The Blue Truck's Last Run

Aug 27, 2014 | Random

When you’ve been married as long as I have, you learn that you are not nearly as good at things you once thought you were:

Gift giving.

Party planning.

Honoring special occasions.

Twenty years or so ago, I considered myself thoughtful…considerate… a true romantic. Flowers, chocolates and jewelry were my weapons of choice in my perpetual pursuit of my wife, both during our courtship and in the first years of my marriage. My loving and gracious wife accepted my gifts with the heart and spirit with which they were intended…for several years until she finally came clean, shattering my supposed romantic aura one fateful day in May, 2004:

“I don’t like flowers. They die. Don’t give me candy; it makes me fat. I never have the occasion to wear jewelry. When you give me a gift, give me something I can use. I want a leaf blower for Mothers’ Day.”

Me: What?

She: A leaf blower.

Me: What?

She: A leaf blower.

Me, wilting like a worm on a hot sidewalk: What?

And then, quite predictably, a heated argument rapidly developed as I was suddenly forced to come to terms with the fact that as far as Richard E. Bradfute is concerned, romance is a completely practical endeavor, not to be diluted with the transient and impractical (albeit socially acceptable) traditional tokens of love and affection.

I got her the [expletive deleted] leaf blower.

Now, I’m coming clean here, folks, because nobody told me that marriage was like this. Sure, I was told, “Marriage takes work and commitment” or “Marriage is a labor of love”. Nobody told me that marriage was buying your wife a [expletive deleted] leaf blower for Mothers’ Day.

Of course, the real issue was my wounded pride at having failed to meet my wife’s needs (heretofore completely unexplained to me) and her feeling my previous gifts to her were shallow and insincere, merely meeting societal expectations instead of giving her items born of true and sincere knowledge of her wants and needs.

Marriage is not easy.

But, I love being married and it is fun. Especially in hindsight.

In the years since, I have learned from my former follies, becoming quite the romantic by asking my wife what she wants for that special occasion… and then getting it for her.

I have to say, in full disclosure and with all sincerity, that Christy is an amazing and wonderful woman who has learned to appreciate the more traditional gifts, albeit in small doses. We are growing together in that regard and in many others…Marriage really can be fun, in both realtime and hindsight.

Ok. Fast forward to Valentine’s Day 2013: Christy wants a deep freezer…and, by Jove, she shall have it!

Being the analytical person I am, I spend hours online, over a period of days, researching to find just the right unit, at just the right dimensions, at just the right price. I found the perfect one in Clovis and, being the Reformed Romantic I am, I devised a plan: I knew Christy and Tate (my son) would be out of town on a day trip, so Taylor (my daughter) and I would take THE BLUE TRUCK to Clovis to pick up the deep freezer and have it up and running with roses and a card on it (courtesy of The Reformed Romantic) when Christy and Tate came home. An elegant and romantic plan, so I still claim to this day. But, to quote my good friend and our Roswell EVP Kenneth Berry, “Nothing’s easy.”

You can read more about THE BLUE TRUCK here, but if you don’t have time, I’ll cut to the chase: I am quite fond of that truck. 1986 Toyota 4x4. (It’s called an “extended cab”, but you couldn’t fit two Hobbits back there…no idea why the Japanese bothered with the extra space, but they did. It’s like 18” of…space for…what exactly? I dunno. Nothing fits back there.

I bought it off of my brother in either June or July of 2003 (back when I still fancied myself a pure romantic) for $1,700. At that time, it had about 200,000 miles or so on it; the bumper was held on with speaker wire and, believe it or not, someone had painted parts of it with blue latex paint…that was peeling. I think, in part, that’s what I liked about it. No worries. No hassles. It ran, and I didn’t care what happened to it. One Sunday afternoon, a teenager visiting our neighbors across the street backed into it and, visibly shaken, came to our door to confess. (I was impressed with that, by the way.) I honestly couldn’t tell where she hit it. For all I know, that truck was used as one of the “technicals” (a truck with a heavy machine gun mounted in the bed) in the movie “Blackhawk Down”. There were no bullet holes in it, but if there were, no one would have noticed.

I bought that truck from my brother at El Rancho in Portales on a Saturday afternoon. For some reason I do not remember, I took it from there to Clovis with Taylor, then two years old. We got the oil changed, and she fell asleep on the ride home. I will always remember her sitting there, in her child seat, the sun shining down on her blonde hair as she slept. She loves that truck, too, and she remembers that first ride…and the many that followed.

Ballpark 10 years later, Taylor and I were in THE BLUE TRUCK , headed to Clovis to get my wife the Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift. Right at the Roosevelt/Curry County Line, THE BLUE TRUCK’s engine quit running. Just stopped. I coasted to the roadside, not an easy task with the power steering no longer functioning. I can still hear the gravel crunching as we grounded to a halt. The ‘Engine Temp’ registered a maximum, and I could see steam beginning to pour from underneath the hood. Taylor was very concerned, but calm. Even at her relatively young age, she is a rock, cool and level-headed. I put on the emergency blinkers, popped the hood, and exited THE BLUE TRUCK. Immediately, I smelled radiator fluid and something like burning rubber. I tried to tell myself it was just the radiator hose, but deep down, I knew it was much worse. When I lifted the hood, steam poured out as it would from a cauldron.

This was not my first breakdown; I’d been in many as a kid and several since. I waited for the engine to cool, and tried to start it again. The first couple of times, it did not catch. I waited. I tried again. The engine would not catch.

I called my father, and asked if he could come and get us. Of course, he said he’d be right there. I tried one more time, and THE BLUCK TRUCK started! We turned around and headed back to Portales, but after half a mile, the ‘Engine Temp’ was pushing ‘H’ again, and I pulled onto the shoulder and turned the engine off. Several minutes later, my dad (always there when I need him) pulled up, my mother in the front with him. Taylor got out of the passenger seat of THE BLUE TRUCK for what turned out to be the last time and got into the Suburban with my parents. My dad and I used a tow strap to hook THE BLUE TRUCK to his Suburban and we started homeward.

So many things in life seem easy until you try them. When I was 12, I had an opportunity to rappel off of a 16 foot “tower” at the ENMU ROTC. Sixteen feet doesn’t seem so high until you’re looking down…I chickened out, and I always regretted it. Twenty-five years later at a JPSCB Officer Retreat, I had a similar opportunity…and I took it! You always have to use your own judgment, but I’ve learned to never back away from a challenge out of sheer trepidation. Conquering fear is immensely superior to succumbing to it!

Being towed in a vehicle without power steering or power breaks is a lot harder than it might seem. My father is an excellent driver, and he expertly maneuvered through the (thankfully) light traffic. Nevertheless, on several occasions I realized that if he had to stop suddenly, I would have less than a second to mash the sluggish breaks before I smashed into the back of his vehicle….and we were not going very fast.

It was an intense ride. As the countryside rushed by me (even at 45 mph…we just take speed for granted these days), I realized that one misstep could be…significant, even fatal. No airbags in THE BLUE TRUCK. In the days it was built, the term “air bag” had a different meaning!

Finally, and not without answered prayer, we pulled into our family mechanic’s shop. I explained to Adam what had happened. He did a few tests and confirmed what I had darkly suspected: I blew the head gasket.

It could be repaired, at approximately the price I had paid for the truck nearly ten years ago. I am fond of that truck, and I cherish the memories I’ve made with my kids in that truck. I remember the days of me coming home, and Tate standing in the back, with his pirate flag stuck in the bed, a pirate bandanna on his head, waving a wooden sword, ecstatic that I had finally come home. The trips to Diary Queen (now closed) and Sonic, the trips to the bank because Taylor or Tate (whoever was with me at the time) wanted to take THE BLUE TRUCK instead of the Tahoe. The sun on Taylor’s hair as it made it’s maiden voyage to our home.

I will never forget the sun on her hair that day.

I’m something of a romantic (despite Christy’s best efforts), and I ‘m somewhat sentimental, but I’m also a businessman (thanks in large part to David Stone): THE BLUE TRUCK is 27 years old and has 217,000 miles on it.

I’m not exactly a Leaf-Blower-for-Mothers’-Day practical man, but I’m not investing money in something that has little if any upside. All told, I love my family, not a machine that has served its purpose. THE BLUE TRUCK was a great investment, on more than one level, but it was time to walk away.

To bring this story to a close, I was able to procure another vehicle, get the deep freezer ,hook it up, get it running, with flowers and a card before Christy and Tate got back that day, scoring a romantic victory while completely surprising my wife!

I kid you not, when I told her all that had happened that day, her exact words were, “I don’t know which was a better gift, the deep freezer or the demise of THE BLUE TRUCK!”

Marriage: I can honestly say that I KNEW she was going to say that! We have a little tradition in our home, one that we didn’t come up with ourselves, but one that I think bears sharing. Not every night, but most of them, Christy and I will tell our children, individually and they will tell us individually, the thing we like best about each other that day. Both Taylor and Tate tell me something each time, ritually but of their own volition; that I won’t share with you.

I will give you a little insight, though, by concluding this post with Taylor’s own words, uttered in the beautiful and plain-spoken way that is solely her own:

“Daddy, the thing I like best about you today was being with you on the Blue Truck’s last run.”

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