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I’ve had my share of trucks. My first pickup was a 1988 Chevy S-10 that I bought from Tom Soucy in Springfield, Vermont. It was a utility forest green stripper with a beige vinyl bench seat, standard transmission, two-wheel drive, crank-up windows, vinyl floor mat and a radio. It doesn’t get much more basic than that. Tom schooled me on the truck’s four-cylinder engine. “It’s called the Iron Duke,” he said. Very reliable. Truer words were never spoken.

I drove that truck every day for years and years and that engine never coughed or sputtered once in that time. I rewarded it with a new set of spark plugs when it had well over 100,000 miles on the clock. I changed the oil religiously. The one thing I did not do was have it undercoated. Eventually, the sheet metal above the rear fender lip rusted through on both sides.

I cut out the rust everywhere that it lived. I riveted in new sheet metal and finished it off with Bondo. It was a labor of love because it was going to my oldest daughter to get her through college. I prepped the entire truck for new paint and my friend Bob Malilla from Walpole, N.H. laid down coat after coat of utility green paint. Now it was solid, clean, safe and reliable. The only quirky thing was a slow leak in the hydraulic clutch reservoir. I instructed my daughter to top it off once a month as I had been doing for years.

I got the truck back from her years later after she had earned her degrees. I doubt that she checked the level in that hydraulic clutch reservoir once, and I had to have a new clutch installed. It was a small price to pay for having a well-educated daughter. I loved that truck almost as much as I love my two daughters.

In the intervening years, I’ve had a bunch more pickups. I had a new Ford F150 and a new GMC, both loaded with options and four-wheel drive. Just a few months before retiring I shed the GMC and bought a used retirement-worthy Dodge Dakota pickup. It has four-wheel drive, a nice hard tonneau cover, crank-up windows, and a radio. Simple, compact, and reliable. It is also an ugly conveyance that receives hard use and abuse. I’ve had it about three years and I am just beginning to warm up to it a little.

First off, it stinks. I had the carpet removed and replaced and within months, and it too stinks. This is due to a leak in the windshield seal. I am finally attempting a fix this week. The truck is a whiner. When I bought it I mistakenly diagnosed the whine as tires. After a new set, it still whines. What an ungrateful, unattractive, quirky little set of wheels! Oh, and the passenger side rear directional light is wonky. I know it is an electrical short because it works correctly when it feels like it. The little Dodge only gets 15 miles per gallon of expensive gasoline. A full-sized pickup can do better than that, but they have gotten way too big in recent years and I didn’t want or need a huge truck taking up space. That’s why I chose the Dodge. A smaller size does not always equate to better fuel efficiency.

This particular Dakota is the second one that I have owned. The first one was attractive, smooth, quiet, and rode like a Cadillac. You’d think this current Dakota came from a third-world country with second-rate build quality.

Rather than heaping more abuse on this unfortunate automotive creation, I have chosen to embrace its quirkiness. I’m spending more time and money on improving and maintaining it. I treated it to a NH Oil undercoating after undercoating it myself last year. I’m fixing the windshield leak, going after the short in the directional light, and replacing the seat foam in the broken-down driver seat bottom. It now has a hands-free Bluetooth-equipped radio. I must like it to treat it with such reverence by gracing it with a new radio. No, I like to hate it. It is an inanimate object that needs care to continue serving its purpose. It will always get what it needs, but nothing says I have to love it.

The Morning Almanac with Arlo Mudgett is heard Monday through Saturday mornings on radio stations Oldies KOOL FM 106.7, 96.3, and 106.5 and over Peak-FM 101.9 and 100.7.