Since tomorrow is my last day at Trout Unlimited, it seems fitting that I handed over the title to our 1994 Dodge Dakota pickup this morning. Trout Unlimited bought the truck for $1 back in 2009 and, because of its stamina and sheer willpower, we dubbed it the “Red Rider” or just “Big Red.”
So what if the wheel wells were corroded, the passenger side door only opened from the inside, or the windows didn’t roll down, the Red Rider was my trusted companion, alongside my dog – Abe – for countless hours of fieldwork. It was the best work vehicle a guy could ask for. Together, we steamrolled through brush covered roads, forded streams, and carried some ridiculous loads. Watch this video to see one of our exploits.
The Red Rider was truly legendary because it had its own sense of humor and personal charisma. It didn’t drive well in the snow or, really, even the rain, but I took pride in showing up at meetings with the Red Rider. Parked alongside the shiny new trucks of state agencies or high dollar consultants, I admit that the much smaller Red Rider looked a little bit silly. But the Red Rider always held its own, kept its head high, and never let me down. It always reaffirmed my belief in being part of a lean and mean non-profit, maintaining TU’s focus on efficiency and results and not getting caught up in posh and posturing. Would I have liked 4 wheel drive? Sure. Did I wish that the interior lights worked consistently? Of course. Would it have been easier to drive if I knew what gear I was in? Always. But I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
I envision the Red Rider spending its remaining days as a cared for farm vehicle, soaking its old bones in a sunny pasture and going out for Sunday drives. So long, Big Red. We’ll miss you.