The kind of neighbor every truck dreams of

Our neighbor through the fields called one morning to see if he could borrow our truck. He needed to haul some wood from a lumberyard in a nearby town for a garden building project he was starting. He has no truck of his own, in spite of living in rural Utah, because he is an indoor, bookish sort of fellow who never seems to need to move large objects from one spot to another. But here he was, wanting to haul wood at last, and no way to do it.

We like this neighbor, whose name is Milt. He has been a quiet, agreeable presence in our neighborhood for some years, teaching chemistry at a local school. But although we both think well of him, I was frankly astonished to hear my husband, David, say firmly, "Yes, of course you can borrow the truck. I'll bring it down in a few minutes. And I won't be needing it the rest of the day, so go ahead and use it for anything you need."

The fact is, in these parts a truck is not just a vehicle. A man's truck is part of his identity, a helpmate, a reliable companion, a basic tool that enables him to earn a living and keep his place up. And this truck was fairly new, beautifully barn red, with all the mirrors set exactly right.

The rest of the day went slowly. David puttered in the garage, pulled some weeds, went grocery shopping with me (in my old blue van), and waited. Late in the afternoon, huge clumps of storm clouds began to rise over the western mountains. The radio listed flash-flood advisories for nearby counties, and a severe thunderstorm warning for our valley. The clouds darkened and thickened, billowing toward us like dust from an enormous, distant explosion. Reports of heavy hail in nearby towns came over the radio. We waited. David said nothing, just looked out the window once in a while at the rain. When choretime came, he walked to the barn and fed the stock. When bedtime came, he settled in an old armchair with a book.

"Are you worried?" I asked, thinking of hail dents, scratched paint, crumpled fenders on rain-slick roads. "No," he replied, and went on reading. Eventually, the rain stopped and the clouds cleared away.

Long after his usual bedtime, I heard David go to the door and then begin the weary climb upstairs for the night. I hardly dared to ask, "Is the truck back?" "Yes," he replied. I scanned his face for clues. "Is it ... OK?" He gave a small smile and said, "I like Milt more than I like the truck."

And the truck was fine. When the hailstorm hit, Milt had pulled under a bridge and waited it out. When he returned the truck, it was freshly washed inside and out, full of gas, tires properly inflated, and the mirrors were set just right.

Now if I can just get him to borrow my van.

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