I bought a Dodge Ram 2500 pickup truck last year, and I ordered the optional brush guard for the grill and a trailer hitch. They are odd things to have added because I don't intend to go off-road into brush, and I don't intend to tow anything. So why did I buy them? The answer in a moment. But first a comment on how intensely some people hate pickup trucks.

Not long ago our local newspaper published a column deriding the owners of Dodge Ram 2500 pickups. The columnist admits Dodge Rams intimidate him, and he tells of watching as a "young Napoleon," as he put it, wheeled into a parking space, opened a massive door, and had to "parachute" down from the cab of a Dodge Ram 2500. This made him nervous, he says. Then he wondered why "this diminutive stud" caught his eye. He avers it is because little guys in monster trucks scare him.

Next, shifting topics, the columnist describes the paranoia he felt after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Then he makes a connection. After a lengthy discussion about Osama and al-Qaida, he says the "stud muffin in the monster pickup truck, in all likelihood, poses a greater threat to the public safety than a plane commandeered by Osama." He says he keeps a nervous eye on such drivers because "These aren't farmers; these are 'cool' urban nightcrawlers, who use their big trucks aggressively to create space."

Are those of us who drive Dodge Ram 2500s a threat to public safety? Well, let me comment on where the real threats are. In a span of 45 years, my vehicles have been involved in 11 accidents that caused damage. My first was in a Ford T-boned by a guy crashing a stop sign. My wife in our Volkswagen was T-boned by a driver shooting out of a mall parking lot. The tailgate of our Valiant station wagon was bashed by a hit-and-run driver in a mall parking lot. My Pontiac was sideswiped by a hit-and-run driver in a mall parking lot. My parked Pinto was hit at a shopping mall. Then it was sideswiped by a teenage girl changing lanes. My Sunbird was tail-ended by a hit-and-run driver when my daughter parked it at a rock concert. My Buick, with my wife driving, was severely damaged when she was forced off the road by a driver who crossed the centerline. The Buick was also tail-ended at a stoplight by a retired deputy sheriff. (Because he was a retired law-enforcement officer, he was not cited.) Then the same car was sideswiped by a hit-and-run driver while parked at a mall. Finally, my Ranger was tail-ended by an elderly woman at a stoplight.

So I am not worried about stud muffins driving pickup trucks trying to "create space." I am worried about soccer moms swinging their vans wide as they park at the mall, retired sheriffs who tailgate, inattentive old people, and teenage girls who can't change lanes without hitting someone. In all, more than half the damage I've sustained has come when my vehicle wasn't even moving. Four times it was parked, and three times it was tail-ended while stopped in traffic or parked. I have no evidence that anyone in a pickup truck ever hit any of my vehicles.

That brings me to my two aftermarket items. They were added strictly for defensive purposes. If someone swings too widely parking next to my Ram, my hope is that the brush guard bashes their bumper and grill before they reach mine. As for the trailer hitch, it is a rugged piece of steel bolted to the frame and located 22 inches above the pavement. If someone tail-ends me, they will have to eat that trailer hitch before they do significant damage to my Ram.

-- Ronald Khol, Editor