I am about to share a true, rural America story, or as we say here in the South Carolina lowcountry, what I’m about to lay on you is as “country” as it gets.

This story involves a boy, a cow, a pig, some collard greens, a first truck and true love.

Yeah, I thought you’d be interested.

That first truck

There are a few “firsts” in a boy’s life that touch the heart in such a way that they can never be forgotten: that first kiss, that first love, and, of course, the real heart-breaker, that first truck. No man ever gets over his first truck.

The year was 2007. Dylan Mixon, of Varnville, was 15-years-old and in the 10th grade when, with the help of his parents, he purchased his first truck. It was a 1995 Toyota T-100, and it was already “very used” when young Dylan first climbed into the seat. For the next three years, until he finished high school, that young buck drove that T-100 to school, to work, and on countless hunting and fishing trips.

It had more than a modest oil leak, so Dylan never had to change the oil - he just kept adding fresh 10W-30, he recalls.

A year later, the teen began dating Stephanie, a girl who lived right down the road and who happens to be my wife’s sister. Her father had two rules for dating his daughter:

1. Treat my daughter like a lady.

2. Park that oil-leaking truck over on the grass and not my concrete driveway.

Later, folks in town theorized that the truck had more than just oil problems. Apparently, it took two people to drive it, because every time you saw Dylan in that truck there was Stephanie, sitting right snug up beside him.

Two trucks later, and Dylan and Stephanie have now been married for four years. Their son, Reeves, is headed for his second birthday. Like his Dad, he likes trucks and loves his Mom.

A truck reborn

Dylan parked the Toyota in the edge of the family’s wooded lot when he went off to college, and there it sat for more than a decade. The rust settled in and a window or two got busted out. In 2018, another relative, my wife’s brother, Brandon, purchased the truck and revitalized it as a DIY project, then made a special, more-than-generous offer to his nephew, my then-14-year-old son: $500 and it’s yours, kid. He never told us, but I am sure he spent well over a thousand dollars just to get it running again.

But how is a kid going to come up with that kind of money? Years ago, my father had made a deal with my son: help me out on the farm, and I will give you a cow. So the boy did, and he took care of that cow, and it did what cows tend to do - it grew into a healthy heifer. Eventually, that heifer began birthing calves.

Here is the part that makes Old Dad proud and swollen in the chest: my son, Michael III, sold one of his prized calves at the Orangeburg market and made enough money to purchase that truck on his own. That brings to mind the country song that goes something like this: If that ain’t country, I’ll kiss your grits!

Can you just imagine the sight of an excited teen boy, climbing into his first truck, driving it around the farm, taking out a fence post or two here or there as he learns how to drive? When he wasn’t driving it, he just sat in it, listening to the radio and grinning. I for one will never forget that day.

Now, what about those broken windshields? The boy sold one of his hogs to make another little chunk of cash, then hired himself out to a local produce man, who put him to work planting collards and turnips and squash and cucumbers. In one day, he planted 2,000 collard plants single handedly.

I came home from work the other day, and my kid was counting his money out on the kitchen table. He had more than enough to get the truck repaired, insured and on the road. In fact, he had more cash on him than I did.

The next generation

My oldest son has his permit now, and in a few months he will get his official license and can drive on his own. His truck will be ready, and he will be ready. He will drive a truck once driven and once loved by family members, restored by the love of family members. And he can say with pride that he worked and saved and purchased that truck on his own, not with “Daddy’s money,” as too many young kids do today.

Today’s kids. Grumpy old timers like me are quick to bad-mouth this up-and-coming generation, with their sagging pants and their video games and a new kind of slang that I don’t understand. But many of them will turn out alright, if we raised them right. The next generation will become what we have made of them, for better or for worse.

So y’all be careful out there, folks, because soon there will be one more teenage driver on the roads. Heads up - it’s a white pickup. It might be loaded down with collard greens, or maybe there will be a pig in the back. But you’ll know it’s us for sure because there will be one proud father riding shotgun and giving driving lessons.

Michael M. DeWitt Jr. is the managing editor of The Hampton County Guardian newspaper in South Carolina. He is an award-winning humorist, journalist and outdoor writer and the author of two books.