“They Stopped Makin’ Them”

Steve and his daughter Stacey
Steve and his daughter Stacey

My first truck was a dark blue ’88 Ford F-150.  It had six cylinder engine that you could see pockets of gravel through when looking down on it from above.  It had a transmission, just like its door locks, windows and hubs, manual.  The full-size spare sat a comfortable foot and a half off the ground, tucked underneath a full size bed.  The bench seat had a console that folded down, sans cup holder, that had one compartment for valuables.  I miss that truck.  It was good to me for a first vehicle.  A young man, with no mechanical ability whatsoever, was able to crawl up under the front end and change the oil, from a near kneeling position.  It was great.  It was simple, but function.  No extra was needed.  Now that I am looking for a different truck, I realized, in the words of my Grandfather: “they stopped makin’ them like that.”

One of the men that I have admired for the last few years passed away this week and his funeral is tomorrow.  Steve Rexer was a man who was a lot like that truck.  I blame his military experience for his simplification of things.  Form follows function.  He had the ability to boil life’s complications down to the simplest form.  When asked why he went from Hutch Community College to K-State and Pitt State his answer was: “To protect my interests.’ Students have enrolled in college for worst reasons.  His “interests” was a young woman named Cindy. Her, surrounded by a bunch of college guys, with him sitting at home didn’t sit well with him. She, who would become his wife, was the outcome of his “interest-protecting”.

He passed away 2 years, one week, and a day, from when he was diagnosed with Leukemia. I visited him that day. He had gotten out of breath taking the trashcans down to the end of the drive and they wanted to look at his heart. When I walked in the room he summed up his “illness” by saying: “Doc says I’m a quart low.” Funny, my truck always ran that way too.

After the Church let me go, I didn’t feel it appropriate to continue many relationships with leadership. So we fell out of touch. When he went back into the hospital a few weeks ago, my wife told me I should go see him. Remembering back to what he used to tell me: “God gave you her…so listen to her”, I felt it necessary to go visit. We sat and chatted for a while and once again I soaked up wisdom of the simplest nature but the hardest to live out. Isn’t that the weird way that wisdom works. We spoke of politics, cars, tractors, and life. He was weakened by the meds, but he never needed too many words to show this 30-something how much he didn’t know; never in a derogatory-you’re-stupid-kind-of-way, but in the a-wise-man-is-speaking-so-you-should-listen-up-kind-of-way.

He passed away and left 3 kids…only one of whom I knew well. She is one of the smartest, kindest, and devoted to the Lord person I have ever known. Her intellect is on par with the likes of Norm Geisler, William Lane Craig, or Tremper Longman III. She is a great teacher, a great mother, and great wife. For as much as she is all that, I think some of it can be attributed to the father and husband that Steve was.

My truck ran great for many years…Steve ran great through all of his. I needed to say this more…but thanks Steve for helping me see that an old ’88 Ford is something to be cherished, if nothing else than because its reliable and consistent.  I know he, in his own car-headed kind of way, would be ok with me relating him to a pickup. Especially him, who like that truck, that I only realize, now that he’s gone, that “they stopped makin’ them like that.” (sorry stacey for the grammar issues)

3 thoughts on ““They Stopped Makin’ Them”

  1. What a beautiful tribute to Steve, Travis, so touching. He is honored and cared for you so very much. Thank you for sharing this.

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