Archie and the Orange Truck

If you have been to the ranch, chances are that you have noticed Mel’s ancient light blue Chevrolet truck, Archie. Archie is the stuff of legends. Mel has been driving him for almost 30 years to feed the young horses, and the stories of his survival and dedication to service are unparalleled. Like the time when Richard was nine and came tearing into the barn yelling with delight, “Archie flew! Archie flew!” Archie had been left in neutral by a couple of staff members, and he had rolled off of the bench, over the cliff and flown into the Buffalo Pasture below (fortunately with no humans inside). Archie started up and drove away from the  site of the wreck with nothing but a cracked windshield (which he still has, I might add). Archie has a particular Archie-rumble that he makes when being driven. You can hear him long before you can see him, so you always know when Mel is driving into the yard, rather than one of the other ranch trucks.  The only cosmetic change to Archie has been a new driver-side door, which he received a couple of years ago. Now, he has an electric blue door to contrast with his light blue body. He’s a hell of a truck. Here he is doing what he does best, carrying hay for the horses:

Age has affected Archie in a way that numerous wrecks and spills never did. He now can only reverse when in four wheel drive low. His brakes work only when they feel like it, and even when they are complying with a request to stop, they only engage half-heartedly. I don’t think there is a Watt of power left in his “power steering”. If you were to hit the gas and not touch the steering wheel, you would wind up making a very small circle to the right. For those of you who have never thrown hay to a herd of horses by yourself, how a truck handles itself when it is moving and you are not steering it is an incredibly important part of the equation. After driving into the pasture in which you want to throw the hay, you put the truck in the first gear of four wheel drive low and slowly let out the clutch. As the truck starts moving slowly in this low gear, you get out of the truck, walk to the bed where the hay is stacked, walk alongside the moving truck and start tossing flakes of hay to the horses. While you are doing this, you need to pay attention to the truck’s path, so that you can run back to the steering wheel if it starts heading for a boulder, enormous sage brush, fence or some other obstacle. Or, if you are doing this task with Archie, you need to keep running back to the steering wheel to prevent throwing all of the hay on the same small circle to the right.

Given Archie’s issues with aging, we have been on the lookout for a replacement truck for quite some time. Mel got an excited phone call from Joe, the man who has worked on the ranch trucks (and Archie) for the past 20 years. He had spotted Archie’s successor– an orange Chevrolet truck only one year younger than Archie himself! We immediately scooped Orange Truck up. Though only one year younger, the yet-to-be-named orange Chevrolet has all sorts of luxuries that Archie does not: a functional gas gauge, an unblemished interior, an unscratched paint job and working locks:

Although he seemed like a glossy cover girl at first, cosmetically flawless and purring like a kitten the moment you turned the  key, like all old trucks, Orange Truck has quirks too. Within 24 hours, I could no longer open the driver side door from the outside. Now you must climb in through the passenger side or leave the window open if you want to get in the truck. He has a frustrating habit of dying when in four wheel drive low. Just as you are getting into the rhythm of throwing hay, he dies, and you have to crawl back in, coax him to life and start the whole process over again. As a result, in the competition for Richard’s and my affections, Archie is currently winning– I suppose the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t! We’ll see how Mel gets along with Orange Truck once she returns from India. In the meantime, Archie is in semi-retirement, sharing the workload pretty evenly with Orange Truck. On the mornings he gets to sleep in, the barn cats, Allie and Bibi, have found a new purpose for him–their day-time home!

Bibi in the driver’s seat:

Allie Cat, peering out of Archie’s window: