The grim news came in waves, flapping out from beneath the hood of my old Ford Ranger like a colony of poisonous bats. 

“It ain’t good” said the first mechanic. “Your rack and pinion is all rotted through. Whole thing’ll need to be replaced.” 

“Can’t help you with that,” said the second wrench man. “We could replace the rack, but the frame is rusted through and it wouldn’t be safe to drive. Time to put her down, son.” 

Bummer. And a little mystifying because sitting behind the wheel of the Ranger in the hot garage parking lot, everything seemed just peachy. 

“Don’t listen to them,” the truck seemed to mutter through the obvious pain in its lower regions, “I’m fine. Come on, let’s take a long trip like we used to. Let’s haul the bike up to The County, waddaya say? I’m fine, I tells you!” 

Sure, sure, I reassured it, petting the dashboard gingerly. We’ll do that. 

But I think we both knew that at some point in the near future, I was going to have to grab my rifle and wheel the truck out behind the shed where I would give it the mercy it so richly deserved. 

You know. Metaphorically speaking. 

I won’t lie to you. I get attached to the cars and trucks I drive, especially those that are with me through strange or difficult years. I get so attached to them, in fact, that I’ll continue to drive them long past their expiration dates, cranking up the radio to mask the thumps, rattles, squeaks and squeals that mark the end of a fine ride’s lifespan. 

Clunking from the sway bar? I didn’t hear no clunking from the sway bar, did you, truck? No? Then let’s ride. 

The Ranger, bright blue with paint peeling around the doors in the shapes of various continents, has been with me since 2010. I bought it specifically to haul around my other beloved vehicle, the Suzuki dual sport that goes by the name of El Mechon. 

The very day I wheeled the Ranger off the Lake City lot all those years ago, I named it Piso Mojado, and here I’ll wait while you go look the term up so you can see for yourself what a romantic and loving name it is. 

I was smitten with the pickup from the start and so, as is my way, I proceeded to do absolutely nothing for it in the coming years. Oil change? I’ll get one after 10,000 miles if I think of it. Alignment? Nah, bruh. My tires are right where I want them so I don’t see the point. 

The more I neglected it, the better it seemed to run and it served me faithfully for a solid decade, coming out on rescue operations when El Mechon had a flat tire, busted clutch cable or had somehow become stuck, upside down, in a mud hole (it happens, yo). 

I tell you, I had the same kind of affection for Piso Mojado that I have for my closest friends. When it got me through a mud hole or snow-covered street, I’d coo lovingly and maybe buy a new air freshener to dangle from its mirror. As reward for the hundreds of crime scenes it ferried me to — and away from — I’d top off the antifreeze or get nitro for the tires. 

And the Ranger is a humble creature. It’s got an ordinary key and crank windows, for God’s sake, and none of the beeping, bonking, nag-you-til-you-cry safety features that newer cars insist upon. Piso Mojado snorts with amusement at the concept of automatic braking, global positioning or lane-change alerts. When it comes to the intricate working relationship between a truck and its driver, Piso Mojado is old-school — we don’t need no stinkin’ computer to tell us how to drive, no sir. 

And that’s no minor thing, because if you find yourself looking for new wheels these days, your chances of finding something without all those invasive bells and whistles is pretty much nil. In this age of two-year leases and computer-assisted everything, I kind of wonder if the relationship between man and car will ever be what it once was. 

Are you going to fall madly in love with that generic 2020 Chevy that looks exactly like every other truck you see on the road and which you plan to exchange once your lease is up? Would Johnny Cash have written lurid love songs about a car that parks itself, brakes on its own and complains about lane changes? 

No, man. But Johnny would have loved Piso Mojado, not in spite of its peeling paint, crank windows and various squeaks and moans, but because of them. Johnny understood that the love between a man and his truck is a special kind of love, one that endures unconditionally until that fated day when you have to take it behind the woodshed and do what has to be done. 

But let’s not talk about that right now. Piso Mojado is still parked in my driveway and he hears things. 


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