You can set my truck on fire, roll it down a hill
But I still wouldn’t trade it for a Coupe DeVille ...
– Joe Diffie, “Pickup Man”
The late country music singer Joe Diffie understood the passion behind pickup trucks, as his hilarious “Pickup Man” attests.
The song could have easily been about Montanans and their trucks. Drive down any street on any given day in the Treasure State, and it seems half of the vehicles are pickups. Indeed, according to iSeeCars.com, Montana is second only to Wyoming in the number of pickup trucks per state.
Because there are so many, you have to ask yourself: Do all these people really need a pickup? Or more to the point, are all these pickups real working trucks?
Real working pickup trucks are driven by hard-working ranchers, plumbers, construction workers, cowboys, house painters, surveyors and electricians — people who need their vehicles to haul everything from hay bales and horse trailers to two-by-fours, plywood, ladders and piping, and maybe go over some rough terrain doing so. The trucks usually have a little dirt or mud on them, and often their drivers do as well.
But more and more pickups these days don’t look like work trucks. They give off a certain non-working truck odeur. They look too clean, too perfect. Some of these show trucks have extra chrome, extra running lights and extra headlights bright as 747 landing beams, and their truck beds are so free of scuffs and scratches you could eat a fine meal off of them.
These kinds of trucks don’t have a rack in the rear window for rifles and fishing poles, or a dog in the back lolling its tongue in the breeze, the wind whipping the saliva out of its mouth while it runs from side to side, making drivers following them nervous they’ll fall out.
Those are real Montana trucks.
Casual observation would indicate RAM trucks are one of the most popular models in Montana, with Ford following right behind. But whatever the make, Montanans swear by their pickups, and loyalties are fierce.
For years, a local maintenance supervisor drove around Livingston in a beat-up 1971 Ford F250 with a big 390 engine that proclaimed in large, painted letters, “I’d rather eat worms than drive a Chevy.” When he sold it, he got twice what he paid for it.
That’s a real Montana truck.
I once owned one of those Chevies, a 1963 pickup with faded green paint. It had holes in the floor that I covered with old Montana license plates. It rode rough as a stagecoach and got about 1 mile per gallon, but I’d kill to have that thing back. It gave me genuine street cred with the real Montana truck world.
Pickup trucks in the West have become the modern-day equivalent of horses, with four wheels instead of four hooves. Maybe that’s why we feel compelled to own them, even if we aren’t ranchers or plumbers — because they are a connection to our mythic past.
And when you are cruising down a two-lane blacktop road on a moonlit night, your RAM’s Pentastar V6 engine humming, the window rolled down and a country song playing on the radio, you feel like you really could be be a cowboy from 150 years ago riding your steed through the Montana night.
Dwight Harriman is an editor and columnist at the Livingston Enterprise. Reach him at email@example.com.
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