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The ice cream truck isn't in view yet, but the tinny, music-box notes of the theme song from "The Sting" are already bouncing down the block, onto the sidewalks and into the homes that line the street.

A red door at a brick home halfway down the block blinks open. Here comes Scott Smith, 21, dashing into the heat of this summer day for something icy cool."This one," Smith says, pointing at the picture of a red, white and blue Firecracker popsicle plastered on the side of the truck.

"And a cream bar," he says, gesturing again.

Summer is peaking, and as the sun sends the mercury soaring along the Wasatch Front, the ice cream man reigns over the blazing city streets. Like modern Pied Pipers, the ice cream men and women putt through neighborhoods in their retrofitted mail trucks, casting whimsical melodies to the wind. The tinkly tunes carry far and wide, calling children - and even adults - to creamy and cool treats.

Buying ice cream from a dinky truck is a summer ritual that vanished long ago in some big cities. It's still part of summer here in Utah.

Chances are the ice cream truck that roams your neighborhood belongs to David Pazouki, owner of Ruby's Ice Cream. Pazouki operates eight trucks in the Salt Lake Valley and five in the Provo/Orem area.

Pazouki drove ice cream trucks during summer breaks in college. After he graduated and began working, he considered running an ice cream truck business on the side to supplement his income. He even bought a few postal trucks at government auctions.

Old mail trucks make perfect mobile ice cream stores, Pazouki said. With the driver seated on the right side of truck, children don't have to circle the vehicle to make their purchases. The trucks cruise neighborhoods at an average speed of 2 or 3 mph.

In 1991, Pazouki's job as an engineer at Hercules melted down and fate pushed him into business sooner than he'd planned. Ruby's Ice Cream, named for Pazouki's mother, is his mainstay now.

Pazouki's ice cream trucks run from April to October. Sales range from $100 to $300 a day, he said.

Each of Pazouki's trucks carries 16 different selections. Adults crave choco tacos, crunch bars and drumsticks. Children prefer the more colorful choices - Firecracker, Bubble Play and Dinosaur popsicles.

"Once they get something, the next day they know exactly what they want," Pazouki said.

Drivers contract with Pazouki to run a route for a percentage of gross sales. The ice cream trade appeals to people for different reasons.

Qualifications: you have to be a good driver, like children and be able to take six or eight hours of "Turkey in the Straw," "Pop Goes the Weasel" or the theme from "Chariots of Fire." Over and over and over.

Aimee Shinsel, who plows the streets of Provo for Ruby's Ice Cream, is a student at Ricks College. Shinsel wanted a job for only a couple of months. Selling ice cream fit perfectly.

Driver James "Mac" McGuire is a disabled Vietnam veteran. He landed a job at Ruby's Ice Cream after he "got tired of hanging around the house staring at the TV."

"I can handle the driving and the working and it doesn't kill me," McGuire said. "It's fun for me. My memories of the ice cream man when I was a kid? He was a grouch.

"A kid might have 28 cents for a 30-cent item and he'd drive off. My attitude is just the opposite. I'd rather throw a few pennies out of my pocket to make sure the kid has a good summer."

McGuire also keeps his eyes out for shady spots to stop in. He knows how hot pavement feels to bare feet.

It's 1 p.m., and this street on Salt Lake City's southeast border is empty. McGuire pops a cassette into a tape deck. The theme from "The Sting" blares from the bullhorn on top of his ice cream truck. Heat waves rise from the roadway.

Nothing seems to be stirring.

McGuire lets the truck roll down the street, eyes darting from side to side. Like magic, tiny children appear at windows and peek out screen doors as the piercing musical tinkle reaches their homes.

McGuire is midblock when the little girl in purple shorts and a matching striped shirt appears at the curb four houses behind him. She'd heard the music from inside her home, and made a mad dash for her money.

Now she looks tentatively up the street, clutching a purse in her hands, wondering if she's missed the ice cream man.

She hasn't.

McGuire stops and waits for her to reach him. Lacey Hagelberg, 11, knows what she wants. Something new, something she's never tasted before - the bright pink, mitt-shaped ice cream bar with the bubble-gum baseball smack in the middle.

"Bubble Play," she says, handing over money she earned cleaning her room and doing the dishes.

McGuire moves on. At the end of the block, a mother is flagging down the ice cream man.

Ernest Ramirez, 4, and his sister Heather, 2, will get ice cream treats today. Heather chooses a Bubble Play. Ernest, who clutches a Ninja turtle in one hand, points at a picture.

Moments later, his other fist grips a Dinosaur bar, its green creamy body and purple ridges already beginning to trickle in the summer heat.