I only had a few minutes this weekend to spend with the truck so I decided to start peeling off the Buchanan Fire Dept. stickers that are on the driver and passenger doors.
The stickers are plastic and weren't put on perfectly, there were bubbles underneath. A maltese cross with the various fire dept symbols; helmet, hydrant, ladder, hook, axe and nozzle. The words "Buchanan Fire Dept." in all caps and a simple sans serif font. The edges had already begun to peel up.
But as I started to peel back the plastic, I became sad. Somehow it was like lowering a flag for the last time. I couldn't help but visualize the moment in 1986 when Buchanan (a very small town in Central Texas near Austin,) having purchased the truck from Ferrell, NJ repainted the cab and put their department symbol on it. I imagined the pride they must have been feeling. A truck, of any vintage, is not a trivial addition to a small rural volunteer fire department. Funds are hard to come by, typically they are donations from the individuals and businesses in the community. A VFD fire truck is a large, tangible symbol of a community's willingness to protect itself.
I served with the Brent Volunteer Fire Department outside of Pensacola, FL between 1978 and 1981. I was lucky enough to be there when two new trucks were added. It's a powerful moment. Not only was the richness of men (there were only two women on our department at that time) wth large machines part of the experience, but there was immense pride in the commitment that we would take this beautiful, powerful machine and use it, at risk to ourselves, to protect our neighbors lives and property. As I peeled the sticker back, I kept having flashbacks to the day we got our first new Mack MC Fire Pumper at the Brent VFD, all of us walking around and around the great big thing, admiring and sharing emotion that we hid in our posture and gentle touches of the equipment.
The sticker peeled away fairly easily, leaving behind a thick coating of adhesive. I used a can of Goof-Off to try and remove it. It was as if it wasn't ready to come off. As I scrubbed, I stood wondering what lives and property this truck had saved. What firefighters had jumped off it and run into injury or death. What parades it had driven in, what relief it had brought to people as they saw it driving up to their burning home. What loving care it had gotten in almost 40 years of service.
This truck has had a long journey. As I transform it into what it will be next, I want to understand where it has been. The more I contemplate its role as a small town and rural volunteer department fire truck, the more I want to know the details. What a powerful icon I have brought into my life. A 27,000 lb. rolling altar to heroism, community, trust, loss and love between the men and women who volunteer to stand in harm's way.
The adhesive is very sticky and tought to get off. Perhaps because it binds so deeply.