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Published January 30 2011

Swift: This columnist continues to keep on truckin’

As a child, I envisioned growing up to do many things.

Like driving a Camaro to my job as a Solid Gold Dancer. Or becoming the world’s next Nadia Comaneci or Lindsay Wagner. Or marrying Andy Gibb and running my very own Pomeranian ranch.

None of my dreams had anything to do with driving a monster truck.

And yet here I am. Driving a monster truck.

Technically, it’s a Chevy Silverado. But it’s kind of masculine, and it always looks like I’m hauling bales somewhere.

You’d think I’d be used to it by now. As a rancher’s daughter, I grew up riding in pickups. In fact, back in the day before law enforcement frowned on that sort of thing, I rode in the back of pickups. (We would fight to sit on one of the treasured “wheel hubs” because the hub-dwellers bounced the highest when Dad hit the bumps.)

Dad’s pickups were workhorses. There was a 1950 Chevy, an old utility truck, his aqua Chevrolet and a mustard-colored Dodge club cab.

With the exception of the Dodge, he usually bought them second-hand, so their boxes were already scratched from fence posts and heavy tools. Their cabs smelled of axle grease and were coated with dust from bumping along the red scoria roads in western North Dakota.

Dad also took great pride in his four-wheeling prowess and was not afraid to take his truck straight down a steep hill or up the side of a butte. He especially liked to do so with a city slicker in the cab, just so he could watch all the blood drain from the visitor’s face as Dad headed straight down an incline that would overwhelm a mountain goat.

I would grow up to view pickups as strictly the pack mules of the working man. When I reached high school, some of the young dudes would rod around town in shiny pickups with giant tires and Waylon Jennings window slicks, but we used to snicker and call them “rednecks.”

As a 20-something, I didn’t listen to country music and refused to learn line dancing. I figured my truck years were far behind me. Instead, I drove the type of cheap, reliable vehicles that suited a reporter’s salary: a Chevy Citation, an Olds Firenza and a Taurus.

But then I married a man who insisted on buying a pickup. We moved to the country. And the Red River Valley plunged into one of the snowiest, iciest, windiest weather cycles I’ve ever seen.

Suddenly, the pickup seemed more like a necessity than a nicety. Nothing could burst through those pillow drifts like a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Besides, I sat so high I could see for miles around me. It was like I was driving a Zamboni.

It also seemed to give me some weird kind of street cred. A few of the young male reporters in the newsroom seemed oddly impressed when they watched me thunder through the parking lot in my mondo-truck. I suppose they expected me to drive a pink minivan with Colbie Caillat songs coming out the windows.

The only problem so far has been parallel parking. I am learning the art of circling the block until a space previously occupied by a Hummer, semi or bloodmobile opens up.

But I’ve learned to embrace my status as a truck-driving girl.

Now if only I could find those Waylon Jennings slicks.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525