I remember the summer my dad came home with his new truck, a red pickup.
We had just moved from town, from a house that was right behind the courthouse in Asheboro, to the country, to a house that was right in front of a dirt road, and my dad believed that a man living in the country should have a truck.
He was proud of that truck. And I was, too.
We took it all over town, my dad and me, riding high in the cab with the windows rolled down, hot breezes blowing across the dashboard.
On the nights when my mom worked late at her shop, my dad and I would ride to town to pick up dinner.
When I was a kid, Asheboro had plenty of family-style, sit-down restaurants, but I don’t remember too many options for a quick take-out meal.
There was Rays. There was Hardee’s. And there was McDonald’s.
From our house heading back to town, McDonald’s was the first fast-food restaurant you came to.
We always went through the drive-through, presumably so that we wouldn’t have to get out of the truck at all, kicking off a ritual that my dad and I would enact many times over the years, until I was finally old enough to drive, and I became too much of a teenager to ride with him anymore.
At McDonald’s, Dad would lean in toward the speakers, and in his deep, clear voice, he’d order the same thing for both of us every time: Two double cheeseburgers. Two small fries. Two small Cokes.
And then we’d take the long way home.
I’d stare into the night as Dad drove, a warm McDonald’s bag on my lap, the golden glow of the AM/FM radio on the console.
For the next 20 years, my dad drove everywhere in that truck. He hauled me all over town, shuttling me to school in the fall and to my grandmother’s house in the summer, where I’d stay while my parents were at work at night.
He hauled the inventory from my mom’s store the year she moved it from downtown to the mall. And then, years later, when business got so bad my mom finally had to close her store, my dad loaded up the truck bed, scarred now from years of use, with the old cash registers and the long, wooden display tables that once held pounds of cross-stitch fabric and picture frames.
He hauled peaches and watermelons from Candor in the back of that truck. He hauled mulch for the yard and Christmas trees for our living room. When I went off to college, he hauled everything I took for my dorm room.
Sometimes, in the summertime, he hauled my friends and me. We’d climb in the back of the truck bed and go wherever he was going, just for the chance to ride in the open air, watching everything we passed get smaller in the distance.
When I got too old to ride with him, he hauled my dog, a short-legged feist-dachshund named Muffin.
Muffin loved riding in the truck even more than I did. If my dad walked to the truck, Muffin ran to stand beside it. She was too short to jump in, and I can remember watching my dad, on those evenings when I had my own places to go, reach down to scoop her up and set her on the seat. She kept him from having to ride alone.
A few years ago, my dad sold the truck. It had 350,000 miles on it, and it started to have some problems. My dad no longer had as much to haul around, so he relegated the truck to a spot at the end of the property, where it sat for a long time.
Evidently, someone noticed it.
One day, my dad was working in the yard when a 16-year-old kid and his dad pulled up.
“Your truck for sale?” the kid called out across the yard. He was polite. And hopeful.
My dad looked at him for a long while and finally told the kid, “I’ll take $300 for it.”
The kid looked at his dad and said, “I’ll be right back.”
They came back in about an hour, cash in hand. They got in the truck, the kid and his dad, and drove off.
My dad watched the truck go down the road for as long as he could, until he finally had to turn away.