Cook column: Battered old truck tells a story

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 21, 2009

Is this your truck? I sent that question to coworkers at the Post after finding an old truck in my parking space two days in a row.
I could tolerate one day. Two days called for action ó but not towing yet. This truck looked as though it’d had enough bad luck already.
It had no no doors.
No back window.
No hood ó other than a blue tarp covering the front end.
Caked with mud, the old Ford F-150 appeared to be abandoned.
In my parking space.
The question drew several responses on our internal e-mail. A few people thought the truck might belong to a guy in the mailroom.
Both Kim Lanter in advertising and Tom Marts from the USA Today crew reported seeing a young man at the truck ó either working on it or being dropped off there.
As often happens with internal e-mails, my message drew out the wit in some.
“Not my truck,” Mark Wineka responded. “It’s not quite that bad.”
I’ve been complaining that our ’97 Buick Riviera misses qualifying for “cash for clunkers” by 1 mile per gallon.
“I think somebody felt bad about your Buick dilemma and left you a clunker to trade in,” Scott Jenkins e-mailed me.
“It’s really Elizabeth’s,” Steve Huffman quipped. “Don’t let her fool you.”
Electrician Gary Watson proved to be a man of action. He got the registration out of the truck’s glove compartment.
It wasn’t as though he was breaking in.
He also peeked under the tarp. It was protecting a motor Gary described as “pristine. ”
The owner’s name did not show up in any telephone directory. So I left a note on the front seat.
The truck ó and the note ó remained unmoved for another day. Then it was gone, leaving a few bits of dried mud behind.
Soon thereafter, 20-year-old Patrick Sylvester dropped by and thanked me for not having his truck towed. In my note, I’d said I was interested in the story behind the truck. He filled me in.
He and wife Tiffany both work at restaurants, and they have a 3-year-old daughter named Nevaeh ó “heaven” spelled backwards. They live with Tiffany’s parents.
He said the truck was a 1980 F-150 Custom Limited Edition he’d bought at a junkyard two years ago for $900. He wanted to restore it.
Patrick is a do-it-yourselfer by necessity. Said he lived about 60 different places growing up and spent six years at Nazareth Children’s Home, “the most best place I ever lived.”
Patrick drove the F-150 two days, and it blew up.
He gutted and rebuilt it. He has replaced the motor and the transmission. An axle broke; he fixed that. The brakes needed work; he did that. He says he has spent about $8,000 on that truck.
He pulled into the Post parking lot one day to give a buddy a ride to work. When he tried to crank up to leave, the truck was dead.
It took him a little while to figure out the problem ó the alternator ó and a little longer to move the truck.
Now he’s ready to sell. I shared Patrick’s story with my coworkers and closed with this:
“If anybody would like to buy a 1980 F150 Custom Limited Edition (that usually runs just fine, he says), it’s available for $1,500. Doors, hood and back glass are extra.”
No takers yet.
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Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.