Husband maintains lifelong relationship with cars

Is any bond so tight as that between a man and his truck? During the last couple of weeks, husband Ray has been absolutely lost without Guppy Rojo – his little red 1994 Toyota four-wheel-drive, extended cab truck – while it was having its engine replaced. Forced to use a car, Ray seemed to have lost his will to drive.

Guppy Rojo is the successor to Guppy, so named because of its nondescript yellow-tan color, that was Ray’s first four-wheel-drive Toyota pickup. Guppy was only a year old when Ray acquired the truck as an even trade for his 1967 red Camaro convertible.

Guppy had a lot of cool kid-stuff like a gigantic light bar across the top of the cab that, when lit, was viewable from outer space. I’m convinced it was that glaring light bar that caused a young man to flag us down one night at Clinton Lake and inquire, “Are you guys looking for a party? We’ve got a keg.”

Once he regained his vision, he must have been horrified to discover we were the age of his parents, because he beat a hasty retreat before we could accept or decline his invitation.

Guppy was burglarized one night while sitting in the driveway of our former home. All the thief got away with were Ray’s ski gloves and cassette tapes. I’ve often chuckled that he (or she, but most likely, he) must have been hugely surprised that Ray’s taste in music wasn’t country or heavy metal. Nope, the disappointed bandit found himself in possession of Ray’s classical piano tapes.

Guppy faithfully served Ray for a dozen or so years before being replaced by brand-new Guppy Rojo. Guppy’s last job was hauling a half-acre of Zoysia sod – cut by friend Frank from our former yard (now SuperTarget’s parking lot) – to our new home site. The little truck bore the scars from that dirty duty, causing the salesman who inspected Guppy for trade-in to exclaim, “This truck has grass growing in its bed!”

Ray has owned or driven other trucks, but they lacked the bond he has with Guppy Rojo. Most of our high school dating was done in his parents’ working farm truck, a big faded black 1947 International Harvester pickup with green sideboards. While Ray was delighted to have even old wheels available to him, he likely would have preferred a mode of transportation that wasn’t so tall it had to be relegated to the back row at drive-in theaters.

He swears that sometime during our marriage he briefly owned a black 1938 Ford pickup, which he traded because “it wasn’t pretty.” Frankly, I don’t recall that truck, so his ownership must have been brief indeed.

But I do remember another vehicle, a 1959 Chevy El Camino, which was far too pretty to be a truck. It had sweeping chrome eyebrows over large horizontal teardrop tail lights and was a beautiful turquoise and white two-tone. Ray painted it himself, changing the color from its original pink and white, which I thought looked nice, but he considered too sissified. He drove the El Camino to work for several years before selling it. Now all that is left of the El Camino are a couple of photos and its vanity plate: RAYS EL.

For almost a decade, we kept as a yard ornament a dark green 1959 Chevrolet Apache pickup that had great sentimental value for Ray because it had belonged to his parents. Then came a day when a man installing carpet in our home made Ray an offer, and I learned that sentiment does have its price.

It’s a lesson I just relearned in a totally different way. Guppy Rojo has been ailing for a couple of years after it started making a funny clicking noise when we were transporting a bulky purchase home from Kansas City.

It seemed that the clicking was just a quirk Guppy Rojo had developed because, except for the noise, its performance was unimpaired. But then, after two years of clicking, Guppy Rojo started CLUNKING. Ray took him (Guppy Rojo is a boy) to the dealer and – hard to believe – one of the pistons was in pieces!

“I can’t believe Guppy Rojo was still running!” Ray said in amazement. “He wasn’t even missing or blowing oil smoke!”

I think that it is Ray’s admiration for plucky little Guppy Rojo that caused him to spend $7,330.32 on a truck that Kelly’s Blue Book says is worth $7,200 retail. Apparently $130.32 is the value of the bond between a man and his truck.