I'll admit it: I'm sometimes envious when I see a dude driving along in a pickup with a gun rack. There are days when I'd like to have a similar rig.
A pickup with a gun rack is a driver's declaration about himself. It is not necessarily an accurate declaration because the drivers of pickups with run racks come in many shapes. But it is at least a declaration of what he imagines himself to be or what he would like to be. An armed pickup is a role the driver has decided to play.
What we drive is often what we would like to be. That's why you
see so many middle-aged people driving sports cars. It is an announcement of second childhood, a declaration of independence -- now that the children are flown -- from kid-cluttered station wagons.
There is also a heavy statement in driving around a congested city in a pickup with a rack of rifles in the rear window. Sometimes it is a political statement, an announcement of solidarity with those who see rugged, don't-tread-on-me, red-neck individualism as the bedrock of America.
But that's not what interests me or, I suspect, most of the rest of the gun rack-pickup crowd. I have been observing them more closely the past week. And you can covet only so many of those rigs before the Burt Reynolds wells up in you. To most of us, a gun-racked pickup is a swagger, a strut, a macho maneuver, a declaration of manhood.
You don't drive around a city with a high-powered rifle in the rack because you're terrified of the wildlife in the city. Except for occasional hordes of crazed starlings, there's not that much to fear in this city. You drive around displaying a high-powered rifle to tell the world, and especially the female world, that you're a high-powered kind of guy. The truck and the rifle are part of cultivating an image. Freud would understand people who drive around town showing off their guns.
Most of the dudes don't quite match the image when they crawl out of the cab. They tend toward large stomachs, with a navel peeking out from under a shrunken T-shirt, giving them an unnerving three-eyed look. But that's what creating an image is all about. If you already look like Burt Reynolds, you don't need a pickup and a gun rack.
My T-shirts are also a little tight any more, so I could use a new image. But there are a couple of complications. I can't even afford a pickup, let alone the gas to run one. And the only thing I kill anymore is a bottle of sound dinner wine whenever I get the chance. A rifle would be a waste of money.
Consequently, I'm thinking of keeping my Volkswagen Bug and mounting in its tiny rear window a little rack in which I will place my pearl-handled corkscrews. I was never much good with a rifle anyway. But I think it's a pretty strong and manly statement to drive around town with your corkscrews showing, thereby declaring to all the world that you're one of the fastest cork poppers in the West.
I have also noticed that many of the pickups these days include a large unfriendly dog -- probably in reaction to the frequent theft of rifles from pickups.
I wouldn't want anyone ripping off my pearl-handled corkscrews. They were passed on to me by my dear old Aunt Mildred who used them early in the morning to get her heart started with a brisk, young Muscatel. But a large dog would be impractical in a VW bug. So I'm thinking instead of chaining a killer chicken to the back seat next to the corkscrew rack. It'll probably tear the hell out of the upholstery but that's better than losing a good corkscrew.
And so someday, if you see a little Bug bouncing along with a corkscrew rack in the rear window and a killer chicken snarling in the back seat, you'd better step aside, stranger, because behind the wheel sits a real man.
Bill Hall is a syndicated humor columnist whose home newspaper is the _Lewiston Morning Tribune_ in Lewiston, Idaho -- wherever that is.
Copyright 1981 by Lewiston Morning Tribune. Reprinted without permission.