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The Telling Room: The Tales an Old Truck Could Tell
06/14/2013  

If only an an old truck could talk. As part of our Friday series of essays produced in partnership with the Telling Room in Portland, Balthasar von Huene gives voice to a military work-horse that found a new life in Maine.

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The Telling Room: The Tales an Old Truck Could Te Listen
 Duration:
3:7

Balt

My line goes back a while. My ancestors in the Great War, my older cousins in Korea, and my siblings in Vietnam have all served admirably. We aren't the Sherman tanks you see documentaries about, or the peppy little jeeps you always see in the movies. We are the drab-looking trucks in the background. Nobody talks about us, but we're always there.

Ours was the thankless grunt work of trucking soldiers and ammunition over mountains, through mud, and across rivers to the front. It was our kind who made forward air bases possible, moving fuel and ammunition to the planes and putting out the fires when something went wrong.

In Vietnam, steel plates were bolted onto us and machine guns were thrown on our backs to go after the Viet Cong. We have made the U.S. Armed Forces possible for 30 years and have scarcely been thanked. We are the Dodge M37s, and we're still here.

It was 51 years ago that I rolled off the Chrysler assembly line. I looked and felt like a million bucks in my fresh Air Force Blue paint, like any soldier feels in a clean uniform. Well, you can imagine how long that lasted once the reality of USAF service kicked in.

Granted, some say that I had it easy compared to my siblings in the Army. But although my olive drab comrades may have had to deal with more mud and dirt than I did at the air base, they also had more fun. The Army trucks at least got out once in a while; I was confined to lugging fuel and ammunition around the same air base, week after week, month after month.

Eventually, Uncle Sam wanted to upgrade. I got auctioned off - as luck would have it - to some New Englander with more off-road ambitions than I was used to. In a way, this was actually refreshing. I really got some exercise pulling timber, driving up to Orono, launching boats, and so on.

After some time, though, I began to feel my years. The salt water at the boat launch combined with the acidic needles of the cedar under which I was parked, and rust set in. My canvas roof rotted away and I sat there in the driveway, wondering how much I had left to offer.

One day, my owner decided to give me away. I was dragged onto a tow truck piggyback style and half-dragged from the island of Georgetown onto the neighboring island of Arrowsic. Boy, was that humiliating. Just a few miles, and I wasn't even allowed to drive there!

I was, however, allowed to drive up my new owner's driveway, which was of ample length and needed plowing in the winter. Just as I thought I was going to be useful for this, an old International Scout showed up with a plow already attached.

We worked out an agreement, though; the Scout took care of the snow and I took care of the firewood. Boy, was that a lot of wood. I'm registered to carry three-quarters of a ton of cargo, and I was regularly filled with double that weight in cordwood.
At least I was until the Ford showed up. For all the wood I could carry, I've never been that maneuverable. This new Ford tractor, on the other hand, could weave its way between trees that I could never hope to clear. Thus, I once again found myself sitting idly in a driveway, covered in a tarp, and used as storage for a bunch of old gas cans.

A few years ago, all of a sudden, my owners seemed to remember that I existed. They dragged me up to the workshop, and slowly but surely I began to see improvements to my condition. I got new brake lines, a new roof, a new differential, and a new air horn to let the road know I'm coming.

I saw some steel sheet kicking around the shop, too, and heard talk of new floorboards. I don't know when I'll be roadworthy again, but my owner's son has a prom coming up in a few years and might need transportation. It'll be good to be back on the road. After 51 years of alternating labor and neglect, I most certainly deserve it.

Balthasar von Huene is brought to us by the Portland-based Telling Room, a non-profit writing center dedicated to the idea that children and young adults are natural storytellers. Every Friday this summer we'll share an essay from a student between the ages of six and 18 with a unique perspective on the world.

Photo of
Balthasar von Huene:  Courtesy the Telling Room

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