The clarion call for a teenage boy

I picked up Robert from work around noon Saturday.

“I’m going hunting with Jeff this afternoon,” he announced when he got in the car. “Jeff got a new truck this morning. He’s coming to pick me up.”

Because Robert is my youngest of my three sons, I’m already well inured to what happens when you have a 15-year-old son. His friends start getting driver’s licenses and you pretty much stop seeing your teenager.

When Harrison was a freshman in high school, I picked him up from school one afternoon about three weeks into the school year. He told me he had a friend who was 16 and had a car and would be coming to pick him up later to go to the football game. The next time I saw Harrison was four years later at graduation.

I suppose that’s hyperbole. Jean and I went to Harrison’s soccer games all four years and watched him play, and I suppose there were a few times during those four years when he showed up for dinner or if he needed cash.

So I’m unfazed when Robert tells me that he and his 16-year-old friend are going hunting and his friend is driving and he’s taking his AR-15 (don’t tell my son that people don’t hunt with “assault rifles,” because in fact he does).

As we were on the way home, Robert pulled up a picture of Jeff’s truck. It’s a newer model Ford F-150, and it’s extremely nice. It looks like it came off the showroom floor. I’ll even admit, I’m a little jealous of Robert’s friend.

“That’s a nice truck,” Robert said.

“When he comes to pick you up, I’ll make a big deal about how nice it is,” I said.

“Do that,” Robert said. “He’ll like that.”

When I was 16-years-old we didn’t have fancy new trucks. We drove around in our parents’ old, leftover cars. I rode around in a silver 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit. It had four doors and we could fit eight people into it comfortably. Richard drove around in a 1978 two-door Rabbit, but his had a luggage rack that we referred to as a “roll cage.” Drew had an old Mazda pickup truck, and Aram had a hulking four-door sedan that was a beast to get stopped on a rainy night.

Nobody’s parents ever hung out in the driveway to make a big deal out of our cars, but Jeff’s truck is a whole lot nicer than anything I’m driving.

So I hung out with Robert in the driveway while we waited for Jeff to get to the house. When he rolled up, Chad was in the passenger seat.

Granted, this isn’t the coldest November I’ve ever seen, but it’s chilly enough that by noon a person ought to have clothes on. But as I walked down the driveway to admire Jeff’s new truck, I noticed it was a shirtless Chad sitting in the passenger seat.

“Son, ain’t you got a shirt on?” I asked him. When I talk to the teenagers, I call them all “son” because between Harrison, Nathan, and Robert, there are too many teenagers for me to try to keep them all straight. I also like to say things like “ain’t” so they think I’m hip to their lingo.

“I don’t have shoes on either,” Chad said, pride showing all over his face as he opened the door so I could see his bare feet.

“Why ain’t you dressed?” I asked.

“I just got out of bed.”

Jeff had already been out to get a truck that morning, and Robert had been to work and made it home, but Chad had just gotten out of bed. I don’t hold it against him, though. I remember being 16, and a Saturday morning in bed was a cherished possession.

“So you’re in bed, Jeff calls you and says he’s got a new truck and come on and go for a ride, and you’re so excited you don’t stop for shirt and shoes?” I asked.

“That’s right,” Chad admitted.

“Well, I understand that.”

Meanwhile, Robert was loading up into the back of Jeff’s new truck with his rifle case and a bag of clothes because Saturday afternoon hunting was going to be followed by early Sunday morning hunting. Basically, we haven’t seen Robert since then. He checked in once to eat dinner, but most of the rest of the time he and Chad and Jeff are going for a ride.

Robert is my youngest of three sons, and so I get it. I understand we’ve pretty much seen the last of him for a while. He’s answered the clarion call every teenage boy hears, and it sounds like a revving engine.

For the next couple of years, we’ll see old Robert a few times for dinner but he and Jeff and Chad, they belong to the truck now.

Rob Peecher is author of “Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings,” and even though it’s been a long, long time, he can remember that call of a revving engine.