Starting out as a brand new GMC Suburban, it’s hard not to get your hopes up. I mean, we’ve been at the top of the SUV food chain for half a century, hauling the loads, packing the mail, and doing jobs other SUVs wouldn’t attempt, and looking great doing them. Plus, it’s not uncommon for very important people to ride in Suburbans – quite a few American presidents have parked their rumps in one. Well, a guy can dream.
Even if the presidential detail doesn’t work out, lots of Suburbans do great things. Some of us get armored and go to exotic places to carry diplomats around, and sometimes we end up saving American bacon when things go bad somewhere in the world. You never know what you’ll end up doing, as a Suburban.
So when I rolled off the line I had big plans, even though I knew the odds were against me. Most of us end up doing the soccer thing, or spending our careers cramped on city streets, wishing we weren’t the tallest vehicles around, so the pigeons would roost somewhere else. I wanted more. I wanted wide-open spaces. I wanted to breathe fresh mountain air. I wanted to splash through rivers and streams, and maybe wade in salt water.
But mileage is what happens while you’re making other plans. My first post was with a businessman and his wife and kids in San Angelo, Texas. It wasn’t a bad job, per se. Most of the time I stayed in a garage at night, and spent my days in a parking lot behind a bank or something. The soccer detail was boring, but the kids weren’t allowed to eat in me, so it could have been worse.
That lasted about four years, and then I was traded in on a newer model. I sat at a San Angelo dealership for a few weeks, pampered and lonely, wondering where I would end up next. And then, one fall day in 2001, I was sold to the Hemphills.
The small, Central Texas town of Mason wasn’t bad, and for a while things weren’t much different than they had been before. Of course, life in the country is better than in the city, and it’s always nice to be needed.
I took the Hemphill family on all their trips, but most importantly, I brought them back, every time. There were the usual weekend trips to San Antonio or Austin to visit Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s, but more than anything I enjoyed the times we went to the coast to fish, or to the Llano River, so the family could go canoeing or kayaking.
There were plenty of long trips, too, over the years. I took the family to Sipapu, New Mexico, for the Hemphill boys’ first skiing trip. I hauled them all to Colorado and back several times, and once even took them to Washington, D.C., which was not easy, let me tell you. That town was built for Yugos and Hyundais, not big guys like me.
The trouble started when the boys got old enough to learn to drive. Whoa. I figured, hey, I’ve got seniority, but did that matter? It did not. The boys all learned to drive behind my wheel, mostly on country roads where there were no other cars to run into, but still. I never complained, though, and taught all three boys to drive.
Overall, it was a good job, and I felt appreciated. Then disaster struck. Mom ran me into a deer one evening about four years ago, and things started going south. They bought a newer vehicle, but kept me for the dirty jobs. I’ve been basically a hunting and fishing rig for a while now, but I can’t complain.
The trips are always interesting, and seeing new country is always fun. We’ve been deer hunting near the coast, dove hunting around Uvalde, and camping all over Texas. No telling how many times they’ve slept in me, and I’ve pulled trailers ‘till my bumper was sore. The most exciting trips, though, are the blue quail hunts at Black Gap WMA. The boys do most of the driving there, and spend more time looking for quail than watching the road, so I never know if I’ll make it out of there alive.
The battle scars are adding up and, as they say, it’s not the years, it’s the mileage. I’ve been hailed on a few times, and Dad whacked a deer in me besides the one Mom hit. One of the boys backed me into a mesquite tree, and another one backed me into a lawyer. Some of my knobs and switches are missing, and my windows don’t all roll down anymore. I have to work harder than the other family vehicles, on less maintenance.
This past March, for example, I took the family to Big Bend National Park for a kayaking trip through Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande, even though I was low on transmission fluid. I got as far as Alpine on the way home before I had to complain. Even then I didn’t give up, and brought the Hemphills home safely from what was bound to be the last trip I’ll make.
OK, so I didn’t get chosen for the presidential detail, or to haul an ambassador around Buenos Aires, but I’ve had a good run. Being a hunting and fishing rig is the best job a Suburban can have. It’s what I was made for. It hasn’t been an easy life but, looking back, I’d have to say I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
Especially hitting that lawyer.
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has never hit a lawyer. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org