An Heirloom You Can Drive (Part 3)

Family is a very indefinite thing. More than ever, we tend to see families with single parents, families with two dads or two moms, or even families with step-parents or adopted children. No matter who it is that one considers their family, they all generally tend to be one thing: dependable. A family is a group of people on whom you can always fall back when things get tough or you just need help. That’s important to remember when Julie says that she considers her bright red Chevy pickup, Bessie, a member of her family. In fact, Julie started using that name for the truck, which was originally her husband’s, after her husband, John, passed away nearly 20 years ago. She called the truck, Bessie, because it had always been there. She and John had always been able to depend upon it, even for things beyond hauling a heavy load or taking the kids to school. According to Julie, the name sounded just right for a dependable family truck.


Bessie was originally bought only a few months after Julie’s son, Evan, was born. She says that the moment the truck was brought home is when she and John went from being a married couple to being a family. Bessie quickly became like the second new member of their family, not just because they could use her for projects or to drive the kids around, but for her ability to make even the smallest events more memorable. Over the years, Julie, Evan, and Meredith have gone on dozens of trips with various minivans and SUV’s that the family has owned or leased over the years. There aren’t very many memories that come to mind from these trips. However, there is an abundance of memories of times when John and the family would pile into their bright red pickup truck to attend a model train show or to go to the local hobby shop. In fact Julie remembers a simple trip to Oklahoma from a few years ago that she has fond memories of simply because she drove Bessie there. It could be said that the truck’s dependability isn’t solely due to its ability to haul cargo or get from point A to point B. In a way, the truck might be like your favorite cousin who always makes a family get-together more fun. As a five-year-old, you may have been bored to tears sitting around while adults talked, but as soon as your favorite cousin walked into the room and pulled you away to play catch or explore the neighborhood, you were having a blast. Likewise, the family has been able to depend on the truck to make even mundane experiences more fun or unforgettable. That’s one reason why Julie thinks the truck is something she can rely on, but it isn’t the only one.


After John’s death, one of the more immediate reasons that she kept Bessie is that she was a reminder of a wonderful father and husband. John was a quiet, rather prim and proper sort of person, but he was also incredibly kind and loved to share his interests with others. An avid model train enthusiast, he would often drive Bessie and the rest of the family to model train shows, where they would spend the entire day with friends. John had always wanted a pickup truck and most likely chose the bright red color as a way of showing pride for his Alma Mater, Ohio State. The extroverted looks of the truck clashed with John’s quiet demeanor and outward appearance. When he first drove the truck to work after buying it in 1994, his co-workers quickly took notice. They poked fun at him for being such a prim and proper, suit and tie city boy with a redneck pickup truck. John was a good sport, always willing to laugh at himself and took the jokes in stride. Now, Julie remembers all of that and more about John whenever she looks at Bessie. The old truck is kept much the same way as it was when John last drove it. It still has a parking sticker from his workplace and his Ohio State Alumni sticker displayed in the windows. John’s old windshield sun visor is still used to keep the interior from baking in the Texas heat, and his sunglasses are stashed inside, as well. Julie can always rely on Bessie for memories, but keeping the truck so that her kids could use it when the time came was just as important.


Even though Julie saved the truck for the memories associated with it, she still had something practical in mind for it. As the years passed, the truck wasn’t used often and remained in good mechanical condition. Julie thought that it’d be a good vehicle for her kids to learn how to drive on. After all, it was a truck that the family bought new and she had the title in her position. Julie could always feel confident that her kids would be safe in a vehicle the maintenance history of which she was familiar with. In 2006, a couple years before her oldest received his learner’s permit, she had the paint restored with Herb’s Paint and Body in Dallas, TX. As Julie put it, she wanted to be the first one to put a scratch on it. If you’ve been reading previous parts of this series, both of Julie kids, Evan and Meredith, each had their own unique experiences learning to drive with the truck and using it throughout high school. Part of why she considers the truck family is because of how it has moved from John, to her, then to Evan and Meredith. Julie does all she can to take care of such a trustworthy member of the family.


Though Bessie’s paint has been restored once before, Julie hasn’t had to do much differently in order to take care of it. She does like to keep the truck looking as nice as possible and always garages it at the first sign of rain. After John passed away, she set about removing his old workshop equipment from the garage to make room for his beloved truck. However, even after clearing so much from the garage, it’s only possible to get Bessie into the garage with the rear bumper sticking out. In case of hail, Julie tends to pull down the garage door so that it rests on the bumper to protect the paint on the main body of the truck. Fortunately, this has been the hardest part of caring for the truck, as it tends to be very mechanically reliable. Many of the belts and hoses are original, so Julie prefers to not drive the truck on long trips. Though there have been parts that needed replacement, all have been easily replaceable or not vital for operating the truck. Because it’s very clear that Bessie is so well cared for, Julie often gets sticky notes left on the windshield asking if the truck is for sale(It’s not!). For similar reasons, she doesn’t lend Bessie out to friends like she used to, either. After all, she’s a part of the family.