The plow mule


Every home should have a plow mule ... you know, the device you use for all the grunt work? Ours is a 1999 Dodge Ram 3Ž4-ton pickup. This old work mule hasn’t even been with us coming up on a year and I’m finding it indispensable, regardless of its rust-tinged appearance. I didn’t pay much for it, and the way I bought it virtually guaranteed a surprise. I asked John McKay to get me a 3Ž4 ton pick-up at a set price, and sure enough, he came through with it a few days later. I honestly expected something a lot rougher for that price, but John bought it right.

Whenever you buy a well-used vehicle there is always an initial period of time when you learn what it needs and what you can live with. The old Dodge did not need much more than a new rear bumper, and eventually some rust repair. It has its share of dents and scratches, but in typical Chrysler-product fashion, the seats are super comfy and it can really haul a big load. This one came equipped with a hookup for electric trailer brakes, which I actually needed. Of all the options on this well equipped rig, only one thing does not work correctly, and that’s the electric passenger door lock. I have the replacement unit, I just need to find it. The lukewarm air conditioning immediately responded to a do-it-yourself recharge and blew ice cold all last summer. The digital temperature readout and built in compass work as they should. Even the inflatable bladder for the drivers seat lumbar support still works. However, this old mule ain’t pretty.

Her otherwise attractive two-tone burgundy and silver paint scheme is marred by a big old ugly dent right in the middle of its extended cab rear door, along with a triangular chunk of paint missing and rust showing. The adjacent driver’s door has a bottom edge that is completely roached with rust. The passenger side front fender will not pass its next state inspection. Other than that, it’s a delightfully comfortable big truck that could seat six in a pinch. Yesterday I ordered a pair of fender flares to deal with the rust issue on the fender. The plan is to cut away the rust, seal and coat the raw metal, then affix the decorative flares to the fenders with a combination of supplied fasteners and panel bonding epoxy. That should keep it legal and looking presentable for a while.

How do we use this old mule? Let me count the ways. Recycling is the steadiest demand. Helping our five children move stuff happens from time to time. We haul home wood pellets, lumber, move equipment, collect junk, yard sale finds and a bunch more. In summer we hauled a fishing boat and grandkids, but the gas mileage for these outings was abysmal in the old mule. We’ll be using something else for that this coming summer. On the snowy days my fiancee uses it to negotiate our rather steep hill, and it has filled in as a daily driver for children who have cars in the shop. They complain about the gas mileage, but hey, its free use of a vehicle, and it beats walking.

Over the past couple of decades I have seldom been without a pick-up truck. They are invaluable tools around here. This Dodge is the largest, most powerful hauler I’ve had, and I’m kicking myself for not getting a 3Ž4-ton years ago. Yes, the fuel mileage sucks, but it has on every pickup I’ve ever had, including the little Chevy S-10 I had for years that never did better than 19 mpg.

It’s not a pleasure vehicle or something you take many road trips with, but the old plow mule is one of those things that just makes life a little easier out here.

Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.


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