Texans love trucks. I know, I’m a Texan, and I own a truck. It’s a 2002 Chevy Suburban with north of 175,000 miles, black and tan, V-8 FWD. I love this truck. It’s getting to where it needs some work and so I bought another vehicle, an SUV crossover. Neither one is a Prius or a SmartCar or a sedan. At a local restaurant, a distinguished gentleman stepped out of his Ferrari while my son and nephew drooled and told him how much they loved the car. “I’d rather be in my old pick up, to tell you the truth,” he said, “but I have a business meeting.” He sauntered off in his Wranglers and boots.
When I lived in New York, New Yorkers cared little for cars. Upstate, people drove economical tiny vehicles. Taxes were expensive. Salted roads were hard. For the New Yorkers (the city) who knew how to drive, it was to drive their status vehicle. Otherwise, they took public transportation. And who wouldn’t? It makes sense. A packed city where parking is obscenely expensive drives behavior.
Why do I bring this up? Well, a New York Times writer, Manny Fernandez, decided to grace Texas with his presence, and investigate Texans’ love of trucks. Here’s the entry:
Tim Spell has noticed a peculiar condition that affects Texans’ mental, physical and automotive well-being.
“I call it ‘truck-itis,’” said Mr. Spell, the former automotive editor for The Houston Chronicle. “People in Texas will buy trucks even if they’re not going to haul anything heavier than raindrops. I was interviewing one guy. He had a 4-by-4. I said: ‘You live in Houston. Why do you have this 4-by-4?’ He said, ‘Well, I own a bar, and 4-by-4s are higher, and I can climb up on the cab and change out the letters of my marquee.’”
Whether for high-up urban letter-switching or more rural and rugged purposes, pickup trucks are to Texas what cowboy boots and oil derricks are to the state — a potent part of the brand. No other state has a bigger influence on the marketing of American pickup trucks.
Texas is No. 1 in the country for full-size pickup trucks. More of them were sold in 2015 in the Dallas and Houston areas than in the entire state of California, according to the research firm IHS Markit. There is the Ford F-150 King Ranch, named for the iconic Texas ranch. And the Nissan Texas Titan, the floor mats and tailgate of which are emblazoned with the shape of Texas. And the Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition, featuring leather seats that mimic the look and feel of Western saddles, was named for the year that the JLC Ranch in San Antonio was established.
I’m tempted to write about them thar city slickers, but that’d be stupid. Houston and Dallas are huge cities and the dwellers are no less sophisticated than in New York or Chicago. Status symbols abound in all places — fancy addresses, fancy clothes, fancy art. Why is it, though, that Texans are singled out for yokel status?
Well, if one drives a 4×4 in the city, that behavior demonstrates unbridled contempt for global warming. Inflamed truck diving — truck-itis — offends the socially conscious Manhattanites and even liberal Texans. Guys like Mayor Bloomberg take public transportation and then take their private jet or helicopter to their second or third home or yacht. That’s much more environmentally conscious.
The pick-up truck, though, is a thumb in the eye. These big, beautiful vehicles which are long on comfort and generous on usefulness, offend a more delicate sensibility.
A true status symbol must be something that separates one from the lessers. Problem is, even poor people can have respect in an old pick-up truck. A beat-up truck is a sign of usefulness. The wear and tear means the truck is broken in like old jeans and cared for enough to be kept around.
A truck breaks barriers. No one judges a man in an old truck. One of my dearest friends drives the truck her daddy drove when he was a young man. She comes from a multi-generational Texas family and she feels most comfortable in her old Chevy. Then, there’s the truck her boys drive that she drove when she was a teen. Then there’s the old Suburban. And, of course, there’s the spanking new Ford F-150 Texas edition. They live in the burbs.
What do Texans do with all these trucks? Well, they drive them out to the ranch. They drive them to the camp. They drive them to work, the store, and school. Trucks, I’ve found, are much more fun to drive in than sedans. They’re more comfortable and from one’s lofty perch, the road is easier to see and navigate.
Texans value space. They value big skies and freedom to roam. Even if they’re stuck in the city doing business, one way to take a piece of that freedom with them is by driving a truck.
It makes sense, really. What doesn’t make sense is why New York Times writers feel compelled to cover a Texas truck competition like he’s observing monkeys mating in the wild. Well, it doesn’t make sense until the audience is considered. Pieces like this are for the New York set. They can sit with each other marveling at the hick-stupid people in that faraway land. The land that produces annoyances like Ted Cruz and votes for one of their own gauche guys — Donald Trump.
This attitude is what produced Donald Trump — in New York and now nationally as President. It’s time for the New York Times to check its privilege. Trucks, like Trump, serve as a reminder that not everyone thinks like a virtue-signaling subway user. For some, that’s an uncomfortable thought.