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John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

Rackety-Boom has left the parking lot.

And like Elvis leaving the building, metaphorically speaking, Rackety had maybe stayed a little too long, gotten a little too rusty, lost a little too much potential time on the road as he sat and weathered and aged, not moving much but for occasional quick drives, ever since we moved from Aspen to Carbondale in 2002.

It happened just a week ago, when a 17-year-old girl and her boyfriend took possession of the 1960 Ford F-100 pickup that had been with me since 1980.

That truck had carried me to many places, both physical and psychic. I drove him back and forth to Wisconsin a couple of times as I slowly shifted my life and my accumulated stuff from there to Colorado.

And one year, when I signed up for Russian language coursework at the University of Indiana-Bloomington, he took me and my girlfriend (now wife) on a circumnavigation of the United States to get to Indiana and back again. It was on that trip that Anne and I decided we could stand each other’s company well enough to get married.

Rackety-Boom has been my moving truck more times than I can count, thanks to the peripatetic lifestyle of Western Colorado.

He’s been on the cover of the Roaring Fork Valley Journal, back when I ran Carbondale’s weekly paper in the early 1980s, as a prop for our hunting edition. The photo was of Rackety’s front hood and driver’s cabin, with a stuffed buck deer at the wheel and a human “carcass” slung over the hood, in classic hunter style.

He’s been much more than just a truck, is what I’m trying to say here. And now he’s in the hands of a girl whose legs may be just long enough for her to reach the clutch, brake and gas pedals. She called him “cute” in a cell-phone chat with her mom about the purchase of a truck exactly three times her age. If Rackety has feelings, I wonder if they were hurt.

After all, he was born to work, not to be cute. In fact, he carries the dubious honor of being considered just about the ugliest truck Ford ever cranked out.

And work he apparently did.

Sold from a Denver car lot to a Silt farmer, he lived the life of a ranch truck, which for all I know included carrying livestock, hauling hay back and forth from fields hither and yon, lugging firewood in the fall and manure in the spring, riding along fence lines to look for breaks, you name it.

By the time I met him, he was living a sedentary life, functioning mainly as a repository for horse manure that got trucked to a dump site every time the load climbed high enough above the bed rails.

This was in Peach Valley, on the north side of I-70 between New Castle and Silt, at the home of a co-worker and her husband who no longer keep house together. My marriage to Rackety-Boom far outlasted their marriage to each other.

According to this couple, the original owner had warned them that the truck had spent some time sitting in water at the bank of the Colorado river one winter, stuck in the muck, and had accumulated some pretty serious mud and other debris in his quarter-panels and undercarriage that was bound to rust out in a mean way.

But, hey, he’s still truckin’ along. As I have said more than once, that truck’s likely to outlive me.

In fact, I once decided that Rackety-Boom would figure in my death ceremony, something like an old Viking funeral. I’d have my friends prop me at the wheel, tie me in, put flames to the truck and send me careening down a mountainside into a deeply ravined river, and that would be that.

Won’t happen now, I reckon.

I retained visiting rights when I sent him off, and a promise that she’d take good care of him.

After all, he’s Rackety-Boom.

Oh, yeah, the name. I gave it to him when I first saw him, after a “Tell-A-Tale” book my mom read to me over and over as a little kid – a book-length verse about an old blue truck named Rackety-Boom that took care of the farm family he lived with.

“Rackety-Boom is an old blue truck, the kind of a truck that might get stuck in the mud on a hill, or just stand still for a while, any place, with a smile on his face – a nice old truck.”

jcolson@aspentimes.com


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