Great input, folks!
By "beater" I mean a used truck costing less than the $4K max I have to spend -- it's OK if the appearance is a bit lacking so long as it has the cargo capacity and the engine to do what I need. Good point about the weight of the payload, JohnInKansas -- I've only been willing to consider 6-cyl trucks/the larger of whatever engine that model offered for just that reason. Thanks for the additional suggestion; now I'll start looking at 3/4 tonners. I don't intend (now) to haul a trailer, but as you say the organics I DO intend to carry will weigh a considerable amount themselves -- I just didn't know how much! I've discarded several possibilities because they had short beds -- I'm buying this critter as a cargo hauler; anything short can still ride in the wagon.
Chevy has a specifically-designed "towing package" for their trucks that includes heavy-duty suspension, extra ventilation for the engine, a bigger v-6 engine to start with, steel bumpers, and a few other items I can't recall. One particular truck a coworker has for sale is a 1989 Chevy S10 6-cyl automatic with this tow package but no AC. She's an engineer, so it's been meticulously maintained. It's got about 120K miles on it. She wants $5K, which struck me as way high for a 13-year-old vehicle, until I ran the specs through the calculator on cars.com -- which says she's only about $500 too high (go figure!). Other trucks for sale in the area have been about the same price for six-year-old five-speed V-6s with AC -- but they don't have the towing enhancement. It's still more than I wanted to spend, but I may bite the bullet. What do you think?
Did they make 'em that much better back then?
Hey Bobert, come visit me in Lanham and we can swap plants -- what do you like to grow? Want some mertonensis foxgloves, chelone (turtlehead), or reblooming irises? Or cuttings of 17th-century roses? Do you know about gardenweb.com and the MidAtlantic Plant Swap set for May 18th at Centennial Park in Columbia? And have you dipped into their Plant Swap forum? I've traded lowly vinca (I was gonna grub it out and compost it before I thought of offering it up for trade) for cool stuff like hardy fuschia and variegated red-twig dogwood. Who knew?
What did they grow in the 13th century, Jenny? Well, all sorts of things they brought back from the Middle East in the aftermath of the Crusades, including pheasant-eye daffodils. This was the second major expansion of gardening resources; the first was in the 800's under Charlemagne, who published in his Capitularii de Villi (Rules for City Management) a list of 250 beneficial plants all city rulers ought to ensure were grown on their lands, ranging from roses (used medicinally) to madonna lilies (which are both edible and useful as a wound poultice). In the 1200's Europeans started not only growing a number of Oriental plants such as lychnis (not called Crusader's Cross for no reason), but adopted Arabic styles of garden such as square walled gardens with raised beds, arbors around the edges, four streams dividing the garden into quadrants, and a central fountain/pool. Look at Bocaccio's Decameron for a lovely period description, the Kubbeh (Arabic for 4-sided, as in the Ka'abah in Mecca). They also learned new techniques such as more advanced grafting; now you start to see rose arbors in French manuscripts with more than one color of bloom on the bush -- that's the result of doing hundreds of grafts each Spring, another form of conspicuous consumption for the rich. They didn't have tulips yet, though; those were first sent back to Holland from Turkey in the 1500s. Cool stuff, no?
OK, so I'll start looking at Toyotas too; as you say, my 1981 wagon has 180K on it and has only needed new axles, a new clutch and new struts -- told you I haul way too much weight in the poor thing...