Tucson Daily Citizen from Tucson, Arizona on February 7, 1976 · Page 30
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Tucson Daily Citizen from Tucson, Arizona · Page 30

Tucson, Arizona
Issue Date:
Saturday, February 7, 1976
Page 30
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Y ou have to figure that any place named Arizona with wide open spaces, a million miles of dirt roads, and cowpersons, is going to generate a fair "demand for pickup trucks. But the legitimate market for cowboy Cadillacs doesn't come near explaining the mystique of the pickup here in Tucson lately. This town isn't just in love with trucks, it's pretty near in heat. For the statistical record -- which we shall, in the interests of flowing narrative, consult as seldom as possible -- pickup trucks amount to fully 41 per cent of all new vehicle sales in Tucson. What the statistics fail to reckon is how many more old pickups still earn their oats every day, while cars their age rust in wrecking yards or repose in baled reincarnation in the Museum of Modern Art. Hauling the freight out there are trucks that ticked over 200,000 miles before their present owners were even a gleam in anybody's eye. Matter of fact there are more trucks out there than most folks would admit, in the back of which that gleam sparked life into a new generation of truck drivers. Which . is of course part of the mystique of the pickup -- especially in a town with as many warm nights and drive-in theaters as we have here in the Old Pew- eb-lo. But there's a lot more to trucks than ranchers and randy teen-agers. Take a look- see at all those 4x4s tottering around on their hi-jacker suspensions, their drivers peeking down at the girls' legs at the stop lights. You know what I mean. Four-wheel drive and citizens' band radios are the new opiate of the people -- providing those people are into the Latter-Day Cowboy ethos these devices represent. Of course there are important and intriguing shadings of style and substance within this stratum of pickup truck society. I am going to make some generalizations here which can easily be disproved by mere fact but which will stand the test of Pure Truth. International pickups are driven mainly by farmers or by International pickup salesmen. Chevys are driven "by ranchers (you see a lot of loose hay in the beds of Chevy trucks) and by Mexican masonry contractors. Two-wheel drive Fords (newer models) belong to men in the building trades. Ford 4x4s belong to Search-and-Rescue volunteers, folks who like to drive through the weeds to get on top of things, and to members of the Tucson Fire Department. Two types of pickups deserve mention by way of exclusion. Those little ones from Japan -- or Japan by way of Detroit where they get American names -- are more properly classified as Truckettes. For the most part they represent trucks and drivers in their pubescence. The latter may grow to maturity and the former may be replaced by a real pickup, but for now the message spoken by the Orientals is entirely without the western drawl of the bigger pickups. All the bigger pickups, that is, except those that have PAGE 6 camper shells on them. A pickup with a camper is not a pickup with a camper, it is a camper -- with a former pickup underneath. Once a truck acquires a camper it ceases to be able to do what a pickup is uniquely equipped to do and becomes a mere engine and set of wheels for a mobile motel room. Four-wheel .Dodge Power Wagons represent the innest, hippest new wrinkle in pickup sociology. They are the almost exclusive province of cocaine dealers and certain University of Arizona students. Cocaine dealers buy Power Wagons because of their unspeakable chic, and because they are among the few who can ante up $7,500 a swat for them. College students buy them for the same reasons -- except that it is their parents who pay. This of course limits the market to out-of-state students, mainly those from New York and Northern California. . Among that small-but-highly-visible segment of campus population, the short-bed Dodge 4x4 with CB antenna, quartz-halogen off-road lights, roll bar, white spoke wheels and Desert Dog tires has replaced the Corvette as the Kollege Kiddie Kar. As to the cocaine cowboys, you might think that they'd want a four-wheeler to thrash along' deserted reaches of the Mexican border, plying their illicit trade. As they say out on the ranch, neigh. Highly Important Drug Dealers do not scuffle around tacky places such as the Mexican border, nor do they scuff up their trucks. They hire flunkies to take risks while they themselves spend their afternoons rubbing Blue Coral on their pickups and evenings dancing to the Dusty Chaps and drinking cerveza. The college cowboys are in there step-for-step, milking the outlaw image for all it's worth. Their trucks not only never see the desert, they seldom see a speck of dirt to mar the mirror-finish. They have these gosh-awful stout roll bars which speak of bone- jarring back roads and much time spent belly up at the bottom of a ravine, but, curiously, are festooned with fragile auxiliary lights and padded with black foam -- to what purpose even the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi may not be able to divine. Drivers of Dodge 4x4s tend to wear either green baseball caps with Arizona Feeds emblems on the front or ultrahigh-crown cowboy hats of the bullrider style -- either of which is tastefully accented by the wearer's pony-tail hanging out the back. At this point a word about gunracks is appropriate. In the days before the fad, when the only folks who drove pickups were cowboys or members of the American Independent Party, straight society scoffed at trucks and pointed to the gunracks which often filled their rear windows as presumed proof that pickup truck drivers were murderous rednecks who fired on passing motorcyclists. This was not true, even then. But the image stuck to the extent that today you see more gunracks in trucks owned by the Cosmic Cow- The mystique of the pickup 'For under two bucks I can get a six-pack of Coors, put that truck in granny gear and give it its head. I can chug along so slow that I can step down, retrieve some litter and catch up by merely breaking into a gentle trot.' ^^|^^?*4y · boys than by the down-to-dirt kind. It's all part of "The Look," to borrow, a fashion term. You see most of these gunracks hung with hats, the occasional neatly coiled and never-used lariat, once in a while a bolstered pistol (usually a drug-dealer's insurance of honest business transactions), but very few rifles. But this kind of truck and truck driver are the trendies of the pickup movement and in every sense but one represent the antithesis of what the pickup is all about. They seek the cowboy-outlaw image the truck conveys but waste its basic usefulness and, for the most part, remain insensible to that stirring-of-the-soul which every man or woman born to drive a truck feels so deeply. A pickup is a utility rig and is at its level best when it is put 10 work. Haul your garbage in it. Take hay to your horses.- Add a room to the house and haul bricks and lumber in it. Toss the kids in back and go on a picnic. Take a couple of lawn chairs, pick up two six-packs and head for the movies. Use it and abuse it. That's what pickup trucks are about, and that's why their drivers cloud up with poetic' feelings about them. Pickup trucks are today's cow ponies, every bit as indispensible and companionable as the real thing. You can talk about today's society and all its safeguards, its lack of excitement, its erosion of individuality, and you can understand why so many people latch onto the pickup truck as a tangible symbol of the Once and Future Wild West, where Gary Cooper still lives. If you think not, answer this question honestly: If you were being harassed by, say, a gang of Hell's Angels at a stop sign, and two guys pulled up alongside, which one would you run to for help -- the one in the Chevrolet sedan with the PTA decal in the rear window, or the guy in the Ford pickup with the bumper sticker that says "Cowboys Do It All"? Image is a very potent factor, no? But forget the romance of the Old West and the image of the hard-handed, steely-eyed Bronco Billy. Think in terms of peace and perfection, of balance and essential consonance with one's personal world. Think y of oneness, if you will, of harmony. It's not that hard; the newspapers are full of TM and other mystic propaganda. Over in Nepal these guys eat a handful of weeds a week, sit around in cold caves with no clothes on-ahd pretty quick sail away into hallucinations of crystalline starkness and utter harmony. Everything within their experience fits. Their diet, wardrobe, domicile and the ambient air temperature all hover right around zero -- which, it is said, is one way to see God. Western man has spent his time seeking this perfect harmony somewhere closer to 100 (out of a possible 10) than to zero. Therefore our accepted images of the perfect place in space and time cost like a weekend with Jackie Kennedy. To wit: You're prowling down from Paris to Nice along a tree- lined Route Nationale, pegging an exhiliarating-yet- comfortable 180 k.p.h. in your Lamborghini. Alongside is your friend, 30 years old, French on her mother's side, Arapaho Indian on her father's. She uncorks a jug of '64 Chambertin and reaches over to pass the cork under your nose as she describes her mother's deserted' villa outside Nice, where the two of you will be, two hours and another bottle of Chambertin from now. If these are not perfectly matched circumstances -- a scene of complete harmony -- I'll kiss your sister. Or you're three days out from Pago Pago, you and another aboard a 72-foot sloop. The storm yesterday wasn't enough to damage the boat but it did challenge all your not-inconsiderable skill at the helm, and it proved more than sufficient to convince the lady -- perfect Joey Heatherton .look-alike, Miss Southern Cali- 1 fornia Used Car Dealers' Association for 1975, former baton-twirling champion of Southwest Texas -- that no saltier dog ever went down to the sea in ships. Her lissome form emerges from the gallery, amid the aroma of broiling Chateaubriand and her own homemade Texas chili, and she hands you, not one, but two cans of the coldest Pear! Beer you ever tasted But Lamborghinis and 72- foot sloops don't come cheap. Miss Southern California Used Car Dealers' Association doesn't come inexpensive either. Most of us are priced right out of harmony. But not me, or any other pickup driver. I've got a 1947 Ford pickup which cost me $250. Any direction from my house I've got dirt roads going places that don't even have names. And for under two bucks I can get a six-pack of Coors, put that truck in granny gear and give it its head. I can chug along so slow that 1 can step down, retrieve some roadside litter and catch up by merely breaking into a gentle trot. I can sip a beer, sing a song, get my left arm real tan and feel so swell it damn near hurts. I can experience perfection- in-nature hitherto accessible only to rich folks and holy men -- on account of I've got a pickup truck. For a more heart-felt testimonial than that you'd have to hire Walt Garrison. conversations By David Hoysradt Why have you bought yourself this lime-green, wide- tired, brute-engined, high-riding, sure-to-be-stared-at macho pickup truck with the five driving lights on the roll bar above the cab, sir? "That's why." Ask them in discount house parking lots crowded with mothers jockying shopping carts full of quart Pepsi bottles, ask them behind counters in auto dealerships while their grinning buddies listen, or even flag one off the road with frantic horn honks and waves, and the answer is the same. This is fad. It is the look that replaced the so-called conversion, or windowless, van. Remember that van, the roiling sin parlor with water b«d, slereo and floor to ceiling carpeting ("No daughteramlne's going out in one athemthings!")? Well, it's dead and the thundertruck is its replacement. Oh, there are different reasons for having these pickups. A tail, skinny, 32-year-old tells me the joys of getting outback in his pickup, a silver Dodge Power Wagon with a camper on the back. And Jerry Miller, the truck sales manager at Bill Breck Dodge, makes all sorts of noise about increased leisure time and people who like to ski. Sure enough, sitting outside is a Dodge 4-wheeler with "Ski Sunrise" riding the bumper. Bui most of the thundertrucks you see around town don't bear the long scars that mesquite, palo verde, and creosote claw into the sides of vehicles belonging to dedicated bash artists. Equipped to handle anything short of the Iranian Air Force, the thundertrucks are very seldom pushed to any sort of limit. Their owners, like a young Tucson man we'll call Dave Jones, are happily aware of the aura their vehicles exude and feel no need to smash them up in far off washes, out of the sight of admirers. It's not a cheap image. Jones went to Seminole, Tex., to buy his four wheel drive Chevy from a Ford dealer, who, rumor has it, can undersell the Salvation Army. By the time Jones was through equipping the vehicle with heavy duty wheels, the mandatory wide tires, a special cam for better mileage (12 m.p.g. in town), a citizen's band radio, aircraft landing lights and special driving lights for night work, a roll bar and plush interior, he'd gone through $7,000. Does he get stared at? "Yeah, a little bit (sheepish grin). People look at the truck and they look at you." Jones takes his beast to the country now and then and says he would use his CB radio to call for help if he got stuck. But he adds, "I've got a friend who's really getting his truck fixed up, and it's got all the equipment and everything, but he's not going out in the country with it. It's going to be for street work." Street work. Being seen in something that says, "Heah come de big, green, mean machine." Terry, mid 20's, on his Chevy Cheyenne Super 10 -"The girls really like it. I have met more chicks who see it, talk about it and wind up wanting to go out in it." Before the thundertruck he had a van, got rid of it when he saw the new fashion in iron, said the van was "only good for cruising." "Hey mister (about 45 to 50, black Wellington boots, black cowboy hat, turquoise shirt, pearl snaps on the pocket, about to wheel off in a blue, gunrack in the window, thundertruck of a Ford), how come you buy a truck like that?" "Hell (he's out of his parking space and heading toward Oracle Road), just look at the sunnuvabitch (the beast bellows and leaves a short trail of rubber)!" The trucks do seem to pass traffic rather than being passed. Jones concedes, "I guess I do sort of have a lead foot." Terry offers, "You feel pretty protected in these, and you do the speed limit in them at least." For those who find the street too constraining, there are the "sand drags." Adjacent to Tucson Dragway's asphalt quarter mile, there is a straight, level dirt stretch of 100 yards where the owners of the mean machines can take off their header plugs and bellow off in dusty combat against similarly equipped vehicles. An excellent summation of what these trucks are came from a young Marana man looking across a Yellow Front parking lot to where his all white machine stood hood and fenders above the rest: "Naw, for sure it's no woman's rig." PAGE 7

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