Thursday, July 7, 2022

“That Old Beat-Up Truck” by Shane Brown


That old beat-up truck used to be so pretty.

It’s still pretty to me because I know what it used to be and what it went through. I know what it has seen, and what a damn good truck it is. It’s worn down but still runs pretty good. Not as good as the day we took it off the dealership lot in Tupelo, but it gets the jobs done around the farm.

Its back glass is gone and the speakers in the backseat floorboard don’t play loud music that I would cruise to. The inside ain’t clean; it’s used for farm work and certainly isn’t for play anymore. It’s Billy Ray’s truck now. They call it “Blue” but I call it “My Old Truck.”

I got to work Thursday afternoon at the dairy and went through my normal routine to prepare for the night shift of milking cows. After I have all the necessities prepared, I walked out of the milk parlor to find a milk crate or a bucket to sit on and smoke a cigarette. If Paula, or a friend, is over, I’ll sit around with them and share a story, too. This break also gives the dairy cows time to make their way to the back side of the parlor and into the barn after they hear the milking pumps turn on. At the sound, the cows know it’s feeding time.

But tonight the cows didn’t show up as usual. I walked around the back side of the barn and saw them standing in the pasture by the pond. They were nestled around the catfish pond. I thought to myself that they were thirsty or simply cooling their bodies.

I walked into the bottling room and told Paula about the cows. As she walked back to the barn with me, she told me the cows can’t find their way out of that particular area in the pasture. Paula then said she’ll ask Harris and Maddux to herd them back this way. I told her that’s a long walk for them and she just laughs at me. I didn’t know why she laughed so I found a stack of dairy feed sacks to sit down on. Paula began hollering for Harris and Maddux. They were off somewhere behind the house playing ball, playing with the cows or building a fort or just being boys…

Harris and Maddux then walked up to Paula who told Harris to take “Blue” into the back pasture to bring the dairy cows to the barn. Harris and Maddux never complain or answer her. They ran to the truck, slammed doors and cranked my old vehicle up. I looked at Paula and asked if that was really happening. Paula said that he was almost ten and that he drives all the time. I looked at Maddux but he is relaxed and serene as he looked for something in the truck. I watched Harris back up, clearly focused on the mission.

As I looked at the two boys in the truck, I saw myself and my brother. Damn…

I got up from the feed sacks and watched their whole journey through the gates and into the pasture to the area where the dairy cows huddled. I asked Paula if she ever wondered what they talk about in the old truck. She said she didn’t have a clue before going back to bottling milk. I kept watching and thinking. I peeked over the wooden fence and watched tiny heads bounce up and down from the ruts of old garden rows my Dad planted when I was a baby. I hear the steady power of the engine through its tailpipes as the tires beat down old sage grass and kick dust in the air. The boys don’t know how much fun they’re having at the moment. But then I told myself that they probably do know.

Harris did what he was told, and the cows trotted their way back to the barn. I watched as the truck guided them to their path and thought of how I could snap a good picture of the two boys in my old truck. I threw down items that I had gathered, snuck over to the gate they would go through and hid behind a post with grass standing tall above my head, camouflaged and out of sight and their minds, I thought.

Cows ran past me and “Blue” drew closer. I heard laughter and chatting over the truck’s tailpipes with the crunch of gravel and I began snapping pictures. The boys were in their own little world being little country boys, being good boys for their Mom and Aunt Paula. I’m glad they are a part of the dairy farm, a family farm. I’m glad too they were in my old truck.

Shane Brown

Shane Brown is a contributor and the son of noted author Larry Brown. Shane is an Oxford native with Yocona and Tula roots. Shane is a graduate of Mississippi State University. He has two children — Maddux, age 9, and Rilee, age 7 — and makes his home at “A Place Called Tula.” He can be reached at

Copyright Shane Brown, 2015.

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