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Irons in the fire: No radio and a fire

Paul Marchant for Progressive Cattleman Published on 23 September 2016

I hold some allegiances to various creeds, ideologies, people and sports teams. The strength of my allegiance varies according to the cause. I know plenty of guys who live or die by the color of their tractors and their cows or the letters on the tailgate of their pickups.

I am not really one of those guys when it comes to love affairs with one Detroit faction or the other. I’ve driven Fords, Chevys and Dodges. I’ve pulled red balers with green or blue tractors, hauled hay and manure with yellow loaders and loaded cattle onto trailers pulled by Kenworths, Freightliners and Peterbilts.

As long as the job is done right, I don’t really care about the color of the truck or the politician.

One of my first pickups was a two-tone gray Ford. At the time I bought it, I didn’t have a gooseneck trailer, so I had no need of a ball in the bed of the truck. A couple of years later, though, I acquired a gooseneck stock trailer (an old Kiefer Built, if you must know).

I met a guy from across the Snake River in Minidoka County who worked at a welding shop which advertised that they could install gooseneck hitches at a pretty reasonable price. He needed my business, and I needed a hitch, so I dropped Old Gray off at his shop.

He told me it’d probably be a day or two before he got to the job. When he called me the next day, the news wasn’t very good.

Between coughing fits that sounded a bit different than his normal Marlboro-induced hacking, he informed me that he’d been fighting a fire in his shop – that had more or less consumed my truck. It turned out that he was finishing up some welding under Old Gray to get the hitch installed when a spark melted through a gas line and caught the whole darn place on fire.

The only thing that saved the shop from complete destruction was when he raised the aluminum door to try and get the inferno that was my pickup out of the shop; the door deflected the 12-foot-high flames away from the wooden rafters.

This wasn’t really good news for me, but it wasn’t really bad news, either. The bad news was: I was now afoot, and we would have to forego a trip to the Eastern Idaho State Fair, where the kids were planning on showing some heifers. The good news was: I now wouldn’t have to finish clipping heifers, and my new best friend at the smoke shop had no desire to deal with any insurance companies.

(It seems he may have had a history with them from prior incidents.) He offered to pay me a couple hundred bucks more than the truck was worth so I could replace it with something else. More bad news, of course: I now had to do some truck shopping.

I made a few inquiries, and did some checking in the paper, and came up with a few options. In my search, I had called a dealership in Twin Falls. I gave my specifications to a salesman, and he told me he’d get in touch with me when he found something that might work.

My ineptitude at horse trading is fairly well documented and established at this point in my life. Twenty-plus years ago, I wasn’t quite as secure in my insecurities. I didn’t know that I didn’t know. You know? The car salesman, on the other hand, seemed to have me figured out. Imagine that.

He called me on a Saturday night (I remember I was watching a college football game. Tennessee. Peyton Manning was the quarterback) to tell me that he’d found just the truck for me. He insisted that I needed to come and look at it that night before someone else came in and took advantage of the stupendous deal he was morally obligated to offer.

I told him that I lived an hour-and-a-half away. It was late. I could meet him on Monday. Nope. I had to get in there that night. He’d make the sacrifice to stay late to accommodate me. How could I argue with that?

We loaded the little ones in the beat-up old Ford mini-van to go take a look at a blue, regular cab, standard transmission five-speed Chevy pickup.

The truck wasn’t perfect, but it was basically what I needed, and I was getting to the point where I couldn’t go much longer without some wheels. The young buck salesman could smell blood and was ready to set the hook. He informed me that it was in good shape, met most of my criteria (even had a gooseneck hitch, already installed) and that I needed to jump on the deal, and now.

It had few bells and whistles – no power locks or windows and … no radio. Mr. Salesman jumped on this. How lucky could I be? It was all ready for me to put in whatever kind of sound system I wanted. What an opportunity.

I was, somehow, strangely at once annoyed and mesmerized by his pitch. I knew how ridiculous it was, but at the same time, I had to give the little guy credit. Of course, I had to reward his ingenuity and buy the truck.

The blue Chevy resides at my place to this day. It now has a flatbed, and it’s pretty beat-up from its service as a feed truck, but it has more than earned its keep. I never put a radio in it. For years, I drove with a $5 portable radio on the seat next to me.

Random fact: When I got my first cellphone, the radio would always buzz right before the phone would ring. My youngest son, Peyton (as in Manning), who is nearly 20 now and who wasn’t yet born when I bought the truck, wants to put a sound system in it. I don’t think it’ll happen. He can listen to his tunes on his phone while he feeds.

Old Blue is kind of part of the family. She’s kind of taught us that even when you have nothing, you can still have something. end mark

Paul Marchant

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