Just the other day, I wrote a Craigslist ad for my 1992 Chevy pickup truck. I traded it in for a sleek, rust-free Ford Escape that gets twenty-seven miles to the gallon on freeways. And as is the case when many a fond vehicle changes hands, it led me to some bittersweet reflection.
Between changing jobs, getting married, moving out of my childhood home, and selling that truck, I realized that I’ve slowly been trading away many of my “farm boy” traits over the last couple years. I moved away from the farm last summer into a one-bedroom apartment in diverse, suburban Wyoming. Instead of taking long, solitary strolls around the orchards I grew up in, I find myself jogging down cacophonous 44th Street. Rather than walking to Versluis Orchards every morning, I drive fourteen miles through three different cities to get to work. That was part of the reason for trading in the old pickup for a new midsize.
This is kind of a big deal for me, because for the first twenty-three years of my life, I identified as a farmer quite fiercely.
It was a point of pride in middle school; I had a job and more money than I knew what to do with, so I bought a four-wheeler, mountain bike, cross-country skis, and lots of Buffalo Wild Wings.
It was my pick-up line in high school. I was the “country boy” who could offer a better night out than those city kids. Hey girl, you wanna climb the power line towers to watch the sunset over the peach orchard? Hop on my four-wheeler and I’ll show you the back forty. It paid off too; in my wife’s phone, I am still affectionately listed as “Farmboy.”
Even in college, it was kind of my trademark. It branded me as unique among my English Department peers, and I bore it shamelessly, showing up to class in dirty jeans and a ball cap stained with tractor grease. Don’t mind me, I just had to disc-drag the cornfield this morning…
But a lot of that stuff simply isn’t true anymore, and it didn’t really sink in until the other day, when I bought a new car. Vehicles can be a strong reflection of self, if you care to buy them that way. Sure, you’ll never find a self-proclaimed “Kia Guy” or a “Saturn Geek” in the same way people rally around Subarus and Jeeps, but one does not buy a ’92 Chevy pickup without absorbing some of its character. It was dinged-up just enough for me to respond amiably when collided with, but reliable enough to drive across the state for weekend kayaking ventures. I kept it empty enough to leave unlocked at all times, mostly because I liked the sentiment behind the practice.
I liked showing up to church, weddings, and job interviews in a vehicle that suggested both hard work and humility, traits that I desired to emulate through my work on the farm and my behavior in class.
Of course, this backfired once in awhile. It is widely assumed that all country boys know cars intimately, yet I do not. An acquaintance asked me at a bar once if the Chevy had a 305 engine, and I blithely said, “Yeah, I believe it does.”
“Really? No kidding!” responded the inquirer, intrigued.
This was evidently unusual; I felt my face grow hot. Hopefully he would stop there, but he pressed. “So it’s a V8, then.”
“Er—no, actually it’s not. I was thinking of…uh… another car,” I mumbled softly with a frown.
“So it’s a V6?”
“Hey look, the Lions are up at halftime!”
Turns out I do have a V8 305.
I like to think I’ll always be a farm boy at heart. Even though I don’t work on a farm anymore, live on a farm, or drive a farm truck, that formative chapter will always affect the way I look at life. I’ll always argue optimistically for the preservation of meaningful country music, I’ll always insist that working outdoors beats a desk job, and I’ll always find pleasure around a cornfield bonfire.
And to be fair, my life really hasn’t taken a quantum leap away from these roots. I live ten miles from where I grew up, I still work the farm on free weekends, and my regular job is in a greenhouse. I guess the point of all this is to say that I’m not worried about the change, I’m just musing about how it has. After all, “From solid roots come strong branches,” as my great uncle Warren was apt to say.
Oh and by the way, if you’re looking for a humbly reliable farm truck with which to live out your own farm kid fantasy, you know how to reach me.
Nick Meekhof (’15) graduated with a major in writing and a minor in geography. A farmer for the first twenty-three years of his life, Nick currently works for the Michigan Department of Agriculture. When he’s not traversing the state conducting orchard inspections, he can be found exploring the rivers, forests, and small towns all throughout the Great Lakes State. His current goals include kayaking one hundred Michigan rivers, swimming in Lake Michigan during every month of the year, and visiting as many Michigan breweries as possible.