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Different events and conversations in the past week got me thinking about pickup trucks.

Where I spent my youth in the 1960s, several families relied on pickups as the family car. They couldn’t afford more than one vehicle, and a pickup could do things a car couldn’t — ever try to take a cow to the stockyards in a Chevy Impala? — so a pickup was the easy choice.

Our family vehicle was a 1964 Dodge Utiline pickup — the kind with flared rear fenders. It was useful for hauling groceries, taking tobacco to market, taking said cow to said stockyard, hauling coal to burn in the potbelly stove and for moving two adults and two kids from one place to another. Those were days before seat belts and such. I’m pretty sure the gas tank was in the passenger compartment right behind the bench seat.

It had a six-cylinder engine and three on the tree. No options. Not even a radio; my father had no use for a radio in his truck. If a radio wasn’t helping him make money, he didn’t need it. In summer I used the truck as a place where I could read Mechanix Illustrated and Isaac Asimov books in peace.

I have one photo of that truck. Judging it by today’s standards, it would be classified as a compact pickup. It was rear-wheel drive, and those wheels and tires were tiny compared to what you find on today’s compact trucks.

When my father died, ownership of the ’64 Dodge passed to one of my older sisters. What eventually happened to it I don’t know. She’s gone, so I can’t ask her.

Two or three years ago I bought an old Ford Ranger. It’s almost the same color as my father’s truck was, and it, too, has minimal equipment. It does have four-wheel-drive.

In this area, you must have four-wheel-drive if you expect to get up hills in snow. My family and our neighbors were reminded of that in the back-to-back ice storms in February.

When we bought the truck, I made the mistake of taking my-then 19-year-old son with me. I told the guy who sold it that my son would probably drive it more than I would.

He drove it home, and now it might as well be his. We’ve made a deal for him to buy it soon, so it probably will be.

At this stage of life, trucks are more useful than the small sporty hatchbacks I drove in my 20s and 30s. Three summers ago a fellow I know who lives in Chesapeake, Ohio, showed me the two DeLoreans he owned. I tried getting into and out of one, and it was plain to see I had aged out of that ownership group.

We kids who grew up in the ’60s and early ’70s had the best music and the coolest vehicles. Country kids were familiar with 1949-era Chevrolets, late 1950s Fords and a few Dodges and International Harvesters. By every objective measure, today’s cars and trucks are much better than the ones we rode in, but are they really trucks in the old sense? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Hereford riding in the back of an F-150.

Jim Ross is development and opinion editor of The Herald-Dispatch. His email address is

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