I grew up on a cattle ranch in the 1950's.
Back then, I was not so interested in nature and practical pursuits so
much as I am today. What I liked most back then were the Beat
Generation (or what I imagined it to be) hot rods, and Donna Kay
McAlister (not necessarily in that order).
So when I hear stories today about how "ah
growed up on a farm, and mah daddy taught us all to work hard and
blah, blah, blah...", I reflect that one can grow up on a farm and not
really learn all that much about hard work etc. and I offer myself as
However, when the '70's came along and the
back-to-the-land movement was luring young people my age into our
rural area, I came to realize that even though I hadn't even been
paying attention, just growing up on the farm had taught me quite a
number of things that city kids didn't seem to have a clue about.
In fact, quite a few of these folks seemed
completely unaware of how to even exist beyond pavement.
I realized that many of them were innocent
of things I had learned, despite myself, as a bored,
In fact, compared even with someone as
hopeless-appearing as myself, they seemed like complete sissy-boys,
even the girls.
If you have just recognized yourself as a
complete sissy-boy (or girl) this page is for you. If you're not
sure, keep reading.
The complete sissy-boy makes his first
mistake before he ever leaves the metro area. That is, he
doesn't trade his car for something more appropriate to the back roads
while he still has a job.
Do not make this mistake. You will
need a pick-up truck from the first day you arrive on your land in the
country. The good news is that you don't need the kind of truck
you see towering over you at stop lights, the kind with sumptuous
paint jobs, enormous tires and rumbling exhausts.
Those aren't really trucks, they're a young man's misinterpretation of what turns young girls on.
What you need is more of a tool than a toy,
or a lure.
However, the sissy-boy's next bone-headed
move is to buy a truck-wanna-be, perhaps because these wimpy
half-steps seem less intimidating than a full-gendered real truck.
Above: The Ford Ranchero: an
early example of the truck-wanna-be.
Below: the Chevrolet
SSR faux truck a more recent example.
Again, you need a truck, not a car, and the
fact is that a truck must begin its life as a truckóother wise, it's
a caróand always will be.
The homesteader or small-holder needs a
vehicle with the following characteristics:
High Ground Clearance
Ground clearance doesn't matter much when
you're on pavement all the time, but when you sink far enough into the
mud, when one or both bumpers come to ground crossing a ravine, or
when you drive across a rocky field, it's good to have the whole body
of the vehicle sitting fairly high off the ground. Partly, this
is achieved in the original design of the vehicle. Real trucks
have a design in which the body sits high relative to the wheels, and
which isn't too long with too much overhang.
That's not enough though, you also need to
keep the differential(s) off the ground (see photo above). I
order to do this, you'll need...
Unless you have something hanging loose
that shouldn't be, the lowest part of your vehicle will be the
differential housing on the axles between the wheels (what hillbilly
mechanics call "the punkin"). The only (cheap) way to
raise the differential height is with taller tires and/or wheels.
With rocks like these, who needs
hard places? The differential(s) are probably the lowest
points on your truck.
The monster-truck guys solve this problem
with enormous, wide doughnuts that cost lots and lots of money.
However this is Homestead.org not
InfantileRichKids.org, so we're looking for something a little
Super-wide tires do have some innate
advantages, they can float across boggy ground. Being very wide,
they deliver a lot of traction in some situations.
What no-one ever tells you is that they are
practically helpless in snow, especially crusted snow which they also
want to float over. A narrower tire, with an equally aggressive
tread, breaks through the snow and sinks into it enough to find
traction on the earth beneath. If you think you're more likely
to need to drive in snow, and less likely to want to jump over a line
of school buses, choosing the narrower tire is a no-brainer.
Also, besides being terrifically expensive
to begin with, wide tires are hard to keep in balance and rarely wear
evenly, so they wear out prematurely.
Had you been paying attention to such
plebian concerns rather than devoting your life to interpretive dance,
you might have noticed that tires have been getting constantly wider
down through the years. Somewhat less obvious, is that they have
also been getting lower, that is, what tire companies call the aspect
ratio, the ratio of the tire's width to it's height, has been getting
lower. Typical passenger car ratios are now around 60% and the
delinquent in the modified Acura with the megaphone exhaust and
dark-tinted windows probably has tires with a 50% aspect ratio.
What the homesteader wants is a little old-fashioned, but still
readily available and quite affordable. Look for at least a 75%
ratio, you can read the ratio of the side of the tire. If yours
says, for example, LT235/85R16, the "LT" refers to the speed rating,
which we needn't worry about
here, 235 is the width of the tire in millimeters, 85 is the aspect
ration, or profile, R denotes a radial tire, and 16 is the wheel
This is a pretty good size for a homestead/farm tire. When
you're buying a vehicle, look for at least 75% aspect ratio and at
least a 15" wheel size, for a quarter-ton truck, more for a half-ton.