The Dirty End
In my formative, mistake making years, I owned a big blue 4x4 truck. My brother and his friends affectionately referred to it as “Grumpy Truck,” due to the front bumper having taken a hit from a tree that resulted in a permanent frown-shape.
I was very, very hard on this vehicle, and it seemed to endure every bit of it. I could fill pages with digressions of its multiple victories against my ineptitude, but this is certainly one of my favorites:
One February night/morning (sometime after midnight), during a particularly frigid mid-western winter, I did as I often liked to do and took a drive through the country-side. I was always sober when I did this, it was usually for my own peace of mind and genuine pleasure.
On this particular night, I had a lady friend with me whom I was trying to impress with my driving around and conversation skills. I wouldn’t say it was going poorly, until I made it go poorly — but, for the large part, she will be left out of this story, if solely because she didn’t really participate much beyond being present (I guess we can say it was going poorly).
There was a point where I came upon a pool of standing water next to a great, old tree, and while the breadth of it seemed pretty wide I was fairly certain it couldn’t be that deep — I told my poor passenger that I bet my truck could make it through easily. Without waiting for permission, I put it into four wheel drive and turned off into the giant puddle/small pond.
The locals might call this “muddin’.”
I didn’t get very far, however; something hidden beneath the depths brought old blue to a shuddering halt. And there I was, middle of the night, freezing outside, stuck in the water.
Opening the door showed that I was at least correct in my assumption — it wasn’t THAT deep, only up to the body of the vehicle, but not quite high enough to start pouring into the cab.
Thankfully, as well, this was in the era of cell phones, and I was able to ashamedly call my father and let him know where I was (about an hour away) so he could come and save the day (the tales of his heroism could also fill a book, but that’s what happens when you have a son like me).
I let my passenger sit and listen to the radio as I exited the truck and waded through the freezing water (I was also too stupid to carry a coat or jacket at this time in my life, always assuming I’d find a pocket of warmth somewhere). I wanted to wait by the road so I could flag my father down.
After a time, though it felt too early, a big white truck made an appearance in the distance and wound its way toward me. I waved my arms, assuming it was my father. It wasn’t.
The truck pulled to the side of the road and the cab lit up as the door opened and a man stepped out. A mighty, mighty man.
He looked as if he’d traveled in from the early 90s, his mullet flowing down the back of his neck, the top a bit spiked and disheveled. He had a classic rock-band t-shirt on — no sleeves, of course. Bit of a gut, and, of course, a beer in his hand.
“Hey.” I said.
“Ya stuck?” he called back.
“Yeah, I’m kinda stupid,” I said.
What came next is quite possibly the simplest, noblest phrase I’ve ever read or heard anywhere. A wholly complete philosophy and outlook on life that could just as easily be found in some ancient tome of wisdom as it could on a bumper sticker:
“Welp,” he finished his beer, “Life’s short and so’s my dick: let’s get you out of there.”
I let my passenger know that this new person wasn’t my father, but appeared ready and willing to help us out. She nodded and continued to listen to music, and I left and returned to my hero.
“My name’s Wild Bill Irvin,” he announced, without my asking, and I was mighty glad he did. What a rockin’ name. To further his majestic allure, he let me know that he’d just come from a show, where he was a drummer — he took me to the rear of his pickup and dropped the tailgate, showing me there were indeed drums there.
He then gave me a wide grin, “You get the dirty end.”
This was it. Just like Deliverance, I thought.
“What?” was all I could muster.
“The dirty end,” he reached into his truck and pulled out a heavy chain and handed me the end with the catch hook, “I’m not going in that water to hitch you up.”
I immediately felt like the ass that I am and turned away, dragging the chain along with me. I waded to the back of my own pickup, waste high in freezing cold water, fishing around in the dark and the depths beneath my vehicle’s rear end until I managed to attach the hook securely.
I waddled out of the way, gave him the word, and he hauled ass and, as sworn in his initial oath, got me out of there.
“You good now?” he asked.
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Woo,” he inspected my vehicle for me, since it was obvious I had no idea what to do or think. He pointed at my front, driver’s side tire, “Looks like you hit something hard and got a flat.”
He was right, I’d hit something in the water hard enough to pop the tire and even bend my rim. I groaned and looked at him in hope.
“Sorry friend,” he consoled with a smile, “I must be on my way.”
I thanked him again and bid him goodbye as he climbed into his steed and drove off into the night. I would later formulate the theory (myth?) that he was like some country Jesus, out to help folks once, but then move on to help others.
When my dad arrived we changed the wheel and he scolded me, as was appropriate. He’s also a bit of a country Jesus, himself — or maybe more like an old Testament version of God, sometimes.
He had my younger brother with him, who was grinning ear from ear.
“When dad told me what you’d done and said he’d be back, I said ‘no way I gotta see this shit,’” — my brother is awesome and appreciates my failures for what they are: amusing.
I made it to town, dropped off and apologized to my passenger (and never really saw her again). My truck endured many further abuses, but that one is my favorite:
“Life’s short and so’s my dick.”