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HERB BENHAM: When it comes to trucks (and theft), love hurts

Stealing a catalytic converter is expensive and irritating, stealing a car is awful but when you steal a truck, now that's personal.

Thomas, our son, had his truck stolen recently. It was parked in front of their house. What are you supposed to do, park it in your living room?

Like most trucks, this one had a story, one that seems more personal than the story belonging to your average car. He'd bought it from a friend who had bought it from another friend.

If that thing had been a horse, you could have traced the lineage four generations deep.

When you own a truck, normally you go two ways. You accept the truck with all of its flaws because it can haul or hold most anything short of a small elephant.

"Accept it" or fix it up, and Thomas was in the second category. He put a new liner in the bed of the truck. He put good seats in the front. He improved the engine.

That truck not only was a baby but his baby.

Thomas is not alone in having his truck stolen. Many friends have either almost had their trucks stolen or had the dark deed done. My friend Scott lost his several months ago in front of his house in the northwest. North, south, east or west, doesn't matter where you live. Truck thieves are mobile and after they steal your truck, more mobile.

Scott is stoical but he'd had the truck a long time and I'm guessing it hurt.

They've tried to steal my truck twice and my truck has been voted "the truck least likely to be stolen" several years running. Thirty years old, 300,000 miles, peeling paint, dents on the body, starts about half the time. The reason the white truck hasn't been stolen yet is that thieves picked half the time when it wouldn't start.

Not starting didn't stop them from breaking the steering column and doing everything they could to jump the car other than pushing it down the street.

My sense is, and my sense could be dead wrong, is most of the stolen trucks leave town. They are shuttled south and relicensed and repurposed. If the stolen truck stays in town, you risk having the original owner see his or her truck and not everybody responds with restraint or peacefully to that scenario.

Thomas' truck stayed in town and what made it especially painful is that while driving randomly around, he and a friend spotted it at the Taco Bell downtown where it sat for 15 minutes. He called 911. The police were otherwise engaged and eventually, after some additional high jinks, the thieves totaled the truck and it now sits in a junkyard.

Normally, I am a "punishment should fit the crime" guy but I believe in exceptions and stealing somebody's truck clears that threshold. I'm thinking something between capital punishment and life in prison but closer to capital punishment.

Although it's more satisfying to gin up various forms of torture (the Middle Ages is a good place to start) that one might use to settle the score, ultimately it becomes a lesson, the sort of lesson most of us learn in increments of $100 bills.

Fact: There seems to be an inexhaustible pool of bad guys, and in this case tweakers and there is probably crossover. They'll take anything that isn't nailed down and sometimes, they'll bring a crowbar, if it is.

I figure (after being smoked a bunch of times) the worst-case scenario for my stuff and then work backward. Some people unhook the battery cables on their trucks. Maybe buy the Club for steering wheels and it's possible to put in a bypass switch that has to be in the on position for the car to start. I'm not sure what you do about a catalytic converter other than sleep under the car.

This reminds me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera." Love is possible but these days it takes work.

Herb Benham is a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.