BUICK PICKUP TRUCK
by George Lester
oil boom in west Texas played out in the thirties, so many people
started migrating back east again. My father was one of them. He had
run a successful rig building business, but now there was not much
need for his services. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, he cut
his losses and sought a new way of keeping food on the table. He took
what money he had managed to save and bought a farm near Lorena, Texas.
When we first set up housekeeping at our new home, the place looked
like a used car lot. In order to take each rig building crew to the
location, my dad had had to furnish the transportation. As a result,
we now had five cars parked out front. Three of the vehicles were
divided among the older siblings who had already left the nest. That
left us with two big four-door convertible Buick roadsters, one red
and one yellow. I don't remember what happened to the yellow one,
but the red one was in for quite a remodeling.
One day I came home from school and found my father busy with a welding
torch. I had always loved that red Buick. I thought it was the most
beautiful machine in the world. Now the entire rear end had been cut
away, exposing the bare chassis underneath. I cried real tears when
I saw what he had done. Dad informed this six-year-old that we needed
a truck, and he was making one out of the Buick. I couldn't look.
I ran into the house to get away from that awful sight. When the reconstruction
job was finished, Dad was proud of his hybrid truck, and he drove
it everywhere. I didn't share his enthusiasm. It was as if a member
of the family had been morphed into some kind of monster.
strange vehicle never failed to attract attention wherever it went.
A wooden bed had been bolted to the frame, and everything was open
and bare behind the front seat. In those days all cars had running
boards, so my dad put sideboards on the outside to form a trough for
carrying things. When we moved to Spunky Flat, the Buick was often
used to tow a trailer full of cotton to the gin. On each trip cottonseeds
would spill into the running board troughs. Before long we had cotton
plants growing on either side of the Buick. Once we drove it to Louisiana
to visit relatives. The muffler and tailpipe had rusted out, and even
the manifold was gone. As we drove down the highway, livestock would
run to the other side of the pasture, and people would stop in their
tracks and stare at this loud, cotton-plant-bearing vehicle. The noise
signaled our arrival a mile ahead. There was no room for Sam and me
up front, so we hung on for dear life in the back.
Nothing lasts forever, and the old Buick finally gasped its last breath
and died. Our next car was a Plymouth four-door sedan. I was elated
to finally have a real car in the family.
I returned home from the service after World War II, Dad was there
to meet the train in that old Plymouth. We had not seen each other
in three years, and he was completely overcome with emotion. I saw
him walk toward me, take a few steps, then stop and bend over, laughing
and crying at the same. He did this several times before we embraced.
After we both calmed down a bit, I followed him to the car for the
trip home where Mama would arrive soon from her job. As we approached
the Plymouth, I finally got a good look at it. Except for some minor
differences, it had received the same transformation as the Buick
had years before.
Dad has been gone for over a half century now. I keep thinking he
is probably up there somewhere, happily working away with a welding
© George Lester
Flat and Beyond - A Memoir