Dana Van Kampen
I grew up in a town where very few people locked their houses in the daytime, but they did lock the cars parked in their driveways. So when I married John and moved to his family’s fruit farm, I simply couldn’t adjust to his leaving the keys in his truck.
It’s not only my husband. After 30 years of rural living, I’m still startled to find a row of empty pickups idling away outside the feed mill or hardware store. In blistering weather, their air conditioners roar. When snowflakes fly, their heaters purr. Usually, there’s a patient dog sitting shotgun, looking around.
A couple of years ago, John and I bid farewell to his rusty red truck and bought a new-to-us blue-green pickup. My urban upbringing surfaced as we drove it home. “Even on the farm, you should take the keys out when you park for the night,” I said. “And promise me you’ll lock it when you’re running errands.”
“Might,” he said. But every time I walked by his vehicle, there were the keys in the ignition.
[pullquote] I’ve come to be grateful for the trustworthiness of my rural community. [/pullquote]
One day when I was home alone, our friend Rich stopped by with beehives that he wanted our son, Carlos, to extract the honey from. He was unloading heavy hive boxes onto the bed of John’s pickup when I pointed out that he might want to store them in the honey house.
“Are the keys in the truck?” Rich asked. Not waiting for a reply, he jumped into the cab and pulled up to the extracting shed.
As our “new” truck aged, I gave up fussing about keys in the ignition. John made a good argument, pointing out that the dust-coated console and frayed bench seat made the truck less appealing to thieves than its ever-present assortment of tools.
Then I think about all the work we do with that truck. During the harvest season, John hauls countless loads of blueberries to our packing shed. He unloads oats from the combine into a tank in the truck’s bed. And when I hop behind the wheel to haul a load of hay, there’s no stopping to consider whether the key is in its slot. I’ve come to be grateful for the trustworthiness of my rural community.
Not long ago, Carlos was home from college for the weekend. I passed his red pickup and there, glinting in the sunlight, dangled his keys. Like father, like son. I shook my head and walked on.
I know he locks up his truck when he’s in the city during the week. But I’m proud that he grew up here in the country, where you know who’s coming by the sight—or even sound—of the truck, and any would-be thief would have to get past a friendly neighbor who expects to roll down a window and talk.