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OUR 1980 RED FORD F150 PICKUP By Steve Moreland – March 14, 2021

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Feb 11, 2005
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northern Nebraska Sandhills

By Steve Moreland – March 14, 2021

Carol and I were married in June of 1979. At that time, she had a 1966 Dodge Dart that had earlier belonged to Cecil Dahlgren, and had seen its better days. My vehicle was a 1978 gas-guzzling rough-riding fulltime four-wheel drive Chevrolet three-quarter-ton pickup, with automatic transmission. As my sister, Sandra, felt sorry for us, she loaned us the use of her 1978 Buick Regal to go on our honeymoon. We thought about taking a few old Hereford horned cow skulls along to sell on the way to finance the trip, but eventually common sense prevailed and we didn’t. We did enjoy the fun and prestige of driving her new Buick Regal, and it also got good gas mileage.

Cattle prices were good in the fall of 1979, and since the Chevrolet pickup that I didn’t like was still new enough to have good trade-in value, I traded it for a 1980 F150 Ford pickup with a four-speed stick shift from Annett Ford in Gordon. My memory may not be as good as it used to be, but it seems like $6000 was allowed on the 1978 pickup, and I had to come up with $2000 more to trade for the Ford. The new red pickup had a decorative white stripe down the side, and it had fancy aluminum wheels and a grille guard. Dale Cady was a neighboring rancher, and he liked those aluminum wheels. He declared that if we ever sold that pickup, he wanted to buy the wheels.

This new Ford half-ton pickup had “cut-outs” in the frame, to allow it to weigh less for fuel efficiency. It was not Ford’s best idea, and I think that was the only year it was done, but it did get good gas mileage. 17 miles per gallon was the norm, whereas about 6 miles per gallon was all that the 1978 Chevrolet ¾ ton would do. Trading the rough-riding Chevrolet for the Ford, which lauded its “twin I-beam suspension,” was like trading a lumber wagon for a smooth riding Cadillac. That was the last Chevrolet pickup I’ve ever owned, and I’ve been a Ford fancier ever since.

This new shiny red pickup was our only work pickup, and our only “going-to-town” vehicle. We needed to take care of it and treat it with respect. On its maiden voyage as a “ranch pickup,” it was used for fencing. Carol went ahead walking along the fence, pounding in staples, and taking out broken posts. I was to come along with the pickup, bringing a supply of new posts, and dig holes to plant new posts where needed. Bed liners to protect pickup boxes had not yet been invented. I carefully loaded each black dripping creosote post, hoping to minimize any damage to the floor of the pickup box. But alas, after the first load of posts, the bed was forever stained partially black.

At the first location where a new post was needed, I carefully unloaded the two-handled posthole diggers, a shovel, and a post. After digging a hole, setting and tamping in the post with the handle of the shovel, I pounded in the four staples, and drove on to the next broken post. It was at the top of a small hill, where I couldn’t get the pickup real close to the fence.

The post needed to be on the other side of the four wires. I carefully grabbed a black post and threw it across the wires. Then I unloaded the shovel and tossed it over the four wires. Next I got out the diggers and gave them a mighty toss across the fence. As luck would have it, the two digger blades straddled the top wire, and the spring effect sling-shotted the handles of the diggers right back in the direction from which they had come—right into the side of the pickup. This gave the brand new shiny red pickup its first blemish, so after that I quit babying it, and started using it as a ranch pickup.

In those days, I kept a few straight Angus commercial bull calves each year, to be sold as breeding bulls. A neighboring rancher was needing a few bulls to use on his yearling heifers. He came one day to look at my offering, and he brought along his wife. They met us at the corral near Highway 61, where the bulls had been penned earlier. I drove down to the corral in the new pickup, and this couple arrived in their car. I suggested to the lady that she take my pickup another mile on to our house, so she could visit with Carol while her husband and I looked at the bulls. She got in to drive away, and promptly killed out. This happened a couple more times before she finally gave it lots of “gas” and was able to drive away. As she chugged along, I wondered why she was having so much trouble driving a stick shift. It wasn’t until after our company left, when I next got in the new pickup, that I realized the emergency brake had been on the whole time this lady was trying to drive. After that it didn’t matter, because the emergency brake never worked again. I’d always have to leave the pickup in gear and shut off the engine, when parking in a precarious position.

We got the new red pickup in 1980, and it served us well for many years. We have lots of memories with that vehicle, and lots of the miles accrued were pulling horse trailers or hay sleds. In the spring of 1988, I was getting in the horses. As they galloped towards the corral, I hit a “bull hole” hidden in the tall grass. That was when the frame broke for the first time on that pickup, and the speedometer read 125,000 miles. This was many miles further than most of those 1980 model half ton Ford pickups were able to go without the frame getting broken, and it was a source of pride that we were able to drive it so far without major problems. John Thomas was working on our ranch at the time, and he was a real good welder. He fixed the broken frame, and after that I sold the pickup to him. Hopefully it lasted him a good many more years and miles after that. We do have fond memories of the old red 1980 Ford pickup, and always felt ‘’well-mounted” while driving it down the road.


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Feb 11, 2005
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I have a similar 1980 F-150 parked here. Not nearly as attractive as a red one. Brown and white, it spent 14 years working on a neighboring potato farm. My nephew bought it when they sold out and after some repair he drove it to high school and college. My Dad bought it from him 15 or so years ago but he didn't drive it much. I was about afoot when I got it from him. It needs a transmission swap and a general once over then our great niece is going to drive it to school. I better get on that, less than two years to go and counting. I have owned every brand of full size pickup, and there are three Ford's working here today. I'm not saying they are any better, but they are the ones I know how to repair.

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