Island Voices, Literary, March 2024

Twinkies and a 1977 Ford Pickup

By Seán Malone and John Sweetman

We were poking around the old Ford F-250 four-wheel drive three-quarter-ton pickup that Seán acquired from me about 30 years ago. It seemed to have a problem with steering. This truck still is a formidable beast, with an 8,000-pound winch and oversized custom bumpers and guards, but it was becoming increasingly hard to steer.

After brushing off the accumulation of maple leaves, we pulled up the hood and examined the large 351 Cleveland engine space.

“Looks like maybe the power steering is out?” 

“How could that be? I replaced that pump about 25 years ago.”

Ownership had been transferred to Seán in the mid-90s, after the truck had about 44,000 miles, and today it may have twice that. At that time, we were both living in the Republic area of Northeast Washington, where I had been elected for four consecutive terms as County Assessor and Seán had sold firewood and fought fire in the summer.

After I moved to the Island, Seán decided to return to Vashon with hardly any encouragement; he managed the nearly impossible act of buying a real property just overlooking our secret crabbing spot. I had found the beach property in a lucky moment. Seán took it up and signed the papers on our kitchen table here in Burton. 

The “sort of” deal with the truck sale was that I got to borrow the truck for whatever use, usually with Seán driving. That was only fair, since he had put the first dent in the truck bed.

About 10 years after Seán moved back, he found he needed some parts to fix something or other. Seán had mounted a camper on the truck and needed the extra electrical connections.

“I know where that part is! Let’s check behind the seat!” We had looked through the various side panels with no luck, although I think a useless splitting maul and an equally useless metric wrench set had turned up.

The old-style truck had one of those bench seats that you had to pull forward to get things stored behind it. I had not fully cleaned out the truck of all my stuff before Seán took it over, since I knew I could always have access, and besides that, I had left some bulky sheepskins as seat covers – which made it hard to move the back bench of the seat forward.

We moved the things away, pulled the seat back forward, and exposed a lot of things hidden for 15 years or more.

“Say! I’ve been wondering what happened to my 1878 .22 short bolt action Winchester!”

And there it was! Sure enough, after a decade or more, it was in the same vintage shape as it was stowed, plus some 50-year-old ammunition. We all carried rifles in Northeast Washington at that time, and when Seán got the truck from me, there was an annoying rifle rack behind the seat where I carried an old octagon barrel 1899 Savage .30-30. The trouble was you could not wear a hat with that thing behind you. Seán took the rack down and merely threw his rifle alongside the seat and let his dogs guard it.

Along with those finds, we discovered some tire chains no longer useful, a scaling stick for timber, jumper cables, and the electrical connection we were looking for.

The most significant find, however, was under the seat, tucked away … a still-sealed package of Twinkies. These probably were left over from either our wood-gathering adventures or our expeditions to stake mining claims, although we usually chose some sort of pickled herring or smoked meat for our lunches. Seán makes a mean sandwich out of cured “farmers” seasoned venison, which is a seasoning not recognized by the game department. We “Googled” that fact to ensure literary due diligence.

 So, while we fixed the truck, we tossed the Twinkies in Seán’s marine and ham radio shack (kind of a shop, where his transmitters reside). A few years later, we came across the Twinkies, still in the original package. I think there was no evidence of an expiration date. We looked. Being much more attentive to Seán’s cucumber sandwiches, we forgot the Twinkies, and again it was much later, looking for some tool, that we rediscovered them. 

“I wonder if these are still good?”

So, a few months later, we opened the package and tried them. Sure enough! Just the same intense culinary delight as would come from fast food in the heating incinerator after 2:00 am at a 7-11! They were that good! Good is a relative term. We did not die or suffer afterward. So much for expiration dates. 

I recall that we called for a decent sip of Laphroaig single malt to clear the palette. Perhaps that was just the ticket.

Seán’s brother, Mike, claims the old Ford is now “vintage,” and he should know as he has all kinds of vintage cars. The Ford F-250 has not expired yet, nor were the decades-old Twinkies. Best of all, your writers of this story have not expired. We like that last outcome. 

March 7, 2024

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