The heart of a rancher lies in the land, but their connection to it almost always includes a ranch truck.
What's you're vision of a great ranch truck? Is it an older 4x4 with plenty of dents and big tires worn from years driving on dirt roads? Is it a brand new model with an extended cab and bed organizer? Is it a "King Ranch Edition" packed with special features and emblems?
Ranch trucks can be all those things, but the common features that great ones have benefit ranchers across the country's Heartland.
Aesthetics? Who Needs 'em?
One of the great things about a good ranch truck is that looks matter far less than other features. Does it get the job done? That's all you really need to know.
Sure, you'll see your share of brand new trucks driven by ranchers, but it's almost certainly a recent replacement of one that finally covered its last miles, and the dents and scratches on the new one aren't far behind.
But, a true rancher sees those as necessary drawbacks of their truck's job, and can't afford to get worked up over them. Your steer stuck a horn through the side panel? As long as it's still running, odds are a rancher will view that as character, not a flaw.
It's worth noting that era-specific styles, paint jobs, and features typically add to those not-so-great aesthetics; picture '80s-style painted stripes and body styles that went out of fashion years ago.
Does a rancher care that his truck was designed in 1991? Probably not, as long as it's performing as it should.
There's almost zero chance a ranch truck is going to be exactly stock as the dealer sold it. Customizations and accessories are a big deal, and whether they're doing it themselves or buying aftermarket, ranchers tend to make their trucks their own.
Tires are one of the first things to be replaced, since most ranch land is going to include tough terrain (and at the very least, a few dirt roads). Using all the power a 4-wheel-drive truck can muster is only good if you can get a good grip, which is why a good set of shoes is usually required.
Speaking of 4x4, it's the obvious choice for ranchers, seeing as their trucks are often called upon to do some pretty heavy duty work.
For some, a ranch truck is represented by a vehicle you'd never call "street legal." It's only used on the ranch, and likely isn't going to be up to current safety standards. Windows that don't roll up, additional seats bolted to the roof, or a livestock feeder attached to the trailer hitch are common.
Add to that a cowboy hat (or baseball cap) on the dashboard, and a pair of muddy rubber boots in the back, and now you're really envisioning a ranch truck. Spare straps and bungie cords in the bed, plus a few tools ready to be used at the rancher's beck and call.
All these extra touches help ensure that one ranch truck is never going to be exactly the same as another. That's what's tough about pinpointing what makes a great one, but the ultimate answer is that America's ranchers mostly care about the same things.
They way that care manifests itself might vary, but the final determination of a great ranch truck comes down to that original question: Does it get the job done?