I went home to Louisiana without ever leaving my adopted state of Virginia. All it took was one day of hauling, towing and delivering in a 2014 Ram 3500 Big Horn crew cab pickup truck. The experience transported me to summers spent at my grandparents’ place in New Iberia, La.
But Mama and Poppa Provost had nothing as grand as a Ram 3500 Big Horn. They had no truck or car at all. Trucks used then were de facto community property — owned by neighbors who were construction workers or farmers, who lent their vehicles and offered labor as needed, accepting payment only in the form of boiled crabs and crayfish, and an after-work evening of cheer and Dixie beer.
Trucks were a unifying force. They brought the community together for work, worship and celebration. They were symbols of hard work and prosperity, if you owned one. If you didn’t, they gave you something to aspire to, especially if you were a young man.
I’ve always respected pickup trucks as much as I’ve loved them. They get things done. For the same reason, I’ve always feared them, too, especially if they showed up in my driveway on or near a weekend when I planned to do nothing except loaf about. Pickup trucks mean get up and move, which is what we did with the Ram 3500 Big Horn.
My wife, Mary Anne, and I hauled new furniture — suddenly available at a “good price” made even better if we bring it home ourselves — the moment the truck appeared. An old metal antenna atop the house, pushed askew by a recent storm, somehow became detachable and cartable to a regional dump, along with other debris, thanks to the Ram 3500 Big Horn. Other stuff, things I had planned to leave alone until late spring or maybe next fall, gained a new cart-away urgency.
It reminded me of how truck labor days got started in New Iberia. A neighbor who was a construction worker or farmer stopped by my grandparents’ house to talk. People did that back then — see you sitting on a screened front porch, catch a whiff of boiling crayfish, stop by and talk.
“You usin’ your truck today, Roland?”
“No, Mama Provost, I’m off today. You need it?”
“I sure could use a hand. . . . These boys up here from New Orleans can help.”
“Hey, Mama, that crayfish I smell cookin?”
“Yep, and Josie got a new shipment of cold Dixie, too . . . “
“C’mon, boys. Let get this done for Mama. . .”
And off we’d go to spend a day aboard a Ford, Chevrolet or Dodge truck — the latter now called Ram trucks. We got some of the crayfish. But as teenagers in a Bible-thumping household, there was no way we were going to get any of that Dixie beer, which was okay. There was plenty of Barq’s root beer and Royal Crown Cola.
There was just a “Thanks, honey” after the day’s labor in the Ram 3500 Big Horn. That was okay, too. The truck offered nostalgia-filled, guilt-free pleasure. It is a beast — equipped with a new engine for 2014, a gasoline-fueled 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 delivering a maximum 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque.
But Chrysler, maker of all things Ram, has given some economical beauty to the beast with its MDS (Multi-Displacement System)/Fuel Saver Technology, which allows the Ram 3500 Big Horn to operate with four cylinders at low speeds and under light loads but gives it full eight-cylinder power at higher speeds and with heavy loads. The fuel-saving technology — and that description is used here advisedly for a vehicle weighing nearly three tons — uses regular unleaded gasoline.
The 2014 Ram 3500 Big Horn hits all the chords that ring true with truck lovers — a large share of whom, demographically speaking, are men involved in construction, plumbing and other crafts trades, and agriculture. It is rough, tough, intimidating. Yet it also is big and comfortable enough to serve as overnight shelter if needed. It can be equipped to tow up to 30,000 pounds. Equipped with all-wheel drive, it can plow through mud, rocks and mush — but preferably in wide-open spaces. The Ram 3500 Big Horn is simply too wide, too big to make a dent-free go of it in narrow off-road passages.
But it can work. It will get the job done.