Yesterday, the 2014 diesel-powered Ram 1500 pickup was given the top rating in fuel efficiency for any pickup in the United States. It registered an astonishing 28 miles per gallon! The Ram 1500 was just one of the many stories that have come out in the past month concerning the improving fuel efficiency of pick-up trucks. In fact, it was just a few weeks ago that the new Ford truck was reportedly shedding an unbelievable 700 pounds, which would increase speed, power, and efficiency. It’s fair to say that this year has been monumental in the history of fuel efficient trucks. But, I wish it had come a little earlier.
Growing up, my father was a carpenter that ran his own crew that ranged anywhere from four to five men. In the sweltering Florida sun, my Dad and his crew worked from 7 AM to 4 PM, losing five to ten pounds in sweat per day. Working in those conditions, their skin became leathery and their hands were calloused half an inch high. Their joints ached, and their elbows popped with pain from swinging a hammer all day. But he never complained, and he never missed a day of work. Most importantly to my Dad, there was always dinner on the table at home.
In order for my father to make his small business work, he needed a company on wheels. That’s just how the construction game worked. So, he went out and bought himself a trailer, and he packed it with all of his work tools: saws, nail guns, generators…everything a carpenter could imagine. Of course, he also needed a big, powerful Ford truck to haul this trailer around. Establishing all of the essential elements to a small business, my father thrived, and times were good.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, there wasn’t a complaint that could be heard. The housing industry was strong. And on a day-to-day basis, he didn’t have to spend exorbitant amounts of money on gas (Man, I miss those 99 cent per gallon days!). My Dad was paying the typical dues, while making money and plowing forward.
But as the years went on, the housing market crashed, and adding insult to injury, the gas prices spiked to $4 per gallon. Soon, my Dad realized that this lifestyle, this job, was now a dead end. Our family would struggle to make ends meet for the next five years. We moved into a smaller 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house. My brother and I would rotate between using the living room as a bedroom and the couch as a bed.
For a while, 3 or 4 years I think, my Dad continued on as a carpenter, picking up side jobs here and there. He’d place a slider for a little old lady, or he’d build an entertainment center. It didn’t matter; he would take any work. But the money wasn’t enough to keep his “business on wheels” going. Gas prices were costing too much to drive 30 miles away, and his truck was too big and swallowed up too much gas. He was losing a couple of hours’ worth of pay each day. Eventually, he decided that it wasn’t worth it. He sold his truck and put his business, twenty-five years of his life, to the side.
Fortunately, my Dad had the guts to go back to school, get a degree, and start a new career. He now teaches a high school history class. But part of me wonders what it would have been like if things were a little easier, if the housing industry didn’t plummet, and if it didn’t cost so much to have a “business on wheels.”