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the dogs aren't allowed to ride... but they'll pose in the bed of the truck

Last summer we embarked on an experiment in environmental friendliness and lifestyle simplicity. Or, putting it a little more bluntly... our SUV failed to pass inspection due to a fist sized hole under the driver's seat. There is probably something which diminishes the value of your vehicle more than rust, but nothing takes the wind out of a sale quite like the buyer nosing around the underside of your car and poking his hand right through the floor.

Needless to say, the vehicle which failed was the one we rely upon to get us up and down the hill in the winter. The little scooter of a Honda was a fun car to drive, but so low slung that even a dusting of snow on the road would find us pushing a bow wave. So, we went shopping.

When we go shopping for a vehicle we load up our dogs, a half dozen or so, to make sure the whole family will fit. There are enough car dealerships, even in Vermont, so one can shop where the salespeople have a sense of humor. But even with a sense of humor, and a desire to see us in a safe vehicle, it quickly became apparent there was a wide gap between what we wanted... and what we could pay for.

So we sold both cars, and rolled to one vehicle. Saved us a bundle in car payments, registration fees, and oil changes. Didn't, I'm sad to report, make much difference in insurance payments. The second car makes hardly a dent in that bill.

Did it simplify our lives? My clients, who found themselves making appointments two weeks in advance, or getting in their cars to come to me, might argue it certainly didn't simplify their lives. But we all adjusted.

The quick trip to town to pick up a few groceries has become a walk to the garden to see what's ripe: last night's recipe called for a lemon but lemon thyme was a workable substitute. So too the afternoon jaunt to Burlington to shop at a big box store is a thing of the past. Now, we get to The Big City once every couple of months or so. Going to one vehicle has both limited and expanded my world to house and garden... with a computer modem to keep my business alive.

After a year of living with one vehicle, I'm surprised to be reporting it wasn't been the hardship we expected it to be. We probably could have managed even if my work required a more or less punctual appearance at a local office. What limits my punctuality is not a lack of wheels... but a complete inability to function before the fourth cup of coffee. You can ask any former employer, they will all admit if I arrived on time, I wasn't awake for an hour. And if I arrived awake, I assuredly was not on time.

In fact, living with one vehicle has been so much easier than we expected we had every reason to think we'd continue going down this road. The Subaru Outback we chose can accommodate five adult golden retrievers in the back, two adult humans in the front, and a puppy under the passenger's feet. Effectively limiting our family size to something, if not vaguely reasonable, at least reasonably feedable. We can easily carry 200 pounds of dog food, and 100 pounds of chicken feed, in one trip. And the seats are quite comfortable if you have to sit in them for a long drive. In short, the arrangement seemed perfect.

Until sheep. The average sheep stands twice as tall as a golden retriever, and outweighs the golden by a factor of three. The average sheep is not going to leap cheerfully into the back of a Subaru Outback in happy anticipation of the wind in her ears. Nor is the average sheep going to willingly cooperate in being boosted into a hatchback. Worse, while dogs may paint your windows with nose art, sheep have horns. They'll simply take the window out.

Furthermore, sheep eat hay. Hay does not come wrapped in convenient fifty pound sacks. And after contemplating an afternoon trying to rid the family car of both dog fur and chaff, Peter declared our one vehicle experiment at an end. No question. If the wife wants sheep, the husband wants truck.

Since the truck was to be the wife's truck, and the wife is frugal, a budget of modest size was established for the acquisition of the truck. It was decided the vehicle must do double duty as a farm vehicle and rolling advertisement, but beyond that, all it really needed to do was to go forwards, backwards, and pass inspection.

To be fair, it was a very modest budget. It didn't cover a truck built by any manufacturer in the 1990's. Or the 80's. There wasn't much left of trucks built in the 70's, and we never did see a truck from the 60's. But it did stretch just far enough to cover a 1957 Dodge.

The truck has a wooden bed, fair tires, a little rust, and an incredibly loud horn. Its top speed, with much protest, is 50 miles per hour (downhill, with a stiff tailwind), making it the perfect vehicle for village driving. Toodling down the hill to buy stamps yesterday I was struck by how wonderful a convenience the second vehicle is. When we took two vehicles for granted, running down to buy stamps was an annoying interruption. Now it is exciting, an adventure in freedom, and something to look forward to.

But best of all... the little red truck doesn't start in the morning either. We were made for each other.

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Stories From a Vermont Life:

Camilla Blue
Frozen Gifts
Making Wreaths
Shearing
Hobblewood
Flush
The Fourth of July
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The Farm at Morrison Corner raises Icelandic Sheep on the last hill farm in Mansfield, VT.  Learn about Raising Icelandic Sheep, Raising Chickens, Moving to Vermont and Living in Vermont on this and our other sites.

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