I didn’t know the thing was a Nylint Pronto Pick-Up Truck.
Not even close. Heck, I didn’t even know what a Nyint truck was.
All I knew was that I had been playing with my new Matchbox van during recess at school, and that I was the shit because of it.
I mean, it was a freaking yellow conversion van with racing stripes and a little bubble window in the back. All the girls wanted to ride in it — you know, in a pretend miniature date sort of way.
And all the boys wanted to own it, even though all they really did was just stand there with their arms folded, looking unimpressed.
My van weighed like, a pound, though, which meant no one wanted to crash-up derby against me on the playground that day. Not that I would have risked denting my new baby.
Except, I totally would have.
It was all going swimmingly. I was ruling the damn roost.
And then … up strode Lonnie Stevens.
He fell in line with the rest of the guys, folded his arms, looked at the girls gathered ’round. And the few nerdy boys who couldn’t conceal their admiration for my bauble.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Lonnie shift from foot to foot, and then mumble a few hushed words to Brad Hudson.
Brad motioned toward me with his thick chin, and Lonnie stepped forward.
“You know, Sonny,” he said. “I really liked my van when I got it … last year.”
That braggadocio caught my groupies’ attention, and their heads swiveled toward him. His eyelids fell a few millimeters, and a smirk spread across his lips.
Had he really beat me to cooldom by a year?
Well, yeah, in general … but surely not with my precious van.
Didn’t matter, because the tide was turning.
“Last week,” Lonnie went on — here it came …
“Last week, my dad went to Simpson’s and brought me back a big metal truck.” Simpson’s was our local department store, and just about the only toy game in town.
I didn’t remember any big metal trucks, but Lonnie had the crowd moving toward him, anyway.
“It’s just like our farm pick-up.” Ah, a pick-up. Not really my style.
The girls had circled around Lonnie now. A couple of them were fiddling with sticks of chocolate lipstick or Strawberry Shortcake hair barrettes.
Lonnie was winning, and his now-broad smile told me he knew it.
“Does the tailgate work?” one of the other boys asked. Lonnie looked over his shoulder at the guy, gave a thumbs-up and a nod. “Yup!”
Oooooooooooooo … a collective gasp from the girls.
“I can show you if you want,” Lonnie said.
Yeah, they wanted.
Everyone ran off to the other side of the playground, where, apparently, Lonnie had stashed his pickup or left it with one of his goons.
And, yes, nine-year-old boys like Lonnie often have their own goons.
So there I was, left holding my tiny lame van, with only Harold Peters left behind to keep me company. Harold was true blue and would do anything for me, but even he saw how hopeless my situation was — his rueful grimace told me as much.
One thing’s for sure … I wasn’t staying behind to ruminate in that hopelessness with Harold, so off I set, across the playground, toward the group gathered around Lonnie.
I nudged my way forward until I could see him in the center, squatted down in the wispy spring grass, patches of dirt and tree roots punctuating the landscape.
There in his grubby little hands was a gleaming green metal truck with a white cap and a fence around the edges of its flat bed — it was a farm truck, alright, a damn near replica of the one Lonnie’s dad drove around town.
This one was about the size of a shoe box.
“Yeah,” Lonnie said to the gathering crowd. “Dad told me there was also a black truck at Simpson’s. ‘Soon as I save up $11 from chores, I’m going to buy that one, too.”
The crowd gasped and closed me out. Just before I lost sight of Lonnie, though, his eyes flashed to me for a beat, and one corner of his mouth curled almost imperceptibly toward his ear.
Dad … Hero … Wise Man (Wise Guy?)
The challenge had been issued — I had to get that black truck first!
Now, $11 might as well have been a couple of bitcoin to me at that point in my life since I had no money, no way to get money, and no concept of money.
But I did have a dad who was constantly running to Simpson’s to get auto parts so he could keep his old Rambler on the road, and who wasn’t much of a tightwad when it came to me.
And … it had been a few months since my birthday, so toy purchases were few and far between.
So, on Saturday morning, I asked Dad if I could tag along to town, and we headed out.
At Simpson’s, we picked up our hose or distributor cap or whatever, then I popped the question.
“Can we just look at the toys for a few minutes?”
Dad tussled my hair. “Sure.” He’d been expecting it.
Simpson’s had only a couple of toy aisles, and it didn’t take me long to find Lonnie’s trucks, down past the Hot Wheels, nestled in on the other side of the Tonkas.
I saw the green farm stake truck, and it looked great. But that wasn’t my prey.
That Glistening Nylint Truck!
There, down and to the right, was the prize … a shiny black Chevy pick-up in a gray-white box — the Nylint Pronto Pick-up.
And, yep, it was $11.
I shot a sideways look at dad and picked up the truck. Tilted it back and forth in the light. Examined every side of the box and of the vehicle.
I was breathing heavy.
“You like trucks like that?” Dad sounded surprised, almost worried.
“I don’t know. It’s kinda neat.”
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Dad looked back to the Hot Wheels and the buck (or so) price tag. Those were more our style.
“Well,” he began. He scratched his chin. “I guess we could swing it just this once. But we won’t be able to eat out for awhile.”
We generally went to McDonald’s once every couple of weeks or so. A sacrifice for sure, but worth it.
“OK! Thank you!” I answered too fast, I knew, but … I had the truck! Lonnie could eat …
Dad tussled my hair again, and we walked toward the register. Of course, I couldn’t keep my fat mouth shut.
“Lonnie said we could play with our trucks together.” Not sure if he actually said that or not. Doubt it.
Dad stiffened, stopped. He turned toward me.
“Now wait a minute. Do you want this truck because Lonnie has one, or because you like it on your own?”
My face dropped. “No, I love it, Dad!”
He squinted, and studied my face.
“You can’t live your life trying to impress people, or trying to be part of some club.”
Crap. I was a real butt head. But I had to get that truck.
“No, Dad … really! I love it. It will be fun to have at school, but mostly I want it for playing at home.”
He probably knew it, too, but we continued on toward the front of the store. Dad wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about dropping his 11 bucks, though, and neither was I, really.
Dad Was Right (duh!)
I spent many hours playing with my Nylint pick-up truck over the ten years or so that I had left at home. Even as a late teen, I’d retreat from the tough world of high school and fiddle with the moving tailgate or whirl the wheels like a neanderthal fidget spinner.
But playing with Lonnie?
You probably know how that turned out …
I took my shiny new Nylint truck to school that first Monday I owned it, but the boys had all moved on to something else — dodgeball or kickball or light sabers … anything other than trucks.
And the girls followed.
“Toy trucks are for babies,” Lonnie said loud enough for me to hear. “My dad lets me drive his real truck on the farm.”
I wanted to cry, and probably would have, but something tugged on my sleeve.
“You still got that yellow van, Sonny?” It was Harold.
“I’ll bring it tomorrow.”
Harold smiled and nodded. “Good … now, show me that big ugly truck of yours!”
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