Pickup Boys

I was in traffic yesterday when I saw a vehicle carrying four boys in the truck bed.

It’s not a good idea to let your kids ride in the bed of a pickup truck. It’s a bad idea, actually. Of course, most people already know this. But apparently some don’t.

Oh, well. I suppose that people are going to do what they’re going to do, even if it’s a fatal mistake. Otherwise we wouldn’t have so many karaoke bars.

I was in traffic yesterday when I saw a vehicle carrying four boys in its truck bed. I was behind them at a stoplight. It wasn’t busy traffic, there was no real danger. And, I’m sure the driver of the vehicle wasn’t going very fast, but it’s just a bad idea.

You can trust me on this. I know what I’m talking about. We used to ride in the bed of Mister Danny’s pickup before and after Little League practice, or when riding to games. I estimate that during my Little-League years, each week I would spend hundreds of hours in the back of a Ford pickup with my sweaty teammates who smelled like gut-eating buzzards.

We were not a great team. We were the team who always showed up looking like a bunch of messy-haired inmates on punitive work-release programs from a state institution.

One of us, and I’m not naming names here, (Darren Marion Jenkins) even kept a package of cigarettes rolled in his sleeve. They were just candy cigarettes, mind you. But to us he was James Dean.

Mister Danny would pile nine boys in the back of his pickup, four crammed in the front seat. Also in the truck bed were two duffle bags full of wooden bats, baseballs, and a Coleman cooler full of Mister Danny’s special “coaching juice.”

Every game went the same way. We would jump out of the truck and end up playing a really slick uptown team who wore matching black uniforms. These teams were usually named after some deadly animal like, “Vipers” or “Panthers,” or “Mid-Atlantic Pufferfish.”

Our team, however, was sponsored by a mom-and-pop filling station that made its primary income selling twist chew. And our team always lost.

After each game, our team did what all teams do. We would march across the field and do the Good-Game Walk of Shame wherein we would high-five every member of the opposing team and mumble “Goodgamegoodgamegood…” with the same sincerity we would use to scrub our armpits. This is called sportsmanship.

Then we would all pile into Mister Danny’s truck bed and he would speed to the Dairy Queen. There, he would give us a worn-out sermon on how it’s not about winning or losing, but about how many deductions you report on your income taxes.

He would stress that the real winners were the ones who could lose 50-1 and still exit the field without the aid of a stretcher. He would finish with a prayer and remind us to be strong, bold, confident, and most importantly, to pay for our own dang ice cream.

Afterward, we would pile into his truck and drive back home.

It would be nighttime. We would all have ice cream stains on our uniforms, hats backward. We’d wave at cars while riding in traffic. Our one and only goal was to get cars to honk their horns at us.

This was all we cared about in life. It was everything. In fact, if we would have put half the effort into baseball as we put into coaxing cars to honk, we would have made the World Series.

Usually, we’d wave our hands and beg motorists to blare their horn. If they honked, we would die with laughter. Which I’m sure was a big thrill for whoever was doing the honking.

Just imagine: You’re riding along the highway, having a bad day, your boss gave you a pay cut. In traffic, you see a truck full of unkempt little boys, many of whom are wearing T-shirts that show their bellies. They are all waving at you. With both hands. Eighteen little grubby arms in the air, flailing. Nine voices shouting, “HONK! HONK! HONK!”

And when you’d hit your horn, you’d hear “YAY!”

It would have blessed your heart.

At the end of the night, Mister Danny would drop us at our houses and pat our hindparts before sending us up the sidewalk. All coaches pat the butts of their players. This is true of every sport. Worldwide.

For example: I just watched an NFL football game where the head coach visited his players for a pep talk. Afterward, he slapped their buttocks before millions of people on national television. These players, keep in mind, have base salaries of—I actually looked this up—15 million dollars per year. And this guy is basically spanking them before 3 billion viewers. You have to love America.

Mister Danny would leave a driveway slowly. And the boy on the porch would wave goodbye to his teammates, who would all be calling out things like, “BOOO!” or “YOU STINK!”

Then the taillights of the pickup would wink out in the distance and you’d hear the distant sounds of far-off car horns honking.

And you knew the boys had struck again.

This is exactly why I tapped on my horn at the stoplight when I was behind that truck. I did it because the kids in the truck were waving their arms and begging me to do it. I did it because even though I disagree with letting kids ride in the backs of pickups, you should have seen their faces. They had ice cream smears on their cheeks and everything.

I did it because if I could go back to that beautiful phase of life, even if only for a few minutes, I would.

But at this age all I can do is honk.


  1. mevsm1 - November 18, 2019 8:03 am

    Beep beep. beep beep, beep beep beep beep beep beep. Honk honk 😀

  2. Steve - November 18, 2019 8:05 am

    Some of read every day. Disappointed.

  3. Mike (female) - November 18, 2019 8:16 am

    You have a corner on a market! Keep it up! I read you daily! Bless your heart!

  4. Glenda - November 18, 2019 8:28 am

    So, I’m with a friend who has accompanied me to Fort Lauderdale to help friends meet their flight to Nicaragua and he honks the horn in tunnels and over bridges and for any other reason he chooses, Initially embarrassed, soon I recognized that he was feeling young again and playful.. Yep, I’d take some of the historic “honk” times all over again ~ great post!

  5. Steve - November 18, 2019 10:40 am

    Please forgive my earlier comment. I was frustrated from insomnia, and should have kept my mouth shut. I’m sorry if I offended anyone including Sean.

  6. Richda McNutt - November 18, 2019 11:11 am

    Bless your big, soft heart. We all have days that we get up on the wrong side of the bed and want to take our crabs out on whatever. I hope your day improved – insomnia’s an unwelcome companion and I couldn’t live without my Kindle Paperwhite (especially at 2:30 a.m.).

  7. Susan - November 18, 2019 11:47 am

    Best cure for insomnia? Go take a ride in the bed of a pickup truck and see how may people u can get to honk! You’ll sleep like a baby!☺️

  8. Phil S. - November 18, 2019 12:56 pm

    Great one, Sean. Memories of The Bad News Bears and Sandlot come to mind, not to mention our own son’s brilliant little league career. Now we have a grandson playing summer and fall baseball. America’s game! Keep honking and writing.

  9. Donna - November 18, 2019 1:08 pm

    Makes me miss those golden carefree days my younger brother and I got to sit in lawn chairs in the back our dads truck. Every Sunday afternoon just cruised all the back roads.

  10. KAT - November 18, 2019 2:03 pm

    💕 Thank you, again, Sean for taking us back to the simple joys of life. My hubby and I are over 60 years of age and still enjoy watching the young boys and girls of our small town run around the dirt bases and do cartwheels in the dandelion outfield! We so love the mingled smells of fresh cut grass and hot dogs being grilled while the kiddos play. Honk honk ! 💕

  11. Melanie - November 18, 2019 2:15 pm

    Thanks Sean. Needed this today. Appreciate it. ❤️

  12. Shelton A. - November 18, 2019 2:20 pm

    Childhood has its attractions…but adulthood does too. Things like Jamie, Thelma Lou, and Otis. Not to mention thousands and thousands of readers who love every word they read. You do use words rather well.

  13. Connie Havard Ryland - November 18, 2019 2:31 pm

    Simple. Beautiful. My blessing for the day. Love and hugs.

  14. Angela V Young - November 18, 2019 2:42 pm

    Sean, your writing catapults me right to the center of the story. I am right there visualizing it all. You have an enormous, soft heart and I love where it takes me!

  15. Jimpa - November 18, 2019 3:03 pm

    Aah, yes. Memories of riding in the back of dads pickup goin down to the river camp just about every weekend for almost 10 years, getting drivers to wave and truckers to honk. And where I learned ‘the facts of life’

  16. Naomi - November 18, 2019 3:21 pm

    My Girl Scout leader was like your coach. She had a station wagon and when she took us home after a meeting, several of us would sit on the tailgate, along with her dog that always went with us. We also waved at passing motorists and they would honk at us. I never thought about how dangerous it was and how stupid we were for doing it but, somehow, we all managed to survive.

  17. Marge Hutsell - November 18, 2019 3:25 pm

    Another day, another blessed posting from you, Sean! Thank you for your everlasting, straight from the heart words of a memory from long ago! I am nearing 80 years of age and your words take me back in time instantly – to a time when life was much more simple and not as frightening as it is today.

  18. Linda Moon - November 18, 2019 3:29 pm

    Wouldn’t we all love to return to our age of beautiful innocence. You, Sean, can do more than honk because you are not old. OLD doesn’t happen until somewhere between 71 & 80. You’ve got a long way to go. HONK, and then some! YAY!!

  19. Ala Red Clay Girl - November 18, 2019 4:41 pm

    I remember the thrill of getting an 18-wheeler to “honk” his horn. I still don’t know why that was so much fun, but it was. Oh, to be a kid again….

  20. Edna B. - November 18, 2019 5:49 pm

    I remember riding in the back of a truck when I was a kid. Nice memories. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  21. Chasity Davis Ritter - November 18, 2019 6:04 pm

    One of my moms favorite memories of riding in the back of a pickup truck was when she was little. Every Christmas they would ride to her grandmas just a town over for Christmas but there were so many kids they had to ride in the back of the truck to get there. Coats and gloves on piled in together laying back with covers. Yes it was cold out maybe sometimes even snowing but crammed in with your family going to grandmas thinking of the meal ahead and maybe the one present they would get the warmth of Christmas sustained them and made the memories last a lifetime. She gets all twinkly eyed when she tells me about it too.

  22. Jim Brady - November 18, 2019 7:07 pm

    Sean, I just read your post about kids riding in the bed of pick up trucks and it brought back a flood of memories of the time I played little league baseball. I grew up in High Point, NC and we played all of out games at Armstrong Park. Behind home plate and the heavy wire backstop, that spanned from dugout to dugout, were the bleachers and the refreshment stand. It was actually the early version of a food truck where the operator took orders through a side window and exited through a back door when business slowed down during play on the field. Everyone, home team and visiting team supporters, sat in the same bleachers and rooted for their son’s team. My dad was a hard working man who did his best to put food on the table for a family of five, but he loved sports and often brought a cow bell to root for me. After a game where one of the opposing team parent’s brought a larger bell to the game, my dad decided that he had to make things right and showed up at the next game with an air horn that he kept hidden until I got a hit my next time at bat. Well, not only did he clear the bleachers, but the guy in the truck nearly knocked himself unconscious trying to get out of the way of the 18 wheeler bearing down on him. I can’t remember if we won or lost the game, but if I could go back to that time again, like you, I would in a heart beat.

  23. Suzanne Hill - November 21, 2019 9:02 pm

    Curt & Melissa Williams, Jamie Dietrich, Thank U so much for taking the time to get the article to me !! Can’t afford to miss one of Sean’s articles!! 😉

  24. Kathy - December 14, 2019 10:11 am

    Lost a great athlete and friend when her granddaddy hit a pothole and bounced her out of the truck onto her head.

  25. Steve Winfield - December 17, 2019 3:40 am

    Most of the time dad had a camper shell so it was impossible to fall out. Even when he didn’t we had sense enough to hold on.
    By our teens we were sneaking smokes back in the camper while he drove. He was dead set against cigarettes. I smoked the first one in front of him the night before Navy boot camp graduation.
    He had to drive about 4 miles to get a 6-pack of Schlitz. U-Tote-M. They also had an Icee machine. Suicide Icee & a Slim Jim. I thought we were rich. Every kid on the street wanted to go with us. Dad would haul 1/2 a dozen most nights. He’d buy em all a snack, too.
    Advantages of being raised by a single man with a steady job, (or two). He’d rather have a bunch of kids over than have us out of his sight.
    Mr. George. That’s what they all called him. Daddy to us. He was one in a million. Schlitz, Red Man & King Edward Cigars. Icee & a Slim Jim for my boys.


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