The Lost Files: No Muffler, But Power To Do Truck Things

Aug 24, 2009 by

The Lost Files were weekly columns written back around 2001-2003 while I was running a newspaper in the Midwest. They seem to have disappeared from the Internet, probably after some redesign of the newspaper’s web site. So, from time to time, I’ll report some of my favorites from saved hard copies (that’s paper to you new media types).

So I bought a truck.

Now I know around here that’s not saying much. Every other vehicle is a truck.  But this one is mine, so it’s special.

I did not go out and get a gun-rack, roll-bar, fog-light, brush guard, leather interior packed monster truck. Instead, I got one with character: read old.

It has, what they called in Alaska, a Juneau body. Here’s they call that rust. Built in the late 80s, this truck has seen better days.

Why a truck? I needed a truck to do, well truck things. Every guy needs a truck. As I near the big 4-0, maybe my midlife crisis is developing. My wife is thrilled (really). I think she’s just happy it’s an old truck and not a new Porsche.

My 3-year-old Caleb thinks the “frack,” as he calls it, is very cool. That’s probably because it didn’t have a muffler so it was loud, very loud. Note to law enforcement, that’s been fixed.

The first adventure Caleb and I had in our new (old) truck was going to the dump. In Alaska, going to the dump on Saturday is akin to going to church here on Sunday. It’s just something you did. You meet all your friends and try and not tick off the dump police and laugh at those who do. It’s sort of a weekend contest sort of thing.

They take their landfill very seriously. Woe to you for failing to separate your trash properly. This goes in the incinerator, that goes in the metal pile, that can go in the landfill, that has to go to the plastic pile, and that goes to the “yes, it has metal but not enough so put it there pile.” Life would have been easier if they just gave us a manual.

Of course, if you violated one of the gazillion rules they would chase after you in a five-story bulldozer, pull in front of you with tires bigger than your car and start yelling that the item you put in the plastics area actually had 1.3987 percent too little plastic and should have gone in the scrap plastic/carbonated beverage pile. The people at the Grand Island landfill are much nicer.

Another reason we would go to the dump, especially when people visited from down South, was to see eagles. Now for locals, after a while watching eagles in Alaska is similar to New Yorkers checking out the World Trade Center. Yes, they’re beautiful, but we see them all the time.

Visitors of course are thrilled, which in turn thrills us and makes us remember. How often we forget the beauty around us and take it for granted until someone travels thousands of miles and spends thousands of dollars and says, “hey, idiot, this is a great place.” It doesn’t matter where you live, each community offers its own special benefits.

I do think its kinda ironic that you can see more eagles – the symbol of our nation – at the dump than anywhere else. Yes, eagles are scavengers. And they are scared to death of ravens, which are half their size. So much for our national bird.

Which brings up the point of perception verses reality. After being in this business for 15 years, I’ve learned that perception is reality, facts are often times irrelevant. Being a journalist, this of course makes me cringe. But I’ve learned what people think is what they believe. It’s our role as a newspaper, however, to provide facts so people can make an intelligent decision regardless of their perceptions.

Take the “dump eagles” for example. Friends would come and I’d take them to the dump to see eagles, which made my wife cringe.  After pointing them out, my friends would look at me with all honesty and say, “no seriously, I want to see eagles.” My replies that those WERE eagles were to no avail. They would politely but firmly inform me they were not eagles. Go figure.

Until next time.

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