The Beauty of the Beast

Their beloved Sub­ur­ban ex­em­pli­fies ‘all-sea­son.’


It was 1990 and it was love at first sight. We had just re­lo­cated to Colorado, and with only one (rather de­crepit) ve­hi­cle, we needed trans­porta­tion for our new jobs. Beg­ging rides and call­ing taxis for the 12-mile trip to work nearly negated our wages. Scan­ning the ads for any­thing in our price range, I ze­roed in on a 1972 Chevy Sub­ur­ban. They wanted $700. We didn’t have it. With a smile and a prayer, I man­aged to con­vince the owner that I’d make pay­ments. The Sub­ur­ban, which we dubbed Yel­low Beast, made my heart skip. She looked like a log­ging crummy— the kind my lum­ber­jack un­cles and my dad rode in back in Ore­gon. She got us to work, all right, but that cheer­ful truck has also shiv­ered us awake on many frosty morn­ings, leav­ing us grop­ing for warmer socks while emerg­ing from damp sleep­ing bags. Yel­low never un­der­stood the word “heater.” I tell my other half, Tony, that even if the heater worked, the rust holes would re­main. Still, she camps like a champ. We pack two stor­age con­tain­ers with a Cole­man stove, canned meat and kitchen sup­plies. They ride on the back­seat, along with camp chairs and an emer­gency box filled with oil, a fun­nel, tools and warm clothes. And Yel­low Beast has a des­ig­nated boot cor­ner, re­plete with news­pa­pers to cor­ral our hik­ing gear. In the spring, she’s our fish­ing truck. Lum­ber­ing over the mesa, throw­ing dirt and rocks to the side, she can shimmy to the finest lakes. In sum­mer she be­comes our wood truck. Chain saws strad­dle cut wood stacked high, and an orange For­est Ser­vice per­mit pokes out from a log, the pa­per held in place by a saw file. Damp leaves coat the old roads dur­ing hunt­ing sea­son. Then she only needs a tarp to be­come a meat- for-the-freezer truck. Fi­nally win­ter steps in, shroud­ing Yel­low in snow. This is the time of year she lives for. Ski gear rests in back, and a ther­mos of tea sits be­side me on the bench seat, along with a sack of home­made cin­na­mon rolls wait­ing for lunch. Yel­low still needs help to get into four-wheel drive. When the roads are slick, I jump down and trudge to the front tires. Gloves on, I twist the ar­rows on the wheel hubs un­til I hear a click, then clam­ber back in. She’s well-known, too. On one trip, a friend strode to our cabin to ask if we had cell ser­vice: “Knew it was you guys be­cause I spot­ted your old truck from the moun­tain.” Can’t hide Yel­low. Wouldn’t want to. She’s one of the best in­vest­ments we’ve ever made—and, no, she’s not for sale.

Cher and her hus­band, Tony, make the Beast comfy for camp­ing with sleep­ing bags, foam and quilts. In­set: Cher and grand­son An­den take a lunch break.

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