Rock and roll has its Mustangs; easy listening has its Volvos; rap its Beamers, Benzs and Bentleys, but country music has always had its trucks. Big rigs and long-haul truckers got some airtime, but country has always seemed especially enamored with pickups; I grew up hearing Joe Diffe sing that “there’s something women like about a pickup man.”
There’s been a little surge of truck love in the last few years: Lee Brice’s melancholic “I Drive Your Truck,” Luke Bryan’s melodramatic “We Rode in Trucks,” and Tim McGraw’s hillbilly rockish “Truck Yeah” to name a few. Even Taylor Swift has ridden shotgun, having fallen in one of her first singles for “a boy in a Chevy truck that had a tendency of gettin’ stuck on backroads at night.”
One of the classics, “I Love My Truck,” was released by Glen Campbell in 1981. Campbell’s probably best known for “Rhinestone Cowboy,” a song that was nominated for, but didn’t win a Grammy—though it did inspire a feature film starring Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton. “I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway.” Campbell sings, “where hustle’s the name of the game.” “I Love My Truck” is a simpler pleasure: an uncomplicated ode by a complicated man. He “ain’t got much love,” but he loves his truck, and for two minutes and fifty-eight seconds he tells you exactly why. Who can argue with such a straight-shooting sage? “Well, I just done care when them times get hard, cause I got everything I need right out in my yard.”
“She don’t care what I am,” Campbell says, and “she don’t care what I ain’t.” His truck doesn’t mind if he “don’t work a lick” and “she never leaves home without me.” It’s not only the consolatory logic of a man scorned by human partners, it’s the aggrieved thinking of any teenage boy frustrated by his parents nagging, and the frustrated reasoning of a woman exhausted by the demands and expectations of friendship.
It’s not only men who love their trucks. Men, women, and permit-carrying teens love them, too. We trick them out and dress them up, write catchphrases and memorials on their tailgates, hang testicular paraphernalia from their bumpers and hitches, fly flags in their beds, and mount gun racks on their rear windows. America doesn’t have utes or bakkies, but we’ve got pickups, and we’ve had them ever since Ford modified the bed of the Model T.
“Well, it’ll just get you down if you let life get to you,” Campbell’s ode begins, and the blue-collar philosopher continues: “Cause everybody’s saying something, none of it’s true.” In a world where there’s no truth and times are hard, well, then, what more do you need than a rusted-out, faded pickup?
Casey N. Cep is a writer from the Eastern Shore of Maryland.