I’ve written several times about the little truck I rescued from Georgia last year.
For a refresher, it’s a 1975 Ford Courier, a small pickup created through a partnership between the domestic automaker and the company that eventually became Mazda.
It wasn’t running or driving when I hauled it up to Tennessee, but over the course of several months, I’ve worked on its carburetor, fuel delivery, brakes, electronics, ignition, tires and wheels and other major systems trying to get it back into roadworthy shape.
At some point last month, I realized it might actually be possible to drive this thing, so I started formulating a plan to drive it to work at the Press’ downtown Johnson City office one day.
I thought having some mood music would be appropriate for the momentous occasion, and I also wanted to use the cassette deck in the truck.
Unfortunately, I haven’t owned a cassette tape in 20 years, and Circuit City isn’t around anymore to sell me one.
Feeling a little like Marty McFly when he travels into the future, I stopped into an antique store down the road to find some appropriate tunes. Concerned that the radio might malfunction and eat the tape or refuse to stop playing it, I needed something I could listen to for the rest of my life or that could be munched to ribbons without being a travesty to music.
For $3 — a discount from the original price I’m sure, but still a little much in my opinion — I found a copy of Dolly Parton’s 1991 platinum-certified album “Eagle When She Flies.” It wasn’t period correct for the 70s truck, but Dolly is timeless no matter the decade, isn’t she?
With the musical entertainment sorted, I made final preparations — filling the leaky tires, checking the oil level, topping off the coolant in the radiator — and waited for a day with agreeable weather.
It finally came on Nov. 2, one year, two weeks and two days after I dragged the little truck out of a Georgia yard.
I checked and double checked my pre-drive checklist, gave the gas pedal a few pumps and turned the key. The truck groaned and shuddered to life. Dolly warbled at me over the creaks and rattles of the doors and cab while I let the engine warm up.
I shifted into first and eased out the clutch. The truck lurched out of the yard and turned onto the street as I fought the non-power steering wheel.
I don’t live far from the office, but I was nervous the whole way. I knew the truck would probably make it in theory, but putting it in practice was something totally different. I know she was playing, but I was so anxious, I don’t remember Dolly singing at all.
Thankfully, I made it. Everything was fine.
I went inside and invited some coworkers out to the parking lot to take a look.
The small group I led outside seemed impressed that the ancient, crusty-looking truck could run and drive at all and then by how well it did run.
After a year of working on it alone, my favorite part of the trip was showing it off to other people.
When the work day ended, I pulled the truck in front of the building for some photos to prove it had been on the road, then I headed home again.
More relaxed, I turned Dolly up a little. The album’s title song was playing, and I realized how fitting it was.
And she’s a sparrow when she’s broken
But she’s an eagle when she flies
I know the song is about a strong-willed woman who, despite challenges in her life, still manages to retain her warmth and majesty. But this busted up old pickup truck, though it may need some care and maintenance after a hard life, can still get back on the road and provide some fun and utility.
Maybe next time I’ll see if I can find a tape of “9 to 5.”