(B)ute Times

Among my fondest childhood memories are those involving my mum’s trusty ute. Weekends away at my grandparents’ farm, the dogs planted excitedly in the back, were a highlight. So was doing the rounds at hard rubbish time in search of the most outlandish outdoor seating arrangement, and picking up a winter’s worth of firewood before the prices went up in June. Everything was an adventure.

There’s something about being able to load just about anything onto your vehicle and take it away with you that’s kind of magical, and not just when you’re a kid. If anything, now that I’m a grown-up, I have even more appreciation for this capacity. Trying to move house in a sedan will really drive that home – that’s how you learn the true value of ute trays. Melbourne might be the place for having a small car at the best of times, but that goes out the window when it comes to shifting a lounge suite.

As a kid, I got to enjoy the spirit of freedom that the ute enabled, without really connecting the dots. What I mean is, I kind of took my mum’s choice of vehicle for granted, rather than seeing it as a conscious investment in facilitating many of the adventures we were able to have. While my friends’ mothers were working overtime to send their kids to violin classes or whatnot, mine was teaching me the ins and outs of rigging up under tray tool boxes and modifying ute canopies. Melbourne, to my mum, was a place that would provide any material effect you could possibly want – a lawnmower, a ladder, a deck extension – provided you had a spot on your truck for it and a bit of elbow grease to spare.

I think she got it from her parents, growing up on the farm and all. That seems like it would instil a certain attitude of utility.