Trust still lingers in the countryside

Growing up in a midsize town, I was used to unlocked doors. Mothers might have latched the screen door during summer to keep a toddler in, but usually the doors in my neighborhood would have been shut and locked only at night. While gardening or watching children play, we kept an eye on one another's houses and created our security by cooperation. Therefore, when I married my husband and moved to his family's fruit farm, unlocked doors did not alarm me.

But I've never adjusted to my husband leaving his keys in his truck. I was taught to automatically lock my car after parking. Even in the town of my childhood, people locked their cars if they stood outside. No one would have dreamed of leaving keys in a vehicle while shopping.

Perhaps my husband's habit is an agrarian quirk or a characteristic of truck drivers. After 30 years of rural living, it still startles me to find a row of pickups outside the feeding mill, idling. In blistering weather, the air conditioners roar as the trucks await their owners. When snowflakes fly, I can hear the heaters purr.

In my county, I'm apt to find two truck drivers paused on a gravel road, windows down, yakking away. I watch them gesture, accelerating their conversation because my arrival proclaims a conclusion. Most likely, these men stopped because each recognized the other's pickup.

I play "match the face with the pickup" whenever I see a truck cruise my driveway. A white one means Doug has arrived with spray and fertilizer. A maroon truck announces Jerry and Tony. Their trucks are part of their personalities. If a vehicle were stolen, the perpetrator would have to flee the area or risk being recognized.

A year ago, John and I bought a "new to us" green pickup. We bid farewell to the rusty truck that I knew by its rattles when John rolled in. Our new truck gleamed and cost us more than we'd wanted to spend.

My urban upbringing surfaced. "You could take the key out when you park."

"Might," John answered. But every time I walked by, there hung the key in the ignition.

Soon after, when I was home alone, an older friend stopped by with several sections of beehives filled with honey for my son to extract. I found my friend unloading the heavy boxes, or supers, onto the bed of my husband's pickup.

"You might want to store the supers in the honey house," I offered, while swatting away bees.

"Are the keys in the truck?" Rich asked. Without waiting for a reply, he hopped in the cab and pulled up to the honey shed. Even he expected that the keys would reside in the truck.

I've given up fussing and have come to accept and be grateful for the trust in my community. Yet the other day, I paused while passing my son's pickup. Home for the weekend, he attends college in an urban area. Even during the day, his dorm's doors are locked.

But there, glinting in the sun, dangled his keys. The truck key was thrust into the ignition, ready for a quick getaway. Shaking my head, I walked on. Like father, like son. Having grown up on the farm, Carlos understands this particular manner of his father and neighbors better than I. For all the truck drivers, rural trust lingers along the back roads of home.

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