactly what he means. We feed our leftovers to the seagulls and crows—tossing scraps into the air from the back of the truck—and I know we’re gonna be alright, he and I. We’re gonna be just fine.
What’s YOUR story? Please share your American story involving a pickup truck, whether or not you still own the truck or ever did. One or two paragraphs about how a pickup has impacted your life. Even simple anecdotes are welcome. Need help putting your story into words? No problem! Scribble out the gist and I’ll edit it for the site. If you know somebody else who might have something to share, please spread the word. It does not have to involve an American pickup. (I own a Toyota pickup and my story is no less American.) If you have a couple photos, please include them. We’d all love to see the trucks, but it’s also nice to see the faces of those who love them. After all, these stories are more about you. Please submit to www.yourpickupstory.tumblr.com.
Editor’s note: If you haven’t already, click through to yourpickupstory.tumblr.com and follow along.
Here at the A/G, we LOVE the idea of Steven’s project and as your submissions roll in we’ll feature some of the stories and images on The American Guide. Keep on truckin, mama.
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Steven Brooks is a photographer based in Seattle, Washington. His work focuses primarily on landscapes of the American roadside. In an effort to have the road all to himself as much as possible, he does much of his shooting during the pre-dawn hours, armed with a tripod, old boots, and gas station coffee.
More of his work can be seen on his website (www.stevenbrooksphoto.com), his Tumblr (www.steven-brooks.tumblr.com) and on Flickr (www.flickr.com/photos/steven-brooks).