This amazing truck is for sale. It’s nicknamed “El Burro” —dependable but not fast. Which is OK. There is nothing wrong with the truck mechanically. I just felt compelled to get a shiny, more powerful one, so the old Burro’s for sale.
It was built in 1988. Ronald Reagan was president. It was the year NASA scientist James Hansen testified before the House of Representatives that there was a strong “cause and effect relationship” between observed temperatures and human emissions into the atmosphere. It has a 4-cylinder 22re engine with, at the time of this writing, 299,000 miles on it.
The truck is special in the way of old, well-used machinery. Silent, solid and nearly alive. The air inside the cab smells like sun, dust and motor oil. The truck has what’s called a “60/40” bench seat. There’s a hole between the two seat pieces perfectly sized for a Nissan coffee mug. There’s also a mug holder screwed with a drywall screw into the console. There’s an old piece of teddy bear Cholla wedged between the inclinometer and the blue carpet behind the gear shift. This item reminds me of the Sonoran desert, where I became engaged to my wife.
The truck has smoker’s windows. The concept itself may leave you nonplussed, since people in Boulder don’t smoke (at least not cigarettes.) But the smoker’s window is crucial to those of us who prefer not to use air conditioning. The little swiveling triangle opens like a sail, channeling wind to cool the truck on a hot day or defog the windshield when it’s cold out.
I know every sound the truck makes. I know when it sounds wrong. A couple of years ago it was idling high as I drove through downtown Estes Park. I pulled into the Stanley Village shopping center, popped the hood, and saw that the idle arm spring had broken.
It was a gorgeous, sunny winter day. The wind was blowing 40 miles per hour and the hood fluttered on its spindly little strut. Sometimes even a windy day isn’t bad from Stanley Village. From its parking lot, the entire Continental Divide sat like an invitation on the western horizon. The village’s quiet, necessary stores stood obediently by, their shingled facades faded by the mountain weather. They were not brands but categories: pet food, groceries, liquor, bakery, hardware.
I pulled a pair of pliers out of the glove compartment and twisted the old spring loose. The hardware store charged me $4.08 for a replacement, which I twisted back on with the hood threatening to come down on my head and the mountains sloughing their snow into clouds that blew across the park, refracting the sun’s last, low rays into rainbows in the afternoon sky.
I will enjoy my new truck. But it’s a fancy six-cylinder with a complex engine that requires sensors and professional diagnosis. Comfortable as it is, it will never beat the simple pleasure of El Burro. Of replacing a spring in the cold of a February day in a parking lot in the Colorado mountains, when time was more important than money and there was no shame in being old, or beat up.
If you’d like to buy into that, drop me a line.