Hinshaw column: The old truck

Published 12:05 am Saturday, September 24, 2016

By Wayne Hinshaw
For the Salisbury Post

Driving on Dunn’s Mountain Road between Granite Quarry and Stokes Ferry Road, I have passed an old orange rusty cab of a 1950 Chevrolet pickup sitting in a yard with a bed of sunflowers growing in back. Intending to stop and explore the truck for months, I was finally drawn to make the stop.

I discovered that a delightful couple lives in the home with the truck in their yard.

Shane and Laura Benfield, who are collectors of almost anything old, welcomed me to spend some time with their truck cab.

Shane is a “picker.” You know, the kind like the TV show “American Pickers,” where the antique collectors go out and buy antiques and sometimes junk that they take a liking to. The idea of a picker is to collect items and sale for profit. Shane says he is a good collector, but maybe not so good in selling for profit. He likes to keep his collections.

He found the old rusty cab of the Chevrolet pickup and “drug it home.” It has no wheels, no frame, no motor, no bed in back, but a lot of rust on the metal. She sits on logs and a piece of granite stone.

His wife Laura decided to set up wooden slats to the back of the truck like sides and plant sunflowers in the make-believe bed of the truck. Maybe Laura hung the blue and white antique porcelain mug on the rear view mirror support.

Shane said the old truck cab is only good for “yard art” now, and is too far rusted away for restoration with way too much of the truck evolving into ferrous rust.

The next day, I decided to return to have a conversation with the “spirit” of the old truck.  The old truck seems to have a story to tell. Now, I’m not completely crazy, yet, but I was drawn to the truck. The Benfields did have a sign in their yard calling the area “Benfield’s Mental Hospital,” but I don’t think that included me. I believe it meant his collections.

I think the stories that the old truck wanted to tell me were hidden in time and only my imagination could bring them to life. Now, the truck is not haunted in anyway.

Seeing the beauty of the rusty truck as “yard art,” one can only dream of the beauty that she might have had in the 1950s when being driven down the highway. She was all shiny and painted blue. Some of the blue paint is still visible in spots where the paint has fought off the invasion of rust.

She has a few bruises and dents from her travels. The dent in the back top of the cab, on the passenger side, must have been most painful, but it has healed now. Grass grows inside where her owner used to sit on a seat when they drove the highways together.

Bishop Richard Cumberland once said, “It is better to wear out than to rust out.”

Being only a few years older than the truck, I have a feel for the aging process and what time does to beauty. Beauty seems to just wear away as we travel the long road of life, just like it did to the truck. There she sits with her rusty red iron skin like the age dark spots I see on my arms.

The old truck was once loved by her owner, before he became tired and worn out like her. She shared many memories with him that were surely filled with smiles and laughter. I hope they shared all the joys of life together. Her owner, at some time was forced to retire just like her, and then she was abandoned in some field or barn left to rust away. Like her owner, after years of service, she became obsolete. She had no electronics, no fuel injection, no Wi-Fi. She didn’t even have an AM radio. She could only sport a hand choke inside the cab and an ashtray for smoking.

Now, she finds herself getting a second life at “yard art.” She must feel good about being useful again. She has no wheels, no tires and her truck bed has been removed or rusted away. All of her glass windows are broken and gone except for the back window. It is intact, but shattered. The window even is wearing what looks like a bullet hole. I wish she could tell me that story. I bet a hunter fired the shot at her sitting in a field for sport.

With her gauges rusted and broken, I can see the fuel gauge and the temperature gauge. I’m sure she remembers going to the full-service petrol station when an attendant came out and washed her windshield and filled her fuel tank with leaded gasoline costing 18-20 cents a gallon. Oh, what memories she confides to me.

She remembers when her headlights would shine into the future down the dark highway, lighting the way. Her headlights are broken and gone. Only the round space where the glass sheltered the lights still remains.

Her useful days are not gone. She still has work to do. She provides beauty to truck lovers who drive past her every day in a blur of speed as they zoom down Dunn’s Mountain Road. She now has the duties to support the beautiful sunflowers growing in her “bed.” In the morning sun, the sunflowers reach for the sun with their bright yellow faces.  The flowers offer a place for singing birds to sit and rest and maybe eat the sunflower seeds.

She is not abandoned any longer. She is cared for and loved by the Benfields. She has a purpose again. She is not just a big piece of rusty metal any longer, but now she is “yard art.” She has a purpose again.